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As Holly Isaac sees it, Planned Parenthood saved her life.
Isaac began going to the Salt Lake City clinic for birth-control pills as a 19-year-old University of Utah student, and, three years later, her regular obstetrical-gynecological exam revealed she had the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
"I feel like it saved my life," said Isaac, who went home to Minnesota for cancer treatment, but returned to the U. and now lives in Sugar House with her husband and two children.
Planned Parenthood, the now-42-year-old said, does not deserve the rap it's getting a position shared by hundreds of others who responded to a query from the Utah Public Insight Network via The Salt Lake Tribune.
The newspaper asked readers if they'd ever used Planned Parenthood's services and received nearly 625 responses. Fewer than 10 criticized the reproductive health organization and most of those had not used its services.
Several respondents said they went for abortion counseling or abortions, but the majority, by far, said they went to Planned Parenthood for contraception or testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Earlier this month, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the state no longer will pass through federal money to Planned Parenthood of Utah, a move meant to signal his disgust over five videos secretly recorded and posted on the Internet this summer that exposed the collection of fetal tissue.
At an anti-abortion rally Wednesday at the Utah Capitol, the governor called the Planned Parenthood executives on the videos "callous" and disrespectful of the unborn.
The anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress points to its videos as evidence that Planned Parenthood officials in Texas illegally negotiated prices for aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denies that it sells fetal tissue and maintains it only passes on handling costs as is allowed by law.
The $272,000 Herbert plans to hold back amounts to less than 4 percent of Planned Parenthood of Utah's overall budget, which was $7.7 million in the year that ended June 30. That includes money for STD testing at the state lab, sexual education and leadership training for teenagers, refugees and others, and for testing a new electronic record system to track STDs.
State and federal laws already forbid government funding for abortions.
A spreadsheet the governor distributed with his Aug. 14 announcement showed funds totalling $222,000. But the director of the Health Department's Bureau of Epidemiology said Friday that two numbers were transposed, so the amount to be withheld is higher.
Planned Parenthood will continue to get $1.9 million in Title X money directly from the federal government for family-planning services, said Karrie Galloway, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Utah. That money, allocated under a 40-year-old family-planning law, mostly subsidizes contraception for low-income patients.
Planned Parenthood is the only Title X recipient in Utah, but it contracts with some providers in rural areas.
While Planned Parenthood is consulting attorneys on the governor's action, Galloway said the organization plans to tap other resources to replace the $272,000.
"We can't do much about politics, but we can take care of people," Galloway said. "We are not going to leave the people of Utah high and dry."
Abortions plunging • For Planned Parenthood's backers, it's an irony that the governor's dismay over abortion would take money from reproductive health programs that can reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.
Other services provided at the organization's nine clinics from Logan to St. George dwarf the number of abortions, which are performed at just one, the Salt Lake City clinic. (See accompanying box.)
For instance, Planned Parenthood performed 1,602 abortions in Utah last year, while providing birth control to 23,170 patients, according to its annual report.
The number of Utah abortions has dropped dramatically in recent years, hitting a 36-year low of 2,893 in 2013. There is one other abortion provider in the state.
Isaac said she and her friends at the U. all used Planned Parenthood as a birth-control and health-care provider because it was inexpensive and discreet.
"It didn't cross our minds it was an abortion provider," she said. "That's what we were all looking to avoid."
Orem resident Steve Elliott said he and his wife turned to Planned Parenthood's Orem clinic for contraception when it became too expensive $80 a month at the health center at Utah Valley University, where they were students.
"Initially, I was apprehensive, because I knew Planned Parenthood only by [its] reputation" as a baby killer, the 27-year-old Elliott wrote in response to The Tribune's query.
But he saw no mention of abortion at the Orem Planned Parenthood clinic, just materials citing the pros and cons of various forms of contraception and information about STDs, he said. His wife was able to pay $10 a month for her contraception, a vaginal ring.
Pulling funding, as Herbert has done, "will do more harm than good," Elliott said.
Tina Escobar-Taft was living in Mountain View, Wyo., when she had her first serious boyfriend and her mother put her on the pill. She was 15 or 16.
After a few months, her mother took her to Planned Parenthood because she could get free birth control, as well as education about sexual responsibility and STDs.
"Because of that, I ended up having my first child at 23, not 15, 16 or 17. And I was married, not out of wedlock," said Escobar-Taft, who lives in east Salt Lake City's Sugar House area.
