03 Nov 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
As Director of Clinic Services for Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, I make sure the patients get the information and health care they need to prevent unplanned pregnancies, protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, and maintain their reproductive health and fertility so that they can become pregnant when they are ready to have children.
Nearly every day I talk to women who have gone to Planned Parenthood’s Memphis health center at some point in their lives. Some are mothers and grandmothers who bring their daughters or granddaughters to Planned Parenthood for information, education, or birth control and related health care. Most are grateful for the health care and birth control they received from Planned Parenthood that allowed them to delay child-bearing so that they could finish high school, attend college or start a career.
Patients like Nicole, who depends on Planned Parenthood for affordable health care. Nicole said, “As an uninsured restaurant employee, I depend upon PPGMR not only for wellness screenings, but also for family planning and birth control. I have been a regular patient for over a year now, and am comfortable with, and confident in the staff. I always have the same nurse administer my depo injection, because she’s always so gentle and friendly.”
Whitney, a college student, is another patient who relies on Planned Parenthood. She said, “Planned Parenthood has provided my annual exams, contraceptives, and caring physicians and staff, most importantly at a price I can afford as a student.”
Many of our patients, like Nicole and Whitney, have asked me about the recent controversy in the Shelby County Commission about Title X federal family planning funding. The Title X program subsidizes reproductive health services for people with low incomes, including annual gynecological exams, STI testing and treatment, screenings for cervical and breast cancer, and a wide range of birth control medications and devices. This is specialized gynecological and reproductive health care that is not widely available to the poor and uninsured in our community. The Shelby County Commission has now directed the Title X funding that has for many years subsidized services at Planned Parenthood to Christ Community Health Services instead.
We believe that this decision was not based on merit, but was made for political reasons. It is part of a move by radically conservative politicians in Washington, D.C., Nashville and here in Memphis to exclude Planned Parenthood from any government funding. The reason – Planned Parenthood also offers abortion services, which patients pay for with their own funds.
Abortion is not a service covered by the Title X family planning program, but federal regulations require health centers that receive the funding give unbiased information about and referrals for abortion to patients who request them. That’s because all women, not just the rich and well-connected, deserve information about and access to the full range of reproductive health options. Regardless of your personal beliefs, I think we can all agree that all women, including less fortunate women, deserve accurate information about this legal medical procedure and referrals to reputable and safe providers. All women deserve the same options and standards of care that wealthy and insured women expect and get in our inequitable health care system.
As African Americans, we don’t always get the health care we should. African Americans are far less likely to be insured, and so don’t get regular preventive health care like annual exams, Pap tests and clinical breast exams. African American women also have less access to affordable, highly effective forms of birth control and for that reason are three times as likely as are white women to have an unintended pregnancy. Helping women access the information and health care they need to plan their pregnancies when they are ready for motherhood is what Planned Parenthood is all about.
Planned Parenthood will continue to provide family planning services at our health center at 2430 Poplar Avenue, including emergency contraception along with accurate, unbiased counseling to the women, men and teenagers of the Mid-South. We know that many Title X patients will want to continue coming to Planned Parenthood as their provider of choice, but now we will have to ask them to pay for some part of the cost of the services they receive. We have developed a modified sliding-fee scale that keeps costs low for those with the least ability to pay. We do our best to work out payment arrangements for patients who simply cannot pay for the care they need. We do it because it is our mission to advocate for and provide access to the full range of reproductive health care and education for everyone in our region.
Planned Parenthood has been leading the way in reproductive health care here in Memphis and Shelby County for almost 75 years and we will continue to do so, because we are here to stay. We will continue to be here for the people of the Mid-South who need us. We are not going anywhere.
(Tarsha Elliott, RN, BSN, is Planned Parenthood’s director of Clinic Services.)