Our Bodies, Our Budget

I truly don’t get it.  How did the health, lives and bodies of American women and girls become bargaining chips for the budget. How did Planned Parenthood, a venerable organization that has provided safe, accessible reproductive health care to women for nearly 100 years, even end up in the same sentence as the shutdown of the federal government. And since when did providing reliable medical services like screening for breast and cervical cancer, testing college students for sexually transmitted infection and offering affordable birth control and health education to men, women and teens become a negotiable thing?

Where is the outrage? We are talking about our bodies and our health.  These are non-negotiable.  The NY Times quoted House Speaker John Boehner as saying, “We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like has been done time and time again in Washington.” I’m sorry, but who is selling out whom here?  Women are 51% of the American people and it looks like he is ready to roll us under the bus.

Before people talked about “branding”, Planned Parenthood was a brand that women could trust.  It was like the proverbial “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval. And it had nothing to do with political parties. When I first moved to New York City and joined the board of PPNYC nearly 30 years ago there were as many well-known Republican names on that board as Democrats.  We were all there for the same reason. We ardently respected the individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex and family planning.  And we wanted to ensure that everyone — in all communities and socioeconomic groups —  had access to accurate information and safe dependable services. For many women in this country Planned Parenthoods provide primary care for them and their children. For generations of college students it has been the place they turn to at times of crisis — date rape, HIV testing, pregnancy scares — and for birth control or counseling.

Here in the Hudson Valley, Planned Parenthood has been a trusted presence since 1934. Planned Parenthood Mid Hudson Valley currently serves 40,000 people a year in seven clinics in Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties with a focus on prevention. Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood runs three health centers and serves communities in Albany, Columbia, Greene, and Rensselaer Counties with special concern for the underserved.

Boehner and his buddies were elected talking about new jobs and balancing the budget. Why are they now talking about Planned Parenthood and abortion funding? Federal law already prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortions.  And as far as I can tell, defunding Planned Parenthood will result in more lost jobs — most of which are held by women.

Part of the last minute deal that prevented a government shutdown seems to have restricted funds going to services in Washington DC, as well as to call for a separate vote later this week on Planned Parenthood.  We have two freshmen Congressional reps here in the region: Republicans Nan Hayworth (NY 19) and Chris Gibson (NY 20). Let them know how you feel.

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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1 Response to Our Bodies, Our Budget

  1. MHB says:

    Good question…I mean, when did it become so popular to cut funding for key services like Planned Parenthood? There’s no simple answer, but a significant part of the equation is ideological. Both Democrats and Republicans have spent the last 40 years harping on about the dangers of “big government”. This successful (and ultimately, reactionary) campaign has, not surprisingly, morphed into “no government is good government”. At the moment, that means every social program represents a dangerous, socialist ideology that will destroy your life and liberty .

    By the way…Chris Gibson isn’t too concerned about the future of Planned Parenthood. In fact, he likes to tell his constituents he’s a “social conservative” who believes we need to get back to “our cherished way of life”. Gibson seems to think this means repealing the last 50 years of socially progressive legislation. In other words, he wants us to get back to our grandparents way of life, and cherish it regardless of how impossible, anachronistic and ridiculous that would actually be. You can let him know you’re mad, even outraged, but he won’t believe you care enough to vote him out of office.

    Or maybe Americans really have decided to discard the last 50 years of hard won rights and privileges. Maybe they believe they’re so undeserving that access to low cost birth control is an outrage to their own freedom. Its a confounding prospect, and I simply don’t believe it. Not for a minute.

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