Planned Parenthood California branches vow to fight Senate bill

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Planned Parenthood affiliates in California are vowing to fight the Senate GOP's proposal to eliminate federal support for the health care organization.

The group will do everything from calling members of Congress to "seeking legal avenues that protect... access to affordable, quality health care for our patients," said Julianne Hines, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley.

The Senate bill would do away with Planned Parenthood's Medicaid reimbursements for one year. The House of Representatives voted to do the same thing last month. If the funding cut survives the legislative process, it would translate to a loss of $175.7 million in annual federal support for Planned Parenthood in California, according to Hines.

That amount would be more than half of the state organization's budget.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, said the loss of federal dollars would be an extra strain on the state's budget. He criticized Congress' motivations for pursuing the funding cut.

"It seems like what the federal government is doing, especially to Planned Parenthood, is punitive and it's political," Hernandez said. 

Republicans have targeted Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. The organization can't use federal dollars for the procedure, but critics say taxpayers are indirectly funding it.

Planned Parenthood says abortions comprise just 3 percent of its health services. The Washington Post reported in 2015 that this figure is accurate but also misleading, since abortions cost more – and are more complicated - than other services Planned Parenthood provides.

Besides abortions, Planned Parenthood also offers birth control, tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections and screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Novelyn Aquino of Los Angeles started going to Planned Parenthood when she was 16. Aquino, now 44, found a lump in her armpit last year.

She had just purchased health insurance through Covered California but her coverage hadn't kicked in yet. She was uninsured, but she knew she could get immediate care at Planned Parenthood.

Aquino said a nurse practitioner at one of the organization's clinics found a lump in her breast and scheduled her for more testing at a local hospital.

She was impressed by Planned Parenthood's ability to "get things done fairly quickly," thanks to its affiliation with the hospital. And Aquino praised the "compassion and awareness and sensitivity" she observed among the organization's staff.