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To say Planned Parenthood has had a rough month is an understatement. Between heavily edited videos questioning the integrity of their services to renewed calls to defund the organization, it’s easy to undertand why the Congressional Budget Office commissioned a report to quantify the value of their services. The report sought to answer one question: where is Planned Parenthood the only option for low-cost family planning services?

The short answer: a lot of places.

The study used data from 2010, the most recent year it was available, and looked at a variety of factors including:

  • distribution of low-cost family planning centers
  • patient load
  • quality of services such as number of birth control options offered


The results of the study highlight the vital role that Planned Parenthood plays in providing low-income, medically-underseved communities with contraceptive services.

In many places, Planned Parenthood is the only option.

Nearly half of the organization’s health centers are in medically underserved areas. To break this down more:

  • Almost two-thirds of the 19 million women in need of publicly supported contraceptive services live in counties with a Planned Parenthood health center.
  • In 21% of the 491 counties with a Planned Parenthood center, they are the only safety-net family planning center.
  • In two-thirds of these counties, Planned Parenthood centers serve at least half of the patients who get birth control from such a health center.

To borrow a rather geeky phrase, Planned Parenthood boldly goes where no health center has gone (or perhaps stayed open) before.

Planned Parenthood serves a disproportionately high number of low-income patients.

Despite the fact Planned Parenthood centers only make up 10% of all safety-net family planning centers health centers, they serve over one-third of the patients who visit such clinics for contraceptive services. As Emily Crockett from RH Reality Check notes:

There may be more locations of other safety net family planning clinics than there are Planned Parenthood sites, but those clinics don’t serve nearly as many patients as Planned Parenthood does, and would likely be overwhelmed if their patient load suddenly surged. Source

Then of course there are the counties where there are no other clinics to serve this population. Defunding Planned Parenthood would leave nearly 100 counties access to any saftey-net family planning clinics. One can’t help but wonder what that would do to the current super low unexpected pregnancy rate.

The quality of service is practically unmatched.

Beyond the locations of Planned Parenthood health centers and the number of contraceptive patients the centers serve, the report also compared the quality of contraceptive services received at the different type of safety-net health centers. For this, researchers looked at number of birth control options available, the wait time, and the ability to get a same-day appointment.

Over 90% of the Planned Parenthood health centers offered at least 10 of 13 reversible contraceptive methods. Only about half of other sites could say the same. Additionally, wait times were three times shorter and patients were almost twice as likely to get a same-day appointment.

This means that patients are geting the services they need more quickly and able to choose the birth cntrol option that’s best for them. For low-income patients, especially hourly workers, these benefits are invaluble. s someone who’s both been on Medicaid and worked in a Meicaid contracpetive clinic, I can personally attest to the day-long waits, lost hours of work, and extra costs of childcare.

In many places, Planned Parenthood is critical to women’s reproductive health.

The data unequivoacally show that Planned Parenthood plays a major part in delivering contraceptive services to women in some of our nation’s most critically underserved areas. In some places it is the only option and in many others the centers serve many more contraceptive patients than other safety net providers.

At this point, we can only speculate what will happen to Planned Parenthood’s funding and how, if and when other center’s could fill the gaps left if they were to be defnded. What we do know though is this:

[…] women nationwide rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for the contraceptive services and supplies they need — and for women in many areas of the country, losing Planned Parenthood would mean losing their chosen provider and the only safety-net provider around. Source

Other Sexual Health News This Week

Vaginal Estrogen Linked to Improved Sexual Health For Some Women (Fox News)

Funding Increase Means More Housing for Atlantans with HIV/AIDS (Atlanta Intown)

Sex Education Study Ignite Passionate Opposition to Statewide Standards (

With Federal Grant, NYU Researchers Focus on Father/Son Communication to Reduce Teen Pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Disadvantaged Communities (NYU)

Syphilis cases are on the rise in a number of states including Colorado, California, and Ohio.

HIV Testing Staggeringly Low Among Gay/Bisexual Male Teens (NewNextNow)