The people of Maine deserve policies coming out of Washington that better our lives and ensure our economic security. Having healthy residents and workers is key to ensuring a healthy economy, and new analysis suggests that Planned Parenthood has a significant impact on Maine’s economy. Through birth control, cancer screenings and STI testing and treatment, Planned Parenthood in 2014 saved Maine $7.9 million.
Yet, Republicans in Congress are considering legislation that jeopardizes access to the comprehensive reproductive health services Planned Parenthood provides by prohibiting federal Medicaid reimbursements to it for one year. This is commonly called “defunding Planned Parenthood.” Federal law already prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortions, except when a woman’s life is at stake or her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood are for preventive care like annual exams, cancer screenings and birth control.
Access to birth control is particularly critical in Maine where unintended pregnancy is on the rise. Unintended pregnancy can derail many women’s career plans and increase the chances of women dropping out of school or leaving a job. It can also stifle their earning potential, creating a threat to our state’s economy and to women’s personal financial security.
Historically, women with access to birth control have earned 8 percent more per year than their peers who lack access. In 2014, Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine provided contraceptive care to nearly 8,000 women. In the three counties with Planned Parenthood health centers, 75 percent of women seeking birth control at publicly funded health centers go to Planned Parenthood.
Yet, the demand far exceeds the supply: Publicly funded family planning centers, such as Planned Parenthood, are able to serve only one in three of the women needing services. Without Planned Parenthood, this number would decline, and the impact would be dramatic.
The Guttmacher Institute recently concluded that without Planned Parenthood and other safety-net health centers “the rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion for all women would be 70% higher in Maine, and the teen pregnancy rate would be 90% higher.”
We cannot afford to lose access to the care and affordable birth control that Planned Parenthood provides. Without it, we’re denying many women the ability to plan their families and control their economic futures.
In Maine, nearly 60 percent of public family planning funding is from Medicaid — the very funding Congress is threatening to withhold from Planned Parenthood — and 49 percent of the revenue for services provided at the health centers come from federal sources, primarily Medicaid.
Maine already faces significant health care provider shortages, leaving many people with unmet health needs. If the U.S. Senate votes to cut off Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, it will only exacerbate the issue. Many patients will have nowhere else to turn as other health care providers simply don’t have the capacity to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patient load. Planned Parenthood health centers are only four the 19 publicly funded health centers in Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties, but Planned Parenthood serves at least 67 percent of contraceptive clients in these counties, including 94 percent in York County.
In fact, nearly one in three Maine women served by publicly funded health centers obtain those services through Planned Parenthood. And, in many instances, other health centers lack the ability to deliver comprehensive family planning services as cost effectively.
The data are clear. If we’re going to grow Maine’s economy and ensure a more prosperous future for our state, we need to invest in public health care and protect access to Planned Parenthood.
The health and economic well-being of our state depends on Mainers’ access to a robust network of publicly funded family planning health centers, including Planned Parenthood.
James Myall is a the lead policy analyst on health care for the Maine Center for Economic Policy.