Guest Post: Reports from the Ground in Arizona
By Arthi Satyanarayan, former Planned Parenthood Action Fund intern and volunteer
In the past two months, the Arizona legislature has been quite busy. From passing a bill that makes abortions illegal after 20 weeks, to banning public funding for all Arizona Planned Parenthood facilities, and most recently allowing religiously oriented employers to deny contraceptive coverage, these legislators have been passing a raft of anti-women’s health legislation.
One of the recent bills Gov. Jan Brewer signed, which bans funding to Planned Parenthood, is called the “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act.” This act will affect approximately 4,000 women on Medicaid, which is about 10 percent of Planned Parenthood Arizona's patients. However, considering how many people come into Planned Parenthood and pay out-of-pocket or with other health insurance, the ramifications of banning funding and restricting access to these vital and preventive services go well beyond these 4,000 women.
I am not here to point any fingers. I am not a politician, nor have I been a patient (yet) at Planned Parenthood. I am just a medical student, trying to figure out how different my career will be when I graduate. I hope to get across the frustrations we in the medical community feel when we cannot provide adequate care to patients (and I am not just talking about abortion). I’m talking about care that is dictated by politicians — in some states, bills are moving forward that would force doctors to provide information that’s not medically accurate and in others laws are in enacted that require doctors to read from a script written by politicians. All of these restrictions are just another example of government overreach, and inserting politics into the exam room leaves medical providers with little choice except to become jaded.
It is not the senators, representatives, or even Governor Brewer who has to sit in an exam room and explain to a woman that they cannot provide her birth control because her insurance no longer covers it, or that her pregnancy is past the gestational week for a legal abortion. Unfortunately, it is the doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who have to look patients in the eye and decline the care these patients came to request. Nobody likes to be rejected, most of all by someone in a white coat who wants to help.
After signing the Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act, Marylin Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List said, “Abortion-centered businesses like Planned Parenthood do not need or deserve taxpayer dollars.” Despite the fact that preventive health services make up more than 90 percent of the services Planned Parenthood health centers provide, these anti-women’s health legislators are still working to restrict women’s access to affordable, quality care. Frankly, it’s disheartening. More and more health care professionals are losing incentive, motivation, and opportunities to care for patients in need.
I am lucky enough to be at a medical school that allows us to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, and lucky to be a part of Medical Students for Choice, which seeks to promote education in reproductive health. So here in Tucson, I have had the opportunity to visit Planned Parenthood and shadow practicing physicians. This was an eye-opening experience; it allowed me to view these funding battles and reproductive issues from the lens of a physician. I wish everyone could experience these opportunities because regardless of one’s beliefs, observing a Planned Parenthood clinic at work provides important contextual understanding of both the patients’ need for quality and affordable health care and the health professionals’ job of trying to provide that comprehensive care.
In the end, there is nothing extraordinary about the health centers of Planned Parenthood (I mean that as a compliment, it’s the way that it should be). Planned Parenthood is just another doctor’s office where patients can come to receive quality care. This facility provides the same level of reliable care for women and men, but at an affordable cost. Planned Parenthood sees college students, people on Access (Arizona's Medicaid agency), working mothers, and even middle-aged, upper class women come in for appointments. They provide the care that members of the community need.
As future doctors, my classmates and I must understand the barriers we face to do our jobs well. From a clinician’s perspective, a patient is a patient — regardless of their socioeconomic background. They need care, and that’s all I hope to give them someday.
For a full run down of the anti-women's health bills being pushed forward by Governor Jan Brewer, check out the latest blog post: "Team Romney: Featuring Governor Jan Brewer".