April 15, 2013
Because you are a Planned Parenthood supporter, I suspect that your mornings begin like mine – open the curtains, enjoy the daffodils outside the window, pour a good cup of coffee, and then face the daily horror of reading the news and seeing what is going on in our state. It’s hard to believe that in just a matter of weeks, the Legislature has attacked unemployment benefits, voting rights, teachers, the university system, the US constitution – and, of course, that old familiar punching bag, reproductive rights.
Just last month, North Dakota’s governor signed into law the most extreme abortion restriction in the nation. The new law bans abortions as early as six weeks after a woman’s menstrual period – before many women even know they are pregnant. Make no mistake – our opponents want to overturn Roe v. Wade. This despite the fact that public support of Roe is actually at an all-time high – 70% of Americans oppose overturning it.
What we’re seeing in the states is a whole new level of extremism on women's health and rights. These bills are a concerted effort to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion, birth control and basic health care services. This level of hostility is a wake-up call for women all across the country. Access to health care should not be determined by your zip code, and medical decisions should not be left up to politicians.
Ironically, there are strong indications that these attacks on abortion access and Planned Parenthood over the past two years are responsible for this rise in support. In all 50 states, Planned Parenthood has boots on the ground working to ensure that women across the country have access to reproductive health care.
Adding Lies to the Sex Education Curriculum
Spring is about more than daffodils and the General Assembly. This time of year also means that our education programs are well underway. I’m proud of everything we do at Planned Parenthood, and I know that for many of us, there is just something special about our teen education programs. Our programs are based on research about what kind of sex education actually works. They are age- and culturally-appropriate. We offer sessions in a safe environment and focus on communication, refusal and negotiation skills. They are participatory – and go beyond a simple lecture about the birds and the bees. Many of our programs are based on the peer education model so that the young people we train are encouraged to talk with their friends and others about the information they’ve learned.
We are not just providing life changing – and life saving – information to what I hope will become the healthiest generation ever. We are fostering the next wave of Planned Parenthood supporters and advocates and helping them speak out about the issues that are important to them. In February, a group of our Teen Connections alumni, ranging in age from 15 to 20, participated in Adolescent Health Advocacy Day. Teens met with their House and Senate members – both Republicans and Democrats – to speak on the importance of the state’s healthy living curriculum.
This was especially poignant given that just days later Senator Warren Daniel filed Senate Bill 132 that would require teachers to warn about a link between abortion and preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies. This would be required despite the fact that not a single respected professional medical association recognizes a causal link between legal abortion and pre-term births.
This bill is insulting and forces teachers to lie to students. Young people need facts about their health – not political propaganda
It’s hard to imagine that just four years ago we declared a major victory in sexual health education with the passing of the Healthy Youth Act. While I’m incredibly disappointed that such a bill has been introduced, it’s heartening to see our teen education participants lending their voices to advocate for unbiased, medically-accurate sex education.
Denying health care to the most vulnerable.
I’m not sure which is more shameful – a bill requiring teachers to lie to their students, or deliberately deciding not to provide our state’s poorest residents with health care.
Just last month, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) celebrated its third anniversary. The ACA isa key provision requiring health insurers to cover women’s preventive health care services, including birth control, with no co-pays. Approximately 47 million women nationally and 1.4 million women in North Carolina stand to benefit.
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ACA allowed states to opt out of expanding Medicaid eligibility, leaving each state’s decision to participate in the hands of the governors and state leaders. Expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults making less than $11,500 a year would have meant greater access to lifesaving medical care for nearly half a million North Carolina residents. Unfortunately, in a cold political move, the North Carolina Legislature has decided not to expand Medicaid; the Governor signed this bill into law in early March.
The result is simple – Obamacare will mean that millions of North Carolinians finally have access to affordable health care. But our poorest citizens - the 17% of North Carolinians who live below the federal poverty level - will be no better off. Shameful!
Senate Bill 308 – Revisiting a Woman’s Right to Know
And most recently, legislators have introduced Senate Bill 308, amending the so-called “Women’s Right to Know” Act. To refresh your memory, the “Women’s Right to Know” Act is the one the General Assembly passed in 2011 that forces women to endure state-mandated counseling and a 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion.
The new bill goes even further. It requires all doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A similar admitting privileges requirement in Mississippi has the state’s only provider of safe and legal abortion on the verge of closure.
Reproductive health care services are among the safest and mostly commonly sought forms of care in the US. In Mississippi, doctors applied for admitting privileges but were denied. Not one of the seven hospitals to which they applied would even consider the merits of the doctors’ qualifications. And five of the seven hospitals that rejected the doctors cited concerns about “internal and external disruption of the hospital’s function and business within this community.”
Now we want to give you another way you can support Planned Parenthood. Our popular Spring series, Choice Affairs, is back! We have a fantastic lineup of events starting in April and ending in June. If you haven’t received an invitation in the mail, go to www.ppcentralnc.org/ca2013 to learn more about our six events. Seating is limited, so sign up early! Thanks to the generosity of hosts and sponsors, all ticket proceeds from Choice Affairs benefit Planned Parenthood.
In this political environment, it is wonderful to have your support. Because of you, we’re here for those who need us now and we’ll be here in 2014 and beyond. I hope you will consider doing what you can to help us finish the year out strong.
We will continue to fight in the General Assembly and with our powerful grassroots allies to protect women’s rights to privacy and reproductive freedom and access to life-saving care. We will continue to serve patients with dignity and provide honest information to young people. And we will continue to ask for your help to do that.
President and CEO
P.S. I know many of you have already sent in support this year and I thank you, but if not, please send a generous gift now. Your support allows us to provide women with safe, compassionate, and respectful care.
P.P.S. As I write this, Sen. Daniel is at it again! This time he’s aiming to deny NC’s young people access to confidential, life-saving health services. Now he’s introduced SB 675 which would deny teens in our state access to confidential health care including treatment for STDs, mental health counseling, pregnancy prevention and substance abuse. Of course we all want teens to talk to their parents about these health concerns, and studies show most teens eventually do. But if a teenager cannot or will not talk to their parent, for whatever reason, the most important thing is that he or she receives the professional help they need.
The bottom line is that politicians, like Sen. Daniel, shouldn’t put their extreme political agenda before the health of North Carolina’s teenagers – or anyone else.