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The Future of Planned Parenthood

The future of Planned Parenthood across Illinois is far from certain. But its services don't appear to be under immediate threat from a recent directive from President Trump.

That measure would allow state and local governments to withhold Title X family planning funds from health facilities that also provide abortion services.

McLean County's sole Planned Parenthood clinic would not be affected because it doesn't perform abortions. Additionally,  all Planned Parenthood clinics statewide receive Title X funds as a direct grantee of the federal government and not through the state, said Julie Lynn of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. 

However, women's reproductive services, especially for low income residents, remain a target of many federal and state officials, Lynn said.

In several Illinois counties, Planned Parenthood clinics are the only facilities where the poor can obtain a wide array of women's health services including Pap smears , breast exams, tests for  pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and all forms contraception, Lynn said. 

"Planned Parenthood of Illinois is the only publicly funded health care provider offering all birth control methods in four central Illinois counties, and McLean County is one of them," Lynn said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Both of McLean County's Republican members of Congress, Rep. Darin LaHood and Rep. Rodney Davis, favor restricting funds for Planned Parenthood. They say residents can receive the same services at what are known as "federally qualified health care centers" if Planned Parenthood clinics close.

Lynn said that is not the case everywhere in the state, particularly in rural areas. One federal health care center listed on LaHood's list in Virginia, IL appears to offer mainly dental care, she said.

That office does list a "maternal child health program" on its website, but it is unclear from the website what if any reproductive health services are included. Efforts to reach the clinic's administrators were unsuccessful.

A spokesman for LaHood said there are 11 federally qualified centers in LaHood's 18th Congressional District. The congressman's office said those centers provide "primary care" but could not say how many offer reproductive health services. 

In McLean County, there is one federally qualified center, the Family Health Center, operated by Chesnut Health Systems, which is mainly a mental health provider.

The  Family Center offers wellness exams and care ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics, said director Dietra Kulicke. She said the center offers patients gynecological exams, mammogram referrals, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and some birth control methods.   

McLean County was cited as one of six Illinois counties considered a "contraception desert" in a recent survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy.

"A lot of health care providers aren't able to offer birth control for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is  they may be run by a religious organization or they are in a building leased from a religious organization, and they are unable to provide birth control, and so those  providers refer (patients) to Planned Parenthood," Lynn said.

She said some of the federal clinics don't have adequate staff to take on an additional case load of Medicaid or Title X patients, and many are not open late in the day or on weekends to accommodate the working poor. 

LaHood withstood heated criticism from a constituent at a Town Hall meeting in Washington, IL last week who told the congressman, a Catholic, "Your religion does not belong in my body."

LaHood said he has been forthright about his opposition to abortion.

"I told people why I am pro life and believe in the sanctity of life. I told the voters proudly what I believe in. Let the voters decide," LaHood told the gathering.

Lynn said a common misconception is that Planned Parenthood receives federal funds for performing abortions. That is prohibited under the 1976  Hyde amendment, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Another misconception, she said, is that Planned Parenthood is a line item in the federal budget. It is not. The organization receives Medicaid reimbursements for serving low income patients.

Lynn said her organization remains a flash-point for criticism, even though other health care providers that receive federal funds also perform abortions.

"For some reason, we were targeted," Lynn said.

She noted that a few years ago, an anti-abortion group released a video that purported to show a Planned Parenthood representative attempting to illegally sell fetus parts for research. A grand jury determined the tape was heavily edited and indicted those responsible for making and disseminating the tape.

That recording, widely viewed on the Internet, led to protests at McLean County's sole Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington.

Abortions have dropped to their lowest rate since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, according to a study that analyzed the number of abortions annually through 2014, the most recent year for which statistics were available. Lynn said the drop is due in part to more widespread availability of contraception. 

Editor's Note: This post has been edited to include updated information on services provided by Family Health Center in McLean County and Cass County Health Center in Virginia, IL