By Peter Sullivan - 09/08/15 04:56 PM EDT
Planned Parenthood is sometimes the only option for low-income women seeking contraception, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study finds that in one-fifth of the 491 U.S. counties where Planned Parenthood centers are located, they are the only safety-net family planning center available.
Furthermore, in two-thirds of the 491 counties, Planned Parenthood centers serve at least half of women obtaining contraception from safety-net health centers, the analysis finds.
The question of how Planned Parenthood compares to other contraception providers has been thrust into the spotlight by Republican bills that would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood and shift the funds to other providers, like community health centers.
One such bill was defeated largely by Democratic votes in the Senate before the August recess, and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) introduced a similar measure in the House on Tuesday.
Republican supporters of such bills have pointed out that community health centers far outnumber Planned Parenthood centers.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the roughly 1,200 community health centers in the U.S. serve over 21 million people per year. Planned Parenthood, by contrast, serves 2.7 million people.
On the other hand, the study released Tuesday shows that Planned Parenthood serves a disproportionately high share of low-income women.
Planned Parenthood centers make up 10 percent of publicly-funded family planning clinics, but serve 36 percent of the patients at such centers, according to the analysis.
The study also found that Planned Parenthood tends to offer a wider range of contraceptive methods than other providers do.
The authors say there is some uncertainty about the effects of defunding, but it is doubtful other providers could step up in the short term.
“We cannot predict whether or to what extent health centers operated by other providers could fill the significant gap in the family planning safety net that would be created if Planned Parenthood health centers were defunded — and therefore lost to the communities they serve,” they write.
“Certainly in the short term, it is doubtful that other providers could step up in a timely way to absorb the millions of women suddenly left without their preferred source of care and whether those providers could offer the same degree of accessible, quality contraceptive care offered by Planned Parenthood,” they add.