By Mary Kogut, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri
One of the panel guests on This Week in Missouri Politics was Representative Diane Franklin, the chair of the (Missouri) House Children and Families Committee, and a legislator making decisions that impact the health and lives of Missouri women.
Some of the comments Rep. Franklin made about Planned Parenthood made clear that she is not familiar with our services. Planned Parenthood does not provide health care “in a silo.” Just like gynecologists everywhere, we are an integral part of the health care system. We provide basic healthcare all women and men need to have healthy relationships and healthy families. These services include well-woman and well-man check-ups, contraception, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, miscarriage management, and many basic screening services like those for blood pressure and diabetes. We are experts in reproductive health care, hiring board-certified OB/GYNs and skilled Nurse Practitioners.
Although we serve women and men of a wide age range, most of our patients are healthy, sexually active young women in need of contraception, STD testing, and well woman exams. Studies have shown that most healthy young women, including our patients, identify their family planning provider or gynecologist as their primary health care provider –that may be the only provider needed at this stage in their life.
Rep. Franklin also said, “Most women suffer from other medical issues including cardiac issues, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” That’s incorrect in our experience. Most of our patients need information and services for preventing or achieving pregnancy, for preventing STDs, and for having safe relationships. Nevertheless, by providing blood pressure screening, glucose testing, pap smears, and breast exams, our doctors and practitioners can identify, at an early stage, medical conditions that require further care. Our medical professionals can diagnose conditions like breast cancer and cervical cancer early, saving women’s lives and putting them on the path to good health.
Over 50,000 Missourians choose us to provide high-quality, expert care. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization, and we work hard to provide care at an affordable cost. We do accept health insurance, Medicaid, and we also offer self-pay care on a sliding scale based on a patient’s income. And as an integral part of the network of Missouri healthcare providers for over 80 years, we have developed solid relationships in the health care community to ensure continuity of care and referrals for our patients when necessary.
I urge Rep. Franklin to consider the reasons so many Missourians seek our care. Our health services are excellent and compassionate. Our physicians are board-certified in their specialties and our nurse practitioners base their care plans on the most up-to- date, evidence-based guidelines for care in the country. We provide this top-notch care in a supportive, empowering environment for patients. And, we are convenient. Planned Parenthood can usually get patients in within a few days, with evenings and Saturday hours, and we take walk-ins for some services. Patients can even schedule appointments online. Many other health centers have long delays for appointments. Imagine needing a contraceptive shot every 13 weeks and not being able to schedule the visit until it’s too late. Unintended pregnancy is at the lowest rate in 30 years. Teen pregnancy is at the lowest rate in 20 years. Abortion is at the lowest rate since 1973. There is one important reason for these public health successes. Contraception is the reason. And we know contraception better than anyone else. Our work makes a difference.
So, if quality, access, cost, and great public health outcomes are the pillars of a successful health care system, perhaps lawmakers in Missouri would consider working with Planned Parenthood to increase access to much needed care. I welcome Rep. Franklin, and any other legislators, to visit with us, tour our centers, and work with us to improve access to health care in our state. I am confident the people of Missouri would thank them.