A PolitiFact reader asked us to fact-check an email Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., sent to constituents just after the House passed the latest health care bill. We zeroed in on part of a “frequently asked questions” section that sought to explain some of the bill’s provisions:
“Why are you cutting women’s health services?”
“We’re not. In fact, we’re expanding women’s access to health services by redirecting Planned Parenthood dollars to community health centers, which vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics.”
Loudermilk’s office told us the information in the FAQ section came from the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Our goal is making sure women get the kind of care they need and we believe that can best be achieved by putting money into community health centers, which provide similar services as Planned Parenthood but vastly outnumber them,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan.
From our research, we found that there are indeed more community health centers than Planned Parenthood clinics — but that doesn’t mean redirecting dollars to them will be “expanding women’s access to health services.”
Loudermilk has a point on the numbers.
We looked at a census of clinics that provide contraceptive services published in April 2017 by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health nonprofit. The group tallied up various types of clinics, the most numerous of which are “federally qualified health centers” — defined by the federal government as “safety-net providers that primarily provide services typically furnished in an outpatient clinic.” Such facilities can include community health centers, migrant health centers, homeless health care centers, and public housing primary care centers.
For 2015, the census tallied 5,829 federally qualified health centers nationally, compared to 676 Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s a ratio of greater than 8-to-1, so the adjective “vastly” seems appropriate.
Would redirecting funding to these centers expand women’s access to health services? This assertion is more questionable.
Even if community health centers were able to serve every patient Planned Parenthood currently serves, that wouldn’t be “expanding women’s access to health services,” it would simply be maintaining it. The closure of as many as 676 Planned Parenthood facilities would require a lot of expansion of resources elsewhere just to keep pace, before any “expansion” of access begins.
And there’s reason to believe that community health centers may not be able to pick up the slack if Planned Parenthood centers disappear.
The average Planned Parenthood clinic served 2,950 patients for contraceptive services in 2015, compared to 320 for the average federally qualified health center, according to the Guttmacher census.
mmunity health centers are already operating with a shortage of staff, making any rapid expansion that much trickier.
When the Atlantic investigated how prepared Iowa health clinics were to pick up patients from Planned Parenthood, they found that lists of clinics provided by Republican lawmakers included “a dentist’s office, a school nurse, and a youth shelter” as well as one clinic that had closed and several that didn’t provide family-planning services.
“They’re assuming we’re the alternative,” Ted Boesen, CEO of the nonprofit Iowa Primary Care Association, told the magazine. “But we’re waiting to see what kind of a scale it is.”
Loudermilk said that in the House Republican health care bill, “we’re expanding women’s access to health services by redirecting Planned Parenthood dollars to community health centers, which vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics.”
Purely on the numbers, he has a point: There are more federally qualified health centers than Planned Parenthood clinics. But the notion that bypassing Planned Parenthood would mean “expanding” access is dubious. We rate the statement Mostly False.
In the House Republican health care bill, “we’re expanding women’s access to health services by redirecting Planned Parenthood dollars to community health centers, which vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics.”
— Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., May 4, in an email to constituents