Keep women’s health a priority

The federal spending bill that cuts federal funds for Planned Parenthood places millions of women at risk.

by Vanessa Ramstack

Remember sex ed. class in middle school? It was mortifying and the information easily forgotten.
In the adult world, thereâÄôs no teacher to turn to and accurate knowledge is hard to come by, especially if one canâÄôt visit a doctor. Planned Parenthood provides accurate information on sexual and reproductive health care and is cheaply available. With more than 1.2 million people attending its educational programs every year, it helps in ways sex ed. class could not. Now its funding is on the chopping block in Congress.
On Feb. 18, Mike Pence, R-Ind., proposed an amendment to a spending bill to eliminate all federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The Republican-led House passed the bill 240-185
Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funds for performing abortions, and this new bill would prohibit the use of federal funds for its other services as well. These include birth control, STI treatment and testing, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and more.
MinnesotaâÄôs Planned Parenthood received $2.9 million in federal funding in 2011. The amendment would most likely remove these funds.
Supporters of the amendment regard it as necessary to reduce deficit, but not everyone agrees.
Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota believes the bill is âÄúnot a debt-reducing fiscal strategy; it is a retributive attack on women and womenâÄôs health.âÄú
Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., voiced his opinion at a press conference in Washington last Thursday. He said, âÄúPlanned Parenthood is being singled out by extremists looking to score political points. I canâÄôt understand why some in Congress have made it their priority to deny so many women access to basic health care services and family planning.âÄù
Planned Parenthood is in its 83rd year in Minnesota. It operates 24 clinics and provides health services for more than 52,000 Minnesotans. It services mostly women between the ages of 20 and 30. Of these patients, 54 percent are at or below the federal poverty level, and only 6 percent can afford the full cost of their care.
âÄú[Our] mission is to provide accessible and affordable reproductive health care to women, no matter their ability to pay,âÄù says Kathi L. Di Nicola, director of media relations at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. If the funding cuts pass, âÄúmillions of women will lose basic preventive health care [and] will be put at risk.âÄù
Some believe that these cuts have more to do with abortion than with preventive health care.
One of PenceâÄôs arguments for his amendment is that it will limit the number of women who undergo the procedure
Pence is obviously off-base. Even though Planned Parenthood performs abortions, they receive no federal funding to do so. The this amendment eliminates education âÄî not abortion âÄî funding.
I asked Di Nicola what she would say to those in favor of the funding cuts. âÄúThe most important thing to remind these folks is that this is about the health of women across the country. This is about cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control âÄî care that helps women avoid unintended pregnancy and serious diseases. This has nothing to do with abortion. This has to do with the health of women.âÄù
These cuts are heartless and absurd. Politicians in Washington should not value deficit reduction above the health of millions of women.