Thousands of people from across Massachusetts rallied on Boston Common Saturday to show their support for Planned Parenthood and to speak out against federal efforts to block millions of patients from basic health care.
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts (PPAF) hosted the rally on Boston Common to oppose federal efforts to“defund” Planned Parenthood health centers. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood health centers would prohibit millions of patients who depend on Medicaid from using their insurance at Planned Parenthood health centers for preventive care, such as cancer screenings, pap tests, birth control, and STD testing and treatment, including HIV tests.
“I’ve seen firsthand what happens when people don’t get the health care they need. But it doesn’t take a doctor to know that defunding Planned Parenthood would be disastrous for our nation’s health – and the people who would be hurt most are those already struggling to get by,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of PPLM and PPAF. “Everyone—no matter their zip code, race, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income—deserves access to high-quality, affordable health care.”
At the rally, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) patients, health care providers, advocates, elected officials, and community members called on politicians in Congress to stop these attacks and put patients ahead of politics.
“Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood are nothing more than a tactical strike on the health care options for low-income women, men, and families. We will not sit silently as the Trump Administration and GOP-led Congress attack not only the constitutionally guaranteed right to have an abortion, but basic access to preventive care for millions of Americans,” Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, III said.
In Massachusetts, PPLM’s five health centers provide care to more than 31,000 patients each year. Approximately 30 percent of those patients rely on Medicaid or MassHealth and would be blocked from the care they rely on if a federal “defunding” effort were approved.
“From preventative screenings to routine check-ups, birth control to straightforward health advice, Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services to populations that need it most here in Boston and across the country. We must stand together to ensure that women and their families have access to quality care that will enable them to lead happy and healthy lives,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Without access to Planned Parenthood health centers, many patients would not have timely access to basic preventive health care services. Patients shared personal stories about the role Planned Parenthood has played in helping them take control of their health and stay healthy, and why they want everyone to have the same access to care as they had.
“At Planned Parenthood, I received the gynecological care I needed and I wasn’t worried about being able to afford that care. My visit to Planned Parenthood marked one of the first times I took control of my health.” said Sam Friedwald, a PPLM patient. “Now, politicians in Congress want to block Medicaid patients from having that same option to turn to Planned Parenthood for health care. All people, including people on Medicaid, should have the safety, dignity, and care that I received from Planned Parenthood.”
On Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker announced he would invest state funds in order to mitigate the impact of a federal “defunding” of Planned Parenthood and ensure PPLM patients continue to receive the care they need. While attendees celebrated the progress made in Massachusetts, they made clear they are prepared to stop these federal attacks, protect Planned Parenthood across the country, and defend access to reproductive health and rights for all.
“Governor Baker’s announcement is great news,” Childs-Roshak said. “I challenge all GOP politicians in Congress to follow Governor Baker’s lead and put health care above politics. Supporting Planned Parenthood and women’s access to health care can and should be a nonpartisan issue. And it shouldn’t take the state government to step in and clean up this mess.”
Congressman Michael Capuano, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Congressman Seth Moulton, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley also spoke at the rally.
The term “defunding” Planned Parenthood is a misnomer. There is no line item in the federal budget for Planned Parenthood. Like any other health care provider, Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by insurance companies for services provided to patients. When extreme politician call for “defunding” Planned Parenthood, they are seeking to deny Medicaid reimbursements for preventive services provided by Planned Parenthood. This politically-driven agenda would effectively block millions of people from accessing preventive care at the health care provider of their choice. Patients are already barred from using federal Medicaid insurance to cover abortion care. This “defunding” plan would impact patients’ ability to access preventive services only. In Massachusetts, state Medicaid dollars cover abortion care.
New polling shows that voters overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood. Sixty-two percent of voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood, while only 31 percent of voters support it. When those voters are informed of what “defunding” Planned Parenthood actually means, only 12 percent of voters support defunding Planned Parenthood, according to Quinnipiac. A June 2016 poll found 88 percent of Massachusetts voters support government funding for access to family planning services for low-income earners.