Funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and the impact on rural Minnesota

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More than 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon signed bi-partisan Title X (Ten) legislation into law, providing access to reproductive health care services for women through family planning centers like Planned Parenthood. Now, Republicans in Congress are on a campaign to eliminate Title Ten funding for Planned Parenthood, funding which provides reproductive health care services for low-income women. The U.S. House voted last week to strip the funding, and it’s expected to come up for vote this week in the Senate.

Kathi Di Nicola with Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota says the proposed cuts will have a profound effect in rural areas, where poverty, lack of insurance, provider shortages, and simple geography merge to create significant obstacles to basic health care services.

“Our clinics are located all across greater Minnesota in rural areas, and for many women, they are the only source of care that they receive all year long. Those clinics provide family planning, birth control, breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings. They do not provide abortion care; they provide preventive care.”

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and other Republicans have claimed that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, and that federal funding is inappropriate. U.S. Senator Al Franken said Planned Parenthood is being singled out by extremists looking to score political points. He says the funding is crucial for Minnesotans, especially those who live in rural areas with limited access to the health care they need.

Di Nicola says fewer rural women receive recommended preventive care such as Pap smears, mammograms and cancer screenings than their urban counterparts, and that Title Ten funding cuts will have devastating results for women who already face barriers to care.

“Rural women are 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage for cervical cancer. We know that the earlier women are diagnosed, the better the chance that they receive care, and their outcomes are simply better.”

Di Nicola says that, on average, women who access services through Planned Parenthood tend to be in their 20s and 30s, and to make around $11,000 or less annually.

“The women that come to Planned Parenthood are women in your community that are working at gas stations, they are working as a secretary, they’re working as cashiers, they’re in your community, they work hard and still have trouble making ends meet, and we are there to make sure they can build healthier, stronger futures.”

Planned Parenthood has 26 clinics throughout the state, with many in the most critically-impoverished areas of rural Minnesota, and places where poverty rates are more than 50 percent higher than the state average, including St. Cloud, Duluth, Moorhead, Winona and Mankato.