How Bobby Jindal Threw Reproductive Health Under the Bus for His Presidential Bid

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | News Analysis –

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Update: Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday evening that he is dropping out of the race for president. 

The Planned Parenthood Health Center in New Orleans can be found inside a modest house in the uptown neighborhood of Louisiana’s largest city. If you didn’t see the sign out front, it would be easy to mistake the small building for one of the shotgun-style residences lining the street. Still, thousands of people rely on the clinic for reproductive health-care services ranging from sexually transmitted disease and cervical cancer screenings to treatment of urinary tract infections. The clinic does not perform abortions, nor does its sister facility in Baton Rouge.

Together, the facilities serve about 5,200 low-income Medicaid patients, but this didn’t stop Gov. Bobby Jindal from cutting off Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid contract with the state in August, citing the now-infamous undercover fetal tissue research videos that have since been repeatedly debunked. Jindal was in campaign mode: He had announced his campaign for presidency a month earlier.

Planned Parenthood filed suit, and in October, a federal judge ordered the Jindal administration to reinstate Medicaid payments to the nonprofit medical care provider, effectively allowing Medicaid recipients who rely on Planned Parenthood to continue seeing the provider they prefer while Jindal spends taxpayer dollars fighting the case in a federal appeals court.

The Planned Parenthood cutoff was part of a larger pattern for Jindal. His administration had already refused to set up a health insurance marketplace and blocked Medicaid from expanding in Louisiana under the Affordable Care Act. Jindal routinely plugs his opposition to the ACA and his fight with Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail.

One thing you won’t hear Jindal bragging about on Fox News: Louisiana reports more gonorrhea infections than any other state in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2013, Louisiana ranked third in syphilis infections and second in chlamydia infections out of all 50 states. Jindal’s state also has some of the country’s highest rates of HIV and AIDS cases, as well as unintended pregnancies.

Jindal can’t blame these numbers on “loose morals” or Bourbon Street. Louisiana also has high rates of poverty and unemployment, and low-income people, particularly rural women and women of color, are chronically underserved by the state’s public reproductive health-care system.

There are about 130 publicly funded health clinics in Louisiana, but in 2013, they provided contraceptive care to only 14 percent of the 325,000 Louisiana women in need of publicly supported contraceptive services, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank. About half of these women are Black or Latina. About 113,000 live below the federal poverty line, and 102,000 are uninsured.

Nearly 30 percent of women in need of contraceptive services in the New Orleans area found them at the Planned Parenthood center that Jindal is fighting to defund.

“Our need is so great that even with all of these clinics providing services, we are not making a huge dent in the amount of people who need to be seen,” said Taslim van Hattum, director of maternal, child and family health at the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI).

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Reprinted with permission from Truthout