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The war on women’s health care

Rep. Mike Pence
Rep. Mike Pence

A vote in Congress this week will decide the fate of millions of dollars and people that usually go to Planned Parenthood.

The vote could even happen today.

Rep. Mike Pence has proposed a measure that would cut Title X funding from any organization that also provides abortions services. But that money is used for family planning, says Jenny Black, CEO of Planned Parenthood of New Mexico. The Title X program was created by President Nixon four decades ago and allows low-income women access to contraception, pap tests, testing for sexually transmitted infections (including AIDS) and breast exams. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of Title X services in the country, Black says.

“We are a point of entry for women into the health care system,” Black adds. “Women come in for the first time, for their first pap or first STI testing. They’re coming because they’re sexually active and responsibly taking care of themselves. They won’t have anywhere to turn.”

Pence’s bill was also amended to cut off any funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that flowed into Planned Parenthood for STI prevention and treatment.

Another amendment seeks to ax money for sexuality education in the country. But President Obama also is seeking funds for proven sex-ed programs after years of President Bush’s policy to only fund abstinence-based education.

The amendment that would hit New Mexico the hardest, says Black, would halt any federal dollars from making their way to a Planned Parenthood affiliate. That means Medicaid.

“We provide care for about 25,000 families in New Mexico,” Black says. “This is an attack on women’s health, but it’s also an attack on a family’s ability to control its own fertility.”

Nationwide, 3 million women seek health care from Planned Parenthood, and again, Black points out, that’s 3 million families. “It’s not just the women,” she says. “It’s the men in their lives, too.”

Zeroing out federal funding for Planned Parenthood severs a key component of America’s health care infrastructure, Black adds. And it’s economically unsound, she adds: For every dollar spent on preventive care, the country saves four bucks in later medical costs.

House Republicans also launched a separate measure that would completely defund Title X altogether, not just take Title X money from Planned Parenthood.

“When Congress is supposed to be focused on the economy and creating jobs,” Black says, “we’re seeing this highly politicized attack on women’s health care.”

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America calls this “the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health” in the organization’s 95-year history. Through this link, people who want to weigh in on the issue can reach the office of their U.S. representative. Or you can call 202-730-9001.


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