Washington (CNN)Predicting a health care crisis for millions of women if President Donald Trump and Congress move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the leader of Planned Parenthood says she sees a growing movement to retain key elements of the law.
Cecile Richards: There will be a health crisis for women if ACA repealed
The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.
"I think we're seeing the most effective pushback ever on this issue," Cecile Richards told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
"It is no longer a theoretical bill; it is that [people] are now recognizing their kids aren't going to be able to stay on their health insurance, or that Congress just voted to end the birth-control benefit, or that women are no longer protected from preexisting conditions. It's becoming very personal and very real."
If Congress succeeds in defunding Planned Parenthood as part of its effort to repeal the health care law, it could inject chaos into a health system ill-equipped to absorb the millions of women whose access to care will suddenly be jeopardized, Richards warned.
"If they overturn the ACA, it is going to create havoc -- particularly for women in this country who have the least access to care," she said.
Richards suggested looking to Texas, a state that has dramatically slashed funding for family planning services over the past few years, in order to understand the adverse impacts that can stem from reducing funding to community health centers like Planned Parenthood, which then can be forced to close, depriving women of needed health services.
"We've seen a doubling of the maternal mortality rate for women in Texas," stated Richards. "This particularly is hitting low-income women, and women of color, particularly African-American women. We've seen less women being able to access birth control."
An irony of this, Richards suggests, is that cutting off funding to family planning services risks an increase in unintended pregnancies -- and the potential for their being terminated by an abortion -- at a time when the trend lines are moving in a positive direction.
"We're at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy and a record low for teenage pregnancy," Richards said. "The thought that we would actually flip and go backwards is just unthinkable."
Planned Parenthood, the nation's single largest provider of abortions, has long been a target of Republicans who are opposed to the procedure on moral grounds. President Trump promised on the campaign trail to defund the organization, and House Speaker Paul Ryan recently announced that his conference will seek to do that as part of its repeal of the health care law.
Ryan suggested at a recent CNN town hall that other community health centers could help minimize the disruption that Richards says will occur if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Richards, however, says that community health centers have cautioned that they "cannot possibly absorb the patients that Planned Parenthood takes care of. And that's true all across the board."
Richards also argues that Planned Parenthood does more than perform abortions. It also provides up to two million women nationwide with affordable preventive health services like cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing and prevention, and family planning assistance. Women will be harmed, Richards says, if legislative bodies succeed in restricting access to those services.
"The more restrictions that are passed by Congress -- by these states -- it's not making women healthier; it's not even reducing abortion," she said. "It's actually making women less safe."