Now we must fund reproductive health care

As we see a woman’s reproductive rights being chiseled away on the national level, thanks to the currently Bush-stacked US Supreme Court, we have to rely more and more heavily on setting the standards for Reproductive Choice right here in California. But the anti-choice movement knows there are more ways than just stacking the court to reduce access to safe and early abortion and reproductive health care services……just squeeze providers financially and watch the number of facilities shrink so rapidly that these services become unavailable or at the very least, so stretched that the ability to obtain healthcare becomes dangerously delayed for patients from all walks-of-life.
Such is the story right here in California. And that is why Wednesday, May 2nd, when Planned Parenthood conducts its annual Lobby Day in Sacramento, it is critically important to support their efforts to obtain a committment to increase the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate for reproductive health services. Not just a promise from the Legislature, but the Governor as well. For all his bluster about being a moderate, “post-partisan” governor, there is nothing that will show that he has at least a modicum of moderation more than his supporting the increase in rates that haven’t been adjusted in almost 20 years!

It is important to remember that a right without access is no right at all. And whether George Bush and his right-wing neo-cons like it or not, California believes in the right of privacy and the right of every woman to make these most personal and private decisions without the government interfering. This is the message we must send to those who will be creating California’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Without an increase in the current Medi-Cal reimburement rates, we will see a continuation of staffing reductions in health clinics that provide reproductive health care services of all kinds—from contraceptive, abortion and prenatal services to HIV, STD and cervical cancer screening.
According to Planned Parenthood of California, more than 10,000 patients are currently turned away every month in our state alone, because the current level of Medi-Cal reimbursement rates has caused severe cuts in clinicians and staffing. This translates into dangerous delays, program cutbacks and cancellation of important services to men and women seeking care.
If you live in San Diego or Riverside Counties, 4,600 patients are turned away every month.
If you live in Santa Barbara County, the number is more than 2,500 a month.
If you live in Orange County, it’s 1,000 a month.
You get the idea.
Patients seeking prenatal care? Forget about it-All prenatal services at Planned Parenthood’s affiliates have either been curtailed, suspended or eliminated.
HIV Screening, STD screening, cervical cancer screening and other preventive health care services are being curtailed or seeing waits as high as a month. In one small community, they are being forced to turn away 50 patients a week who are seeking HIV testing.
Of course, vast numbers of underserved communities are going without any health care at all—with potentially disasterous consequences. The LA area is particularly affected. Planned Parenthood affiliates there estimate that can only serve 100,000 of the 700,000 patients in their service population this year, Both Orange and San Bernardino counties are suffering similarly, but with the additional concern over high rates of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infection) among teens and teen birth rates 22% higher than the overall state average.
We will be sending out an action alert this week to mobilize our Speak Out Calfornia members—and all those concerned about this health care crisis. Our goal is to make sure that both the Assembly and Senate include a long-overdue increase in the Medi-Cal Reimbursement rates in their budget proposals. We’ll also insist that the Governor include this important funding in his May “Revise” which will be coming out early this month as well.
It’s time to take the gloves off on this issue—Reproductive health care is an important and fundamental right. Let’s make sure our political leaders not only understand but put our money where their mouths are. Without the funding, the fall-out won’t just affect people seeking reproductive health care, although that alone justifies a realistic increase in funding. It will also limit access to Californians seeking to avail themselves of the myriad of other preventive health care services, including breast cancer exams. It is simply unconscionable in a state and nation such as ours, to deny our people of the opportunity to catch life-threatening disease at the earliest possible time–when modern science can save lives with proper early intervention. This is not just a crisis in health care. It is a crisis of our very soul as a community and as a people.