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Published On: Wed, Jul 25th, 2012

Planned Parenthood in North Carolina wins major battle over funding

One of the battles won by the conservatives who took over the state legislature this session was stripping Planned Parenthood of its funding.

Planned Parenthood supporters at protest 2011 photo/S. MiRK via wikimedia commons

But it is turning out to be a short-lived victory. The women’s health organization has successfully applied for federal funds and will soon receive more than three times the amount Republican lawmakers had withheld.

“We’ve weathered these increasing attacks on women’s health care access the past couple of years,” Paige Johnson, vice president of external and governmental affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, said Tuesday. “Now we’re able to do more for our patients.”

The GOP strategy to defund Planned Parenthood would be considered more symbolic – by law, federal money can’t be used for abortions – than substantial if it wasn’t for its direct impact on the women’s health clinic in Durham.

The amount legislators cut, $125,000, was a sliver of the $20.2 billion state budget, but losing it meant that Planned Parenthood’s clinic in North Durham would have to close. That clinic doesn’t handle abortions; it provides contraceptives, pap smears and breast exams and does testing for diabetes, high cholesterol and sexually transmitted diseases.
Now, with $426,000 in what is known as Title X funding, the Durham clinic expects to see a four-fold increase in patients, to about 2,000 a year, said Emily Adams, vice president of operations. Adams said the funding dispute was a close call.

“We have patients who have been coming to us for over a decade,” Adams said. “When they turned to us and we didn’t have sure resources, that’s where it really hits.”

“The politics is about abortion, but women still need women’s health care,” childbirth coach Amanda Goodwin said. “If you cut that aspect off – especially now when people can’t afford insurance – if you cut that off, you’re not only cutting off a particular service, you’re cutting off the education. That’s frightening.”

Republican legislators had said women could go to county health departments instead. But first-time patients often have to wait at county clinics at least a couple of weeks and as long as a few months to get in, Johnson said.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Republican from Cary and key budget-writer, said legislators had a tough job maintaining services while coming up with a plan that forces the state to live within its means. He said Planned Parenthood probably wouldn’t need tax money if it used its political advocacy budget to provide services. The advocacy group, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central N.C., is a separate legal entity.

“It’s indicative of the federal government playing politics with taxpayer money,” Dollar said. “… The fact that Planned Parenthood has been given additional money from the Obama administration sort of fits with the politics of the administration.”

 

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