I am appalled by the utterances of Donald Trump. Pretty much all of them, but now that infamous statement that a woman should be punished for an attempt to terminate her pregnancy may be one of the worse. It is unfathomable that anyone in the civilized world would ever make such a statement even if that remark was subsequently withdrawn with a “well I didn’t quite mean that, let’s punish the doctors…” This too is utterly frightening. I have written in previous newsletters about the overwhelming medical condemnation of the fictitious and illegal “evidence” used to vilify Planned Parenthood. (To be clear, I was on the board of the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood and have continued to be a huge supporter.)
Twenty percent of US women began their gynecologic care at a Planned Parenthood clinic. It has been the go-to place for STD screening, pap smears and contraception. Abortion was, and is only a small portion of what Planned Parenthood offers. Their countrywide clinics are the closest, most economic and yes dedicated facility for low income and young women to receive needed reproductive health care. Just to reiterate Planned Parenthood provides confidential contraception, health education, STD testing, cancer screening, gynecologic care, prenatal care and even menopause care for women of all ages!
So it was extraordinarily timely that this week, when I opened the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, I found an article titled, “Local Access to Family Planning Services and Female High School Dropout Rates”. It reported on a study carried out by physicians at Tufts Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. Their population sample included 284,910, 16 to 22-year-old females. The researchers calculated the proximity of a Planned Parenthood clinic and its possible association with a decrease in female high school dropout rates.
Many of the Planned Parenthood clinics’ recipients are funded by Title X, a federal grant program enacted by Congress in 1970 which is dedicated to community-based reproductive health and family planning services. It has been estimated that the Title X allows recipients to avert more than 250,000 unintended teen pregnancies annually! This study used data on the location of Planned Parenthood clinics and the educational attainment of young women (who were mainly Title X recipients) in order to ascertain if living in regions with nearby clinics was associated with a reduced high school dropout rate. Other studies have shown that access to contraception makes a huge difference… 30% of teenage girls who have dropped out of high school cite pregnancy or parenthood as a reason for dropping out and only 40% of teenage mothers finish high school.
The conclusion of the study was that the presence of a Planned Parenthood clinic was associated with a significant decrease in female high school dropout rates. If put in the negative, those girls and young women who did not have easy geographic access were 1.8 times more likely to drop out. Geographic access to a Planned Parenthood clinic was also significantly associated with a decrease in the rate of motherhood (5.02% compared with 6.04%).
Need I say more. Defunding Planned Parenthood and stopping the geographic access to this and other community – based family planning clinics is an outrage. Has anyone looked at the obvious? Preventing contraception means more unintended pregnancies and subsequent lack of education and productive and meaningful futures for young women and their families. Abortion is their last agonized choice. What should be considered punishable, Mr. Trump is trying to prevent and criminalize the women and the agencies (and doctors) that allow them to make a choice.