Those who think the international behemoth of Planned Parenthood can’t be beaten – at least at the local level – should look to the experience of Hamilton.
Just three years ago, the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Steel City’s downtown core was raking in $359,000 in annual funding (or 51 per cent of the area’s budget for “sexual health”), allowing it to provide its “services” for 39 hours per week. Now, thanks to the tenacity of a group of local citizens, the birth control giant has been brought down to size, receiving just $165,000 per year and being open only 12 hours per week.
“Since the cut in funding, they’ve had a 58 per cent drop in attendance by teenagers,” said a gleeful Jim Enos, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council committee that oversees issues related to sexual health and education. “They’ve also had a 63 per cent drop in pregnancy tests.”
Enos was the leading figure in the council’s efforts to sting Planned Parenthood in the financial sphere. He, and others, have since the fall of 1996 grittily lobbied city and regional politicians, as well as the region’s health services committee and public health department, to look into alternatives in sexual health provision, including the Birthright organization and chastity education in schools.
The efforts have, obviously, paid off. But still, work remains to be done.
Enos is questioning PP’s figures that, when interpolated, show its clinic received 8.3 client visits per hour. In comparison, the region’s six public sexual health clinics get just four clients per hour.
The discrepancy has prompted Enos to start a monitoring program to see just how man clients PP actually sees. According to his figures so far, 2.5 people per hour call on PP’s services. “I don’t believe Planned Parenthood is a needed or wanted service,” Enos said in reaction.
“We have a lot of steps still to take,” he added. “We’re still involved with public health directly. It does basically the same work (as PP), but is very sensitive to what we want.”
The pro-chastity IDEAS program, which works in schools, has been receiving $21,000 annually at the same time that Planned Parenthood funding has been cut. Better still, the regional council has agreed to raise funding to $41,000 annually in its next budget. “It’s expanding further into the schools,” said Enos. “Public health is paying for it and we’re happy about that. They took the money from Planned Parenthood and gave it to IDEAS.”
A key in convincing Hamilton politicians to change the funding scheme for sexual health was to show them how disproportionate amounts of money were being given to Planned Parenthood as compared to other parts of Ontario. Where Hamilton’s PP was receiving 51 per cent of the sexual health funding allotment, PP clinics in areas such as Toronto and Ottawa were getting five to 10 per cent.
Nonetheless, Enos thinks Hamilton’s PP is still getting too much money, even after the cuts it has suffered.
“We’re still asking why 26 per cent of the budget is being spent on 15 per cent of the population (that use Planned Parenthood). We believe if we can cut their funding to 15 per cent, (Planned Parenthood) will be out of business.”
Another plank in the HWFAC platform is offering more support to favourable organizations such as Birthright. The organization recently held a scavenger hunt, which brought in 900 pounds of baby clothing and $400. Pro-life car washes were also organized throughout the Hamilton area at the end of September.
Enos would eventually like to demonstrate that the reduced funding to Planned Parenthood will have resulted in lower teen pregnancy rates and improved sexual health among the region’s young people, but is being handicapped so far by provincial Ministry of Health tardiness in compiling teen pregnancy statistics.
“The Ministry of Health has pregnancy statistics up to 1995,” Enos said. “I’ve been plugging away at them, and they say they’re going to have the latest statistics ready this fall. Then I’ll be able to tell.”