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The State War On Planned Parenthood Heats Up

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PLANNED PARENTHOOD

When 21-year old Christina Martel would renew her birth control prescription at Planned Parenthood, it was usually a relatively simple affair. But this summer, getting her prescription became significantly more difficult.

Martel, who is uninsured and makes less than $1000 a month at her part-time job, said she can't afford to go to a regular gynecologist to get her prescription adjusted, so she asked her new Indianapolis Planned Parenthood clinic about their sliding-pay scale for low-income patients this past June.

The clinic told Martel she would have to pay full price to meet with a physician because they had just been defunded by the state government, so she decided to wait until she returned to her home-state New Hampshire last week to have a doctor's appointment. Not only had Planned Parenthood been defunded there as well, she found out, but their license to dispense birth control and antibiotics had also been taken away.

"I was shocked to learn that they were no longer able to dispense medication on-site, and enraged when I realized this meant that I would have to pay triple the cost to get it filled at a pharmacy," she told HuffPost in an email.

Martel had paid $12 for a month's worth of birth control pills at Planned Parenthood. She now has to pay $33 a month at the regular pharmacy, which she said really starts to add up.

"I'm just an average broke college student with loans coming out my ears, and I don't want to shell out $33 every month for a prescription that I take first and foremost as a relief to the discomfort I experience on a monthly basis due to painful menstrual symptoms, and secondarily as a means of not getting pregnant," she said.

GOP lawmakers in four states so far -- Indiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas -- have defunded Planned Parenthood in their 2011 legislative sessions because some of the organization's clinics provide abortions. A council of five men in New Hampshire voted to stop the flow of Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood and cancel a state contract that allowed it to dispense low-cost birth control and antibiotics on site. Texas passed a bill that puts Planned Parenthood at the bottom of the priority list for state funds, and an Ohio lawmaker floated a "Dear Colleague" letter on Wednesday announcing his intention to defund the health provider.

"The real purpose here, as I've come to view it, is to impose a traditional view of a women's role," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told HuffPost. "Republicans don’t really care what the benefits of Title X funding are in terms of women's health, so women's health is held hostage. Planned Parenthood can prevent 4,000 women a year from dying of cervical cancer with screenings and vaccines, but that is not of interest to them because of a personal and philosophical agenda."

GOP lawmakers argue that they have a problem with the taxpayer funding of abortion, although the Hyde amendment has prevented government money from being used to pay for abortions for the past 30 years.

"Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider, performing, and profiting from, one out of every four abortions in the United States," Ohio Sen. Kris Jordan (R) wrote in a June 28 letter to colleagues announcing his legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. "Abortions kill innocent babies and abortion providers should not be subsidized by any government program."

But Planned Parenthood is fighting back against the barrage of defunding bills in federal court. So far, it's been successful. On June 24, a federal judge in Indiana temporarily blocked the implementation of a bill that prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid dollars for breaking federal Medicaid rules. And on Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Department issued a warning to New Hampshire: restore the $1.4 million in Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or potentially lose federal family planning money allocated for the state.

The federal government "requires that we have statewide coverage for family planning services," said Nick Toumpas, New Hampshire's commissioner for health and human services, at a press conference on Wednesday. "With the rejection of that contract, we now do not have statewide access."

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said about half of the people in New Hampshire who use state family planning funds receive care at a PP clinic, and many communities have no other provider.

"There's a severe access problem," said Jennifer Frizzell, a spokesperson for PPNNE.

In addition to violating federal Medicaid and Title X rules, the Planned Parenthood defunding bills seem to be relatively unpopular among voters. A recent CNN poll shows that 65 percent of Americans support the continued government funding of Planned Parenthood.

"I think nationwide that people support choice, people support the efforts of Planned Parenthood, and people don't wanna see the clock rolled back to a time when women didn't have access to these services," DeLauro told HuffPost.

DeLauro said she thinks the issue of Planned Parenthood funding may be a leg-up for the Democrats in the 2012 elections.

"The country wants to trust women, and the Republican Party doesn’t trust women," she said. "I think they are out of sync with where the country is on these issues. So politically, I don’t think this helps them."