Funding for Planned Parenthood has once again come under scrutiny this election.
The national women’s health organization offers contraception and abortion services — causing controversy to surround the group, which receives taxpayer funds.
It also offers cancer screenings, and this month, the Chapel Hill location has reduced the price of breast and cervical cancer screenings from $100 to $50 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, said Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. Planned Parenthood was able to offer this promotion despite funding cuts — and the threat of more to come.
Earlier this year, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would pull funding for breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood. There was a strong backlash, with many pulling their donations to Komen.
Komen eventually restored funding, but Johnson said the incident ended up helping Planned Parenthood.
“We received a generous outpouring of support from the community,” she said.
That support, coupled with Komen’s reinstated funding, was the reason Planned Parenthood could do this promotion, she said.
In July, the Republican-dominated N.C. General Assembly stripped funding for Planned Parenthood in its budgetary adjustments.
Cutting $125,000 from the state budget would have closed the Durham clinic, which doesn’t provide abortions. It offers services like contraceptives, breast exams and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes.
But Johnson said the organization applied for federal funds — and received about $426,000.
It is uncertain if Planned Parenthood will lose federal funding after this election.
“There’s always a concern that we will be targeted politically, that politicians who are not supportive of women’s health will come after Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said.
Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, a conservative Raleigh-based think tank, said in an email that he disagrees with state funding for either Planned Parenthood or pro-life Christian pregnancy shelters.
“The other activities of the organization could be controversial in the eyes of many of the state’s citizens, which would make the funding decision questionable,” he said.
Donna Martinez, co-host of Carolina Journal Radio, the foundation’s weekly radio program, said funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars infringes on the religious rights of those who oppose abortion and pregnancy-ending contraceptives.
“How do you try to ensure that funding is only covering the appropriate services that Planned Parenthood provides?” Martinez said. “It would be extremely onerous to say to Planned Parenthood, ‘You must justify to us that you are only paying the electric bill (with state funds) for the rooms where you conduct cancer screenings and not the rooms where you perform abortions and end a human life.’”
Johnson said these screenings are important because they reach women too young for a mammogram and therefore at a higher risk of not catching cancerous lumps early.
Carey Anders, a UNC researcher, said young women are more likely to be diagnosed with basal-like, or triple-negative, breast cancer, which is often aggressive with a poor prognosis. There is no targeted treatment yet.
Johnson said the average age of women who come for clinical breast exams is 24.
“If you’re younger than 45, then insurance wouldn’t normally cover mammograms,” she said. “But if you come and we detect something, we can help.”
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