Abortion, the 35-year-old mother of two said, "has never been a word I associated with Planned Parenthood until now. [Rather], it's synonymous with birth control."
Ellie Goldberg was so annoyed with the governor's action that she donated $25 in his honor to Planned Parenthood last weekend, asking that the thank-you note be sent to Herbert's office at the Capitol.
Goldberg saw the value of Planned Parenthood's education program for teens when she helped coordinate classes at a community center serving mostly refugees. The program taught about healthy relationships and life skills. It did not promote sexual activity, she said. It's one of the programs affected by the governor's action.
"It's absolutely a spineless political move," Goldberg said, "and doesn't have anything to do with the facts or the reality of the situation."
Michael Coble, 28, said he went to Planned Parenthood's West Valley City clinic when he was sick with a soaring temperature and thought he had an STD.
It turned out he had a urinary infection instead, and Planned Parenthood treated that.
"I've known people who have had an abortion, but everyone I know ... goes there for (STD) testing and birth control," said Coble, who lives in South Salt Lake.
One 30-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, said her mother took her to Planned Parenthood when she was sexually assaulted as a teenager. She got emergency contraception and treatment for an infection.
"I didn't want to go to my family doctor in Bountiful, who was an old dude and I didn't feel comfortable with him," she said.
Missed her cancer • Just two Utahns who responded to The Tribune's query were unhappy with their experiences at Planned Parenthood.
Park City resident Julia Rametta was in college when she went to the Salt Lake City clinic for birth control and STD testing, and she felt Planned Parenthood pushed certain kinds of contraception over others. For instance, there was no mention of natural family planning, which Rametta said she has since learned is a viable option.
But most important, she said, Planned Parenthood failed to diagnose that she had HPV and the early stages of cervical cancer. Her own doctor found it in a gynecological exam just two weeks after an exam at Planned Parenthood, the 29-year-old Rametta said.
After that, she stopped going to Planned Parenthood, she said. "I wasn't going to go to somebody I didn't trust."
Nonetheless, Rametta believes Herbert was rash to take all the money at once. "It should be in steps," she said.
North Ogden resident Jon Hansen responded to the survey as one who has not used Planned Parenthood's services.
He said that now that the Affordable Care Act mandates everyone have health insurance that provides reproductive health care, there's no need for federal subsidies to Planned Parenthood.
"Planned Parenthood is an evil organization," he wrote. "Any little bit of good they provide is overshadowed by the horrible acts they push for their own profit."
Tribune editor Rachel Piper contributed to this story.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @KristenMoulton The Utah Public Insight Network served as a source for this story. To become a news source for The Salt Lake Tribune, go to › PINsight.org/source/SLT
Governor's grant decisions
The federal grants that Gov. Gary Herbert says the Utah Department of Health no longer will pass on to Planned Parenthood of Utah are the following (2015 budget year):
Sex, abstinence and responsibility education, $115,704 • This grant helped Planned Parenthood offer its leadership and sexual-education program after hours at schools, at Boys & Girls clubs and in community centers serving refugees.
STD Surveillance Network, $79,960 • This grant funded a partnership between Planned Parenthood and the Utah Department of Health to test a new electronic record system for sexually transmitted diseases. It did not pay for any direct client services.
Targeted STD testing, up to $75,000 • This grant allowed Planned Parenthood to have 4,400 free chlamydia and gonorrhea tests at the state health lab for women ages 15 to 24, their partners, and men who have sex with men, all at-risk groups.
Pregnancy and STD testing, $1,339 • This grant paid for tests for victims of rape and sexual assault. By the numbers:
Planned Parenthood was one of 73 Utah health centers considered "safety net" centers for reproductive health in 2010, but served 83 percent of the 51,280 clients. (http://www.guttmacher.org)
According to its 2014 annual report, Planned Parenthood of Utah:
• Had 51,979 patients and 11,446 pregnancy testing visits to its nine clinics.
• Gave 15,763 chlamydia and gonorrhea tests.
• Provided 25,492 breast and testicular screenings, 22,146 doses of emergency contraception, 14,615 Depo-Provera (contraception) shots, 19,796 vaginal rings (contraception), 87,028 birth-control pill packets, 78 vasectomies, 1,602 abortions.
• Planned Parenthood patients in 2014:
• 56 percent were age 20 to 29, 20 percent were 30 to 39 and 16.5 percent were 19 and under.
• 85 percent were female
• 82 percent did not have insurance
• 22 percent were Latino