Fox News Pushes Impossible Claim That Community Clinics Could Fill Gap If Planned Parenthood Loses Funding

Recent moves by state and federal lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood would mean the elimination of critical family planning services, wellness checks, STD testing, and cervical and breast cancer screenings for millions of Americans -- a grim reality that Fox News is doing its best to deny by claiming that community health clinics could absorb Planned Parenthood's patients, which health experts say would be impossible.

In An Effort To Dismiss Consequences Of Defunding Planned Parenthood, Fox News Figures Repeatedly Cite Number Of Community Health Clinics In U.S.

Fox Business News Anchor Gerri Willis: “Numbers Don't Support” Fear That Women Won't Get Care Without Planned Parenthood. During an August 23 segment on Cavuto on Business, anchor Gerri Willis argued that enough community health centers exist to fill in any gaps that would be created if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded at the federal level.

GERRI WILLIS: Here's my view on this: I think there are 10 times the number of community health centers out here,and if you talk to anybody out here on the street right now, particularly women, they would tell you, “Oh, if you get rid of Planned Parenthood, women will never get care.” That's just not true. The numbers don't support that. [Fox Business Network, Cavuto on Business, 8/23/15]

Fox News' Eric Bolling: “There Are Some 8,000 Clinics Where Women Can Get Treatment For Things Other Than Abortion In America.” During the August 12 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Eric Bolling discussed public funding of Planned Parenthood and referenced “8,000 clinics” in the U.S. other than Planned Parenthood where women can get health care. Guest Penny Young Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, seconded Bolling's claim by saying there are actually “9,000 community health centers” that could use the funds Planned Parenthood currently receives.

BOLLING: Penny, there are some 8,000 clinics where women can get treatment for other things other than abortion in America. Maybe that $500 million that the U.S. taxpayer hands over to Planned Parenthood could be better spent elsewhere. Technically, taxpayer money is not supposed to support abortion. Technically.

NANCE: That's right Eric. Actually much more than 8,000. There's new research, 9,000 just community health centers. So the Joni Ernst bill that the Senate voted on would have shifted the funds from Planned Parenthood to these community health center that treat the whole women. They don't do one abortion. But they care for women. You know the number one killer of women is heart disease. Women have many issues, not just fertility, of course that's important too, but let's care for women. We don't have to choose. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/12/15]

Fox News' Shannon Bream: “There Are 13 Times More Federally Qualified Health Centers Across The Country Than There Are Planned Parenthood Clinics.” During a discussion on the August 3 edition of Fox's Special Report With Bret Baier about a vote in the U.S. Senate to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Fox News' legal correspondent Shannon Bream cited numbers from the anti-choice Charlotte Lozier Institute, which describes itself as the “research and education institute of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion.”

SHANNON BREAM: According to the conservative Charlotte Lozier Institute, there are 13 times more federally qualified health centers across the country than there are Planned Parenthood clinics. The federally qualified health centers operate in both rural and urban locations, providing health services but not abortions, and serve more than 21 million people each year. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/3/15]

But Experts Say Existing Community Clinics Could Not Fulfill Demand For Services Planned Parenthood Provides

George Washington University Public Health Professor:“It's Misguided To Suggest Community Health Centers Could--Overnight--Compensate For The Loss Of...Services At Planned Parenthood.” Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, wrote in an article for the Health Affairs Blog that the “claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do” (emphasis added):

It is important to set the record straight about what it would mean to women were health centers suddenly to have to respond to a hole in care of this magnitude, especially given absurd claims about their financial ability to do so, such as assertions that community health centers could do so for $1.67 per patient. Community health centers are extremely efficient, but the cost of caring for their patients averages about $600 per person annually.

While community health centers constitute a vital component of the nation's primary care safety net, three reasons underscore why it's misguided to suggest community health centers could--overnight--compensate for the loss of affordable women's health services at Planned Parenthood clinics.


1. For every patient served by a community health center today, nearly three residents of low-income communities remain without access to primary health care.


2. A sudden cutoff in funding would create an immediate health care access crisis for millions of women, placing enormous strain on community health centers and other providers.


3. Community health centers offer women's health services as part of comprehensive primary care programs that must meet a broad array of health care needs among community residents of all ages. They cannot simply put their other responsibilities aside
. [Health Affairs Blog, 9/2/15]

Guttmacher Institute: In 103 U.S. Counties, Planned Parenthood Is Only 'Safety-Net' Provider. In response to an inquiry from the Congressional Budget Office about the “geographic service availability from Planned Parenthood health centers,” the Guttmacher Institute wrote on August 14 that in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of publicly-subsidized contraceptive services and can see patients three to five days sooner than “other types of safety-net providers” can.

  • In 18 states, Planned Parenthood health centers serve more than 40% of women obtaining contraceptive care from a safety-net family planning health center (table 1).
  • In 11 of those 18 states, Planned Parenthood serves more than half the women obtaining contraceptive care from a safety-net health center (table 1).


