Plan to Cut Off Clinics’ Funds Called Illogical
Calling on the hot line was a tearful, stammering 15-year-old girl with gonorrhea.
She was coaxed into visiting T.H.E. Clinic for Women in Los Angeles, where she had a medical exam and was given antibiotics to cure her condition. She also got her first birth control device.
The teen-ager was one of more than 500,000 young females statewide who last year visited hundreds of state-supported family planning clinics that are scheduled to lose their funding in July under Gov. George Deukmejian’s newly proposed state budget.
Health care advocates denounced the governor’s plan Wednesday. They defended the state’s expenditure of $36.2 million--by far the largest source of support for family planning services--as one of the state health department’s most cost-effective programs.
“I thought we’d gotten past this kind of illogical cutting of programs that are so cost-effective,” said Sylvia Drew Ivie, executive director of T.H.E. Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the Crenshaw area.
Her clinic receives about $300,000 a year in state family planning funds to pay for birth control supplies, exams, counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases in more than 3,000 low-income females, who are mostly Asian, black and Latino. None of these state funds may be used for abortions, although some clinics do provide abortion referrals.
“We save the taxpayers an enormous amount of money by helping women prevent unwanted births through birth control,” Ivie said.
Without the state funds, she said, services at T.H.E. Clinic, founded in 1972, would be “devastated.” Statewide, these cuts will cause “more unwanted pregnancies, less prenatal care and a higher infant mortality rate,” she said.
Planned Parenthood officials in Sacramento said that it has been shown that $6 in medical care and social services is saved for every $1 spent on family planning services, according to a study by the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California. Planned Parenthood’s 90 clinics statewide receive about a quarter of the state’s family planning funds, spokesman David Alois said.
The federal government also funds family planning services, amounting to $12.5 million in the state last year. That funding is expected to continue, but would probably be stretched so thin that drastic cuts would undoubtedly have to be made in innovative programs such as the one at T.H.E. Clinic targeting pregnant teens and adolescent boys.
Federal, State Money
In Los Angeles County, about $9.4 million in state money and $4 million in federal funds support 90 family planning clinics. Half are run by nonprofit groups and the rest are public clinics located in county facilities, said Tom Kraing, director of the Los Angeles Regional Family Planning Council, which distributes both the federal and state money.
He predicted that many excellent nonprofit clinics would be forced to close, including perhaps T.H.E. Clinic.
Ivie described the clinic’s family planning funds as “the core of . . . our financial strength.” Cuts in these services, she said, would jeopardize the viability of the whole clinic, including its other services--prenatal care for hundreds of pregnant women, AIDS testing, nutritional programs, free immunization of children as well as free breast examinations and pap smears.
To eliminate $36.2 million in family planning funding, the Legislature must repeal legislation that set up and funded the state health department’s office of family planning. If the Legislature refuses to do so, Deukmejian has said that he will gut the program by slashing its budget by two-thirds.
“I do not wish to have to make any of these reductions,” Deukmejian said Tuesday. “But if the Legislature does not support such actions, I fear that the alternative will be much worse.” He threatened to slash other programs, including those for local mental health, Alzheimer’s disease research, senior nutrition and alcohol and drug treatment programs.
The matter will be debated during the next six months. Meantime, a spokesman for the state Health Services Department said, grant applications for family planning funds will be accepted and evaluated.