Not much miffs News Hits more than legislative maneuvers that attempt to mess with a woman’s right to choose. It’s especially maddening when legislators try to be sneaky about it.
A bill passed by the Michigan House and being heard in state Senate committee this week is all that. If the legislation passes, groups that perform abortions, refer women to abortion providers, promote the legalization of abortion or provide abortion information will be shoved to the back of the line when state and federal family planning funding is doled out.
Although not mentioned specifically, the bill’s obvious target is Planned Parenthood — the primary group offering all these services. And News Hits notes that groups such as Planned Parenthood have long been banned from using state and federal money for actual abortions.
So what might Planned Parenthood — and the public — lose if the bill becomes law? Critical care for low-income women, says Judy Karandjeff, Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s executive director. At risk are services such as screening clients for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, cervical and breast cancer, high blood pressure and infertility, as well as providing contraception, prenatal care, pregnancy testing and counseling — in addition to the abortion referrals and counseling targeted by the bill.
Karandjeff says the bill is an attempt to force Planned Parenthood out of business. State Rep. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids), who sponsored the bill, did not return News Hits’ phone calls.
Sandra Gillis, public affairs director for Southeast Michigan Planned Parenthood, says her group last year received $658,000 in government family planning money, about 26 percent of its total budget, which would be lost under the Jansen bill. Gillis says that the group can’t afford to shut its doors on women who may have nowhere else to turn. Last year, the southeast Michigan program served more than 8,700 clients, says Gillis; about 800 of the clients had abortions, a fraction of the 13,000 abortions that were performed in the southeast region that same year, she says.
“If family planning services are pulled out of this area, think of what the abortion statistics might look like,” says Gillis. She also says that Wayne County’s Health Department stopped providing family planning services last year and Oakland County voted to discontinue its program earlier this month because of costs.
“It means that we are one of the only games left in town,” says Gillis. “There were about 10,000 patients they served and are looking to us to pick up the client load.”
The bill is scheduled for Senate hearings Feb. 27 and could go before the full Senate by early next month.Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]