  • In 103 counties with a Planned Parenthood health center (21% of counties with a Planned Parenthood site), Planned Parenthood serves all of the women obtaining publicly supported contraceptive services from a safety net health center (table 2). [Guttmacher Institute, 8/14/15]

Louisiana State Medical Official: “You Can't Just Cut Planned Parenthood Off One Day And Expect Everyone Across The City To Absorb The Patients.” A September 1 article in The New York Times highlighted the need for Planned Parenthood in states like Louisiana, which is considered medically underserved because it has “a shortage of health professionals and too few who will accept Medicaid.” Louisiana has only two Planned Parenthood clinics, which experts say play a vital role serving low-income patients because they accept Medicaid. From The New York Times (emphasis added):

We have a syphilis epidemic right now in New Orleans," said Dr.[Stephanie]Taylor, the medical director overseeing programs to combat sexually transmitted infections for the State Office of Public Health. She is also the director of Louisiana State University's sexually transmitted infections program, which operates in the wellness center here. Louisiana ranks first among the states in cases of gonorrhea, second in chlamydia, and third in syphilis and H.I.V., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


You can't just cut Planned Parenthood off one day and expect everyone across the city to absorb the patients," Dr. Taylor said. “There needs to be time to build the capacity.”

With the calls to stop funding for Planned Parenthood, a visit to New Orleans and Baton Rouge suggests that it would not be as easy to do without the nonprofit centers as some Republicans and their anti-abortion allies say. Other states would face similar problems.

Louisiana is among a number of states counted as medically underserved: It has a large poor and unhealthy population, with high rates of unintended pregnancies, a shortage of health professionals and too few who will accept Medicaid, as Planned Parenthood does.

“I think of it as sort of a triple whammy, particularly in the South,” said Cindy Mann, who until recently was the federal director of Medicaid, the joint state-federal program intended to help low-income Americans get medical care. [The New York Times, 9/1/15]

Sen. Susan Collins: Concerned That Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Hurt “The Primary Provider of Women's Health Services” In Some Parts Of Her Home State. As reported by The Hill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced in July that she was likely to oppose a bill from her GOP colleagues that would defund Planned Parenthood, citing the fact that the organization is “the primary provider of women's health services” in many parts of her state.

“The problem is, in my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women's health services in certain parts of my state, and as I understand the amendment, and again I'm still reviewing it, it immediately defunds Planned Parenthood,” Collins said. “So I don't know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.” [The Hill, 7/29/15]

State-Level Defunding Of Planned Parenthood Has Hurt Women's Health In Texas And Contributed To HIV Outbreak In Indiana

Texas Defunded Planned Parenthood To The Detriment Of State's Women. Joseph Potter, a professor of sociology and the principal investigator of the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project, investigated the impact of the Texas Legislature's decisions in 2011, 2013, and 2015 to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid waiver program. According to an August 15 guest column he wrote for the San Antonio Express-News, Potter found that “not all federally qualified health centers” or community clinics were interested in “becoming a family-planning provider under either the Texas Women's Health Program or the contract programs administered by [Department of State Health Services].” He additionally found that “there have also been problems for the women faced with finding a new provider” once Planned Parenthood was no longer an option. From the op-ed (emphasis added):

Our initial analysis showed not all federally qualified health centers or other providers of comprehensive care at the community level are interested in taking up the bureaucratic and financial challenges -- especially the low reimbursement rates -- that are entailed in becoming a family-planning provider under either the Texas Women's Health Program or the contract programs administered by DSHS.

Many simply do not have the trained personnel and experience in women's health care that the former providers had.

And there have also been problems for the women faced with finding a new provider.

Finding a new provider and securing a timely appointment is often a major challenge, especially in small cities such as Midland or in the Rio Grande Valley, where alternate providers are few and far between.


What have these problems meant for Texas women?

In short, fewer have received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies. [Express-News8/15/15]

After State Funding Cuts Forced Rural Indiana Planned Parenthood Clinics To Close, Scott County Became Center Of “Exploding HIV Outbreak.” In 2011, according to a March 31 article in The Huffington Post, Indiana's GOP-led state legislature slashed various sources of state funding for Planned Parenthood. Subsequently, five Planned Parenthood clinics that did not provide abortions but did offer HIV testing were forced to close, including one that had provided the only source of testing in rural Scott County, which has since been engulfed by an HIV outbreak.

Scott County, Indiana, the center of an exploding HIV outbreak, has been without an HIV testing center since early 2013, when the sole provider -- a Planned Parenthood clinic -- was forced to close its doors. The clinic did not offer abortion services.

The Scott County clinic and four other Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, all of which provided HIV testing and information, have shuttered since 2011, in large part due to funding cuts to the state's public health infrastructure. Those cuts came amid a national and local political campaign to demonize the health care provider. Now, the state is scrambling to erect pop-up clinics to combat an unprecedented HIV epidemic caused by intravenous drug use.


Stauffer said if the Planned Parenthood facilities in Scottsburg and Madison, both in southwest rural Indiana, had received the funding they needed to stay open, they could have been a vital resource in preventing the current HIV outbreak. [Huffington Post, 3/31/15]