In 2017, when state lawmakers cut funding to Planned Parenthood clinics, Iowans were told that the money would be used to fund family planning services that did not include abortion providers. The lack of funding forced four Planned Parenthoods around the state to close. But still the governor’s office and lawmakers assured Iowans that quality family planning services would be available.
That assurance was completely unfounded.
In the past two years, Des Moines County in southeast Iowa saw a 269 percent increase sexually transmitted diseases, which experts link to the closure of the Planned Parenthood clinics across the state.
When those statistics came out in October, Clara Quinn, a nurse and assistant center manager for the Iowa City Planned Parenthood, noted, “I know that there are some providers in certain areas who have tried to step in, but I just don’t think that they can maintain the total number of patients that we had been serving in those places.”
In response to these alarming results, the Department of Human Services plans to work with the Iowa Department of Public Health to create a map of family planning providers. And once the map is complete, Kelly Garcia, the director of DHS, said the plan is to target areas with a lack of service options.
But it’s not where the service providers are located that’s the problem. It’s that the service providers listed are not actual service providers. A 2018 Gazette investigation found that the list of family planning providers was completely inaccurate and listed dermatologists, surgeons and other physicians who didn’t offer family planning services. The listing also included 135 laboratories that don’t even see patients.
A map consisting of misleading and inaccurate information is going to be of little use to Iowans in areas struggling to access qualified family planning services. Additionally, the mapping solution raises other questions. For instance, will it also look at other care gaps previously filled by Planned Parenthood such as quality and affordability in health care for LGBTQ people in the state?
For more than two years, the closure of Planned Parenthoods across the state have been a disaster for health care in Iowa. Continuing this policy and this failed program is a mistake.
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