Poor Women Pay the Price in the Right’s War on Women’s Health

This piece was first published by the Ms. Foundation for Women, Igniting Change.

On Friday, February 18, the U.S. House of Representatives dealt a crushing blow to the health and well-being of millions of women across America: in a 240-185 vote, the the House approved H.R. 1 — also known the Pence Amendment — which would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for any purpose, including providing basic preventive health care to women and families. Consider it a slap in the face to women in general, especially to low-income women who have nowhere else to turn for their primary health care.

At present, Planned Parenthood provides nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, 830,000 breast exams, more than a million Pap tests, and helps prevent more than 612,000 unintended pregnancies each year. Annually, three million women and men in the United States visit Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers for trusted health care services and information; for some of those clients, largely those that are low-income, the nurses and doctors at Planned Parenthood are the only health care providers they ever see.

Because we at the Ms. Foundation for Women believe, without question or qualification, that all women are due the fundamental human right to quality reproductive health, education and services, we have been a long-time partner and supporter of Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide. We currently count Planned Parenthood of Utah, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Southeast (which covers Georgia Alabama and Mississippi), and the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts among our cherished grantees. And today, in light of the shocking news out of the House of Representatives, we are ever more committed to the goals of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights, health and justice organizations whose efforts protect and value the lives of women across America.

For those of us who have stood on the front lines of the reproductive justice movement for years, there’s no doubting that this attack on Planned Parenthood is a not-so-covert attack on abortion rights. Planned Parenthood has been targeted, in this case, because it does provide (among many other services) abortions to a small percentage of its clients. This is a fact that Conservatives like Rep. Mike Pence, who authored the bill, abhor — and will apparently go to deeply irrational lengths to prevent. Because whatever your stance on abortion may be, there’s no mistaking that providing preventative health care to millions of women, men and families is in fact a good thing. Preventative services save lives, and, in the long-run, save money — an outcome you’d imagine this “pro-life” and “fiscally conservative” cadre from the Right could get behind.

Instead, the Right has chosen to make millions of everyday Americans, many of them low-income, the collateral damage in their war on reproductive rights. The impact of the proposed funding cuts would likely be immediate and stunning. “Without Title X funding for Planned Parenthood in Atlanta, we can anticipate seeing more women who can only afford to purchase their birth control but cannot afford an exam,” says Leola Reis, spokesperson for our grantee group PP Southeast. “We anticipate increases in undiagnosed cancers and STDs, and over all increasingly poor health outcomes for Georgians.”

That is a reality we, as a nation, can little afford to promote. Subjecting women and other vulnerable communities to reductions in health care access in the name of budget cuts and moral wranglings over abortion is both dangerous and absurd. Those of us who value women’s lives and the health of our nation must do all we can to push back against the rising tide of anti-woman and anti-justice rhetoric emanating every day from the Right.

“Morality,” Rebecca Traister noted recently in Salon, “is not the exclusive domain of the unborn, whatever we have been told for decades. Morality is on the side of women, on the side of children, on the side of a society that offers aid to its impoverished and to its young and does not discriminate against half its population.”

From our perspective, there’s no question that Planned Parenthood stands on the just side of our moral arc – one that focuses health and lives of women. We are as proud as we ever have been to stand alongside Planned Parenthood.

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  • freetobe

    and the blue dog dems who are deciding who lives and dies. Although you might add in the Meddling Vatican again as an e-mail I just recieved from NOW:

    U.S. Catholic Bishops Major Force Behind War on Women
    Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

    February 23, 2011

    “The collusion of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has led to an open declaration of war on the women of this country. The bishops have long sought to enshrine into law those policies of the Catholic Church that subordinate women. And they don’t care how badly women get hurt in the process.

    In the last election, the bishops helped to elect legislators that would do their bidding, which includes enacting dangerous and discriminatory bills denying women safe, accessible and affordable abortion care and family planning, even encouraging hospitals to let women die in the name of ‘life.’

    A recent poll shows abortion ‘barely registers’ among voter priorities, and yet Speaker Boehner has declared barring federal funding for abortion care a ‘highest priority’ — responding not to the call of his constituents but to the demands of the bishops. And it turns out abortion isn’t the only target, as evidenced by their stunningly dangerous efforts that, if enacted, can and will result in the preventable deaths of women:

    • The proposed continuing resolution passed by the House to temporarily keep the government functioning would zero out Title X family planning, which has never covered abortion care. Should this gain traction in the Senate, millions of women, the vast majority of whom have incomes of less than $11,000 per year, will lose access to pap smears, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and contraception. It is a public health nightmare — but a dream-come-true for the Catholic bishops.
    • HR 358, which many are calling the ‘Let the Women Die Act’ not only brings back Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-Pa.) rejected Stupak-Pitts proposition from health care reform, but also encourages providers to refuse training, performance and even referral of abortion care. This bill gives our government’s ‘blessing’ to any emergency room that would let a pregnant woman die rather than perform an abortion procedure that could save her life.
    • HR 3, also known as ‘Stupak on Steroids,’ would enshrine the Hyde Amendment into law and expand it to impose tax penalties on millions of families and businesses whose private insurance covers abortion care, thereby expanding the scope of Internal Revenue Service audits to the area between women’s legs. In testifying in favor of this bill in committee, a representative from the Catholic bishops proudly supported revoking abortion rights even in cases of rape. You read that right — and isn’t that rich, coming from the very men who have consistently protected sexually abusive priests?
    • And HR 217, which NOW has dubbed the ‘Public Health Nightmare Act,’ would permanently eliminate Title X family planning services, leaving millions of women and men stranded without essential services like birth control, cancer screenings and screenings for HIV/AIDS and STDs.

    Pro-life? Hardly.

    Not only are these assaults on women’s rights at odds with generally accepted medical practice and flatly unethical, there is little doubt that they will kill women.

    The National Organization for Women is fighting back against these efforts in coalition with our allies and women’s health advocates across the country. We also renew our demand that the federal government require the all-male and violently anti-woman U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops follow the same lobbying and disclosure requirements that currently apply to everyone else.”


    To think that MEN of God could care less about women whom God created as well and who would not be here if not for the bravery and suffering of their mothers. I guess they just forgot about their own mothers. Typical.

  • arekushieru

    Now, as you can see, add to that fetal pain, investigating miscarriages and CPC counselling bills.  Ugh.

  • forced-birth-rape

    It hurts me so much as someone who was sexually abused as a child and grew up with other children who were raped as children, that the child-raping-catholic-church has a say in anything, any where in the world.

    They are all EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!

    The pope can not get pregnant or give birth, he is shit!

    The catholic church is nothing but rape.