Under the House of Representatives’ new health care plan, Planned Parenthood will lose 30 percent of its funding, or approximately $175 million in Medicaid reimbursements, unless its clinics stop offering abortions.
The focus by lawmakers (and many members of the public) on Planned Parenthood’s abortion services has long fostered a misguided view of the organization. Yes, it does offer abortions, but as part of a clinic primarily aimed at providing medical care for low-income Americans on Medicaid and those without insurance. Abortions make up only 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood, which primarily involve STI/STD treatments, contraception, cancer screenings and prenatal services.
Another misconception? That Planned Parenthood is just for women.
“They’re at the top of my health-care Rolodex,” Andrew Forno told the International Business Times in 2015. A 33-year-old freelance writer in New York City, Forno knew women went there to get inexpensive tests and figured he could do the same. At the time, Forno didn’t have health insurance, and he soon came to rely on Planned Parenthood for medical care of all kinds. “It’s been a nice relationship,” he said.
While Planned Parenthood has provided services to men (condom distribution, sexual health checkups, STD screenings, etc.) since its inception in 1916, it has only really gained in popularity among men since the turn of the century. Between 2003 and 2013, for example, the number of male patients who were served by the organization doubled. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, approximately 250,000 of the 2.5 million people who visited Planned Parenthood centers for health services were men.
And it’s not just about STDs. Depending on the location, men can visit Planned Parenthood clinics for routine physical exams; prostate, colon and testicular cancer screenings; infertility screenings; treatment for erectile dysfunction; and vasectomies.
Planned Parenthood does quite a bit of educational outreach, explains B. Sounds, creator of the sexuality and health education website Mentionables. “Like encouraging men to get STD tests during 2015’s Men’s National Health Week,” celebrated each year as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. Planned Parenthood says its most popular services for men include tests for HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Michael Quindlen, 45, first turned to Planned Parenthood for testing as a teenager when he didn’t want his STD scare to turn up on his parents’ medical bills. “I don’t think most men even realize they could use Planned Parenthood services until they get pushed into a corner and they don’t have the resources to [seek treatment] elsewhere,” he told Refinery29 back in March.
I called Planned Parenthood of Northern California and was able to schedule a treatment session for my (hypothetical) erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation issue. Planned Parenthood of Arizona was happy to see me immediately regarding a penis rash I couldn’t quite explain. And a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood of Portland was possible within the week.
Yes, all of these services are available elsewhere, but not necessarily for men without health insurance or a primary care physician. “That’s one of the best parts about Planned Parenthood,” Sounds says. “While there are other places for men and women to get the same services, Planned Parenthood helps people with lower incomes. If you don’t have health insurance, that’s where Title X comes in to help pay for things like STD/STI testing.”
Simply put, Planned Parenthood is where a guy can find peace of mind about a lot of different things. Or as John Hambrock, a 30-something who credited Planned Parenthood with giving him the medical resources he desperately needed, put it to Refinery29: “At a time when you’re financially struggling and freaking out because this thing on your body hasn’t gone away and you don’t know what it’s going to turn out to be — to know you can go there to get good directional sense of what to do next and feel some modicum of security, that’s invaluable.”