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.