Op-Ed

Why we continue to need Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood supporters in Los Angeles rally for women’s access to reproductive health care last week.
Planned Parenthood supporters in Los Angeles rally for women’s access to reproductive health care last week. AP

Watching the political grandstanding in Congress over a manufactured controversy about Planned Parenthood, it seems we’ve hit a new low. It was shameful for members of Congress to threaten to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood. And yet attempts to slash federal funding for Planned Parenthood health centers across the country are lurking. Even the cool, reasoned testimony of Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards, in which she thoroughly debunked the videotape scam, fell on deaf ears.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is more than an attack on reproductive rights. It’s an attack on women, men and families, the one in five who have been to Planned Parenthood during their lifetime. For 99 years, Planned Parenthood has provided a full range of healthcare services — including life-saving cancer screenings, breast exams, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

For 99 years, Planned Parenthood has provided a full range of healthcare services — including life-saving cancer screenings, breast exams, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Planned Parenthood also provides abortions to women who need them. I am grateful for the work it does and proud to support it.

Lately, politicians have jumped on the bandwagon of bogus attacks against Planned Parenthood, opening state investigations and, in Washington, threatening to withhold federal funding. As this debate ensues, it’s imperative that people understand the effects of defunding on our communities. Each year, more than 2.7 million women, men and teens seek Planned Parenthood services, more than 90 percent of which are for preventive services and education. Over half of those patients received services through Title X — the nation’s family-planning program.

But that’s the national picture. Let’s look at some local realities:

▪ In Miami, black and Hispanic girls are at increased risk of unplanned pregnancies, limiting their options for a promising future.

▪ In Liberty City, a young woman has a one in six chance of becoming a teen mother (whereas in my hometown of Pinecrest it’s unheard of).

▪ Miami-Dade’s STI cases increased 65 percent from 2003 to 2012 compared to a 42 percent increase in Florida.

▪ Black women in Miami-Dade die of breast cancer and cervical cancer at a higher rate than women of other races.

▪ ▪ Miami has the highest number of newly reported HIV cases in the country.

Proponents of defunding have stated that other healthcare providers will accept new patients if Planned Parenthood has to close. Public-health experts disagree. According to Sara Rosenbaum of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, defunding Planned Parenthood “would mean the loss of affordable and accessible contraceptive services and counseling, as well as breast- and cervical-cancer screenings and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.” She goes on to say, “The assertion that community health centers could step into a breach of this magnitude is simply wrong and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the healthcare system works.”

In Florida, 78 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are located in rural communities, medically underserved areas or in communities with health-provider shortages. Their continued ability to serve the needs of women, men and teens with high quality, affordable, nonjudgmental healthcare is crucial to the well-being of our communities.

The American public is with Planned Parenthood. Recent polling from Hart Research Associates shows that the majority of voters would favor a candidate who supports funding Planned Parenthood over one who favors defunding. Floridians are no different. A Quinnipiac poll released Aug. 24 indicates more Floridians oppose cutting off funding from Planned Parenthood.

Floridians’ priorities are access to good jobs, affordable housing, health care and public education — not restricting women’s access to the health care services they need and to which they are entitled.

It’s unlikely that the current members of Congress are undecided about how they will vote on this issue. But as we move toward the 2016 elections, it’s time for everyone who values the rights of women of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and ethnicities to consider who’s running for office, and then make sure their voices are heard with their votes.

Katy Sorenson is president and CEO of The Good Government Initiative and a former Miami-Dade County commissioner.

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