This article is co-authored by State Rep. John Lesch and State Representative Suzi Bassi, both of Minnesota. Representative Bassi’s profile can be found here.
Being a state legislator is hard but rewarding work. It’s about long car rides in the middle of night. It’s about meeting constituents every day – some who love you and some who, well, don’t agree with you at all. It’s about eating bad food every once in a while. It’s about working with a small but dedicated staff on a tiny budget. It’s about trying to be everything to everybody even when that seems impossible. Most importantly, it’s about performing public service to the best of our abilities.
In the past few months, as we have been out on the road, we have been struck by the real effects of the economic downturn on our constituents. Ordinary women and men are finding it tough to make ends meet. Many have lost their jobs, their houses and their dignity. Finding affordable ways to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the midst of this crisis has, for many, proven unfruitful and has fallen by the wayside.
However, for these men and women, we know that being able to access safe and affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare services may make all the difference in the world.
Access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education will help reduce unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. Access to childcare and healthcare will support men and women who want to have children.
Unfortunately, politics being politics, we have been stuck in the weeds, focusing on what we cannot agree on instead of what we can do; obsessing over partisan divisions instead of common-sense solutions that would benefit those ordinary women and men we see on the road.
Fortunately, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) forged an unlikely partnership. Both Catholic, he’s antiabortion, she’s prochoice, they worked together to overcome partisan politics in Washington, DC and create some common-sense solutions. Their bill, the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and support women and men who want to have children.
This bill includes provisions on family planning and comprehensive sexuality education as well as childcare and healthcare. It will increase funding for the Title X program and restore family planning to mandatory status for Medicaid benchmark plans. It will fund comprehensive sexuality education programs that provide age-appropriate, evidenced-based information, including information on contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections. It will provide resources and programs for new parents, which will help them face the challenges of raising children.
Just as Representatives DeLauro and Ryan overcame political differences to develop the legislation, we—a Republican from Illinois and a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from Minnesota—have come together to urge Congress to overcome partisan politics and support this crucial legislation. Together with Catholics for Choice and more than 50 of our fellow Catholic state legislators, we wrote to the US House of Representatives, urging members, regardless of their political affiliation, to get behind this bill.
From Maine to California, women and men are in need of sexual and reproductive healthcare services. We are doing all we can at the state and local level to ensure that our constituents can lead happy and healthy lives. And now, we need our fellow legislators at the federal level to hear what we are saying in the states. We need Congress to know the struggles of ordinary men and women in our districts and throughout the country. We need Congress to overcome division and support this bill. After all, this bill is not about what we cannot agree on; it’s about what we can do.