A politically foolish attack on women’s health

A politically foolish attack on women’s health

- in Progressive Voices

Who could possibly believe that denying women breast exams and cancer screenings is working to improve life in North Carolina? Yet, as out of touch as it seems, that is exactly what will happen if North Carolina’s new House majority gets the budget they’ve proposed.

In a move unprecedented in our state, state House leaders have inserted a budget provision that bans Planned Parenthood from receiving any state funds.  This includes teen pregnancy prevention grants, state contraception funds and federal family planning dollars that pass through the State for community health care providers.

Banning Planned Parenthood from receiving funds doesn’t save the state one cent. In fact, during the first Health and Human Services Appropriation meeting on the budget rider, North Carolina HHS Co-Chair Justin Burr (R, Stanley) admitted there’s no budget impact.

No money is cut. Instead, they’ve just reduced the number of health care providers available to care for North Carolinians—so much for improving life in North Carolina.

After nearly shutting down the US government last month in a failed assault on Planned Parenthood, extremist politicians in state capitals have started pushing the same misguided proposal.

The real targets of this effort are family planning and women’s health care. If this misguided measure goes into law, it will lock hundreds of women out of the Planned Parenthood health centers they rely on for lifesaving cancer screenings, affordable birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. It will stop Planned Parenthood’s evidence based sex education programs – including a program in Wilmington that aims to prevent second pregnancies among teen mothers. And while endangering women’s health, the bill would also increase unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion.

One woman in five has turned to a Planned Parenthood health center for care at some point in her life. For the 25,000 North Carolinians Planned Parenthood serves every year, those health centers are a ready source of affordable, high-quality care that no one else provides.

If the ban becomes law, its impact would be measured in undiagnosed cancers, untreated sexually transmitted infections, and a flood of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Not surprisingly, the recent assault on Planned Parenthood, a 95-year-old organization, has provoked a backlash. Women and men from every community have come forward in vast numbers to stand with Planned Parenthood — and reasonable policy makers are paying attention. By continuing to pursue this senseless proposal, the House leadership is displaying not only moral bankruptcy but also political foolhardiness.

A new poll released by Public Policy Polling on April 22 shows that 54% of North Carolinians are less likely to vote for a legislator who supports these policies. Sixty-percent of North Carolinians want Planned Parenthood to continue receiving government support for teen pregnancy prevention programs; and 58% for lifesaving cervical cancer screenings and breast exams. The poll shows that 66 percent of people under 30 oppose the assault on Planned Parenthood, as do 62 percent of women and 56 percent of African Americans. These are not voters that legislators can afford to ignore.

Standing with Planned Parenthood is a matter of common sense. Family planning saves taxpayers nearly $4 for every $1 invested.  HHS Appropriations Co-Chair Nelson Dollar has said that women have other options if Planned Parenthood is defunded.  What options? Local health departments are already filled to capacity. In Wake County, the next available appointment for a new family planning patient is July. At many Planned Parenthood health centers, a patient can walk-in and be seen today.

Any public official who considers banning Planned Parenthood a good deal should be in a different line of work. If our legislature is serious about health, serious about good governance, and interested in staying in office, it will do what’s right and reject this misguided measure.

Janet Colm is the CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina