11 April 2011

The war on Planned Parenthood is a war on poor women

The Planned Parenthood organization is under attack from the right. With ACORN out of the way, I guess they needed to invent a new bogeyman to distract us from their failure to create all those new jobs they promised us during the 2010 campaign season.

But their war on Planned Parenthood is a threat to the health and wellbeing of low-income women everywhere. And, sadly, I don't think the GOP gives a damn about that.

Fortunately, the Republicans were not successful in their attempt to defund Planned Parenthood during the recent budget fiasco. But I don't think they'll stop trying, either at the national level or within the states.

Last year in New Jersey, for example, Governor Chris Christie successfully vetoed a bill that would have provided $7.5 million for women's health clinics around the state. As a result, facilities throughout the Garden State have had to tighten their belts at best. Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey had to close a clinic in Cherry Hill, and services had to be scaled back at those that remain open.

Anti-choice zealots call it a victory for "the babies". But in saving those "babies", the GOP is endangering so many more lives.

First of all, as Ezra Klein recently pointed out in his Washington Post blog, pregnancy termination represents only three percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The other 97 percent of their time and resources goes towards women's health and family planning - contraception counseling, cervical and breast cancer screening, STD prevention and treatment, and even vasectomies. (I wonder how many of the male Planned Parenthood opponents have had vasectomies of their own.)

As Planned Parenthood loses its funding, low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their gynecological services will suffer. I was one of those women when I was a young adult working for $4.00 an hour with no health insurance. I could not afford to pay for the services of a private gynecological practice. So I relied on Planned Parenthood for my routine cancer screenings and contraceptive needs. And I've never had an abortion. Indeed, it's perhaps because of Planned Parenthood's contraceptive services that I never had to make that choice.

But, if the GOP gets its way, other low-income women might not be so fortunate. As clinics close or reduce their hours or services, some women will need to travel farther to get the medical and family planning services they need. And, depending on their locations and other circumstances, that could be difficult or impossible.

This could result in an increase in cervical cancer due to harder-to-obtain Pap smears. It could result in an increase of sexually transmitted disease due to reduced availability of STD education and treatment. It could result in more unwanted pregnancies due to harder-to-obtain contraception and family planning education. And, ironically, more unwanted pregnancies would lead to more abortions - safe ones or otherwise, as available.

I wonder: Is that really what the Republicans want? (Of course, they would probably just respond with a call for abstinence - as Sarah Palin taught to Bristol. Enough said on that.)

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