“I've seen headlines these last few weeks that say extreme politicians in Congress have wasted no time pushing an anti-women's health agenda, and I strongly disagree: This is a monumental waste of time. Instead of advancing an extreme agenda ultimately designed to end access to abortion, Congress should focus on addressing real public health issues in this country,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in an op-ed Friday.
In the 42 years since the Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes her right to abortion, the procedure has become, and remains, one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, with studies showing that three in ten women have had a safe, legal abortion at some point in her lifetime. Advances in women’s health have paved the way for women to be a driving force in our economy, and access to reproductive health care is directly related to women’s ability to finish school and succeed professionally. In particular, improved access to a full range of birth control services has resulted in a twenty year low in teen pregnancy and abortion rates.
And yet – last week politicians in Congress caused a firestorm over an unconstitutional bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. When Republican leadership couldn't get Party consensus, they instead introduced and passed another bill that undermines a woman’s ability to make personal health care decisions. Senator Lindsey Graham – incredulously -- boiled the strategic misdirection down to a definitional problem, saying: "I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape."
We hope you’ll consider making the following three points in your coverage of the issue:
- While it’s encouraging that some politicians are starting to recognize that attacking a women's access to abortion and other healthcare is politically vulnerable, it would be better if they recognized the real impact that these attacks have on women's lives.
- Focusing the debate on whether there should be narrow exceptions included in the bill ignores the broader impact of this bill on women across the country. The reality remains that these attacks are deeply out of step with the American public and are part of a broader effort to chip away at abortion access.
- While we have made tremendous progress in reducing unintended pregnancy in the United States, we need to continue advocating for what works: expanding access to contraception and sex education – and protecting access to safe, legal abortion.
These attacks are deeply unpopular:
- When Americans understand the real-world impact of 20 week bans, a solid 60 percent of voters oppose them. A strong majority of voters — Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (78 percent), and Independents (71 percent) — say this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on.
- Another poll shows that when this notion of personal morality was considered, 78 percent of voters held the position that the government should not restrict abortion access.
Planned Parenthood’s promise:
At Planned Parenthood, we believe all women -- no matter where they live or how much money they make -- deserve a fair shot and a chance to pursue their dreams. Engaging that reality begins with recognizing that for women, the ability to decide whether and when to have children is key to economic success.
Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, sent a letter to every Member of Congress last week urging them to reject any further restrictions on abortion access and laying out ways that the 114th Congress can move forward on improving health outcomes for women, writing: “We’re eager to work with all Members of Congress to build on this progress and move forward to advance women’s health care access.”
So if Congress wants to grow the economy and keep up with progress on the global stage, if they want to unleash the potential of all American people, there are some things they can do right now to protect women's health:
- Expand access to publicly funded family planning services. They save lives, they save money. This is the single best way to support women who can go to school and support their families.
- Support medically accurate, age appropriate sex education for every young person in this country. Even with teen pregnancy at historic lows, there were about 615,000 last year, it still costs the U.S. $9.4 billion each year — more importantly, it costs these women opportunities and their futures. We’ve got work to do.
- Really make birth control available and accessible — over the counter, at the doctor’s office, but always fully covered by insurance with no copay just like all other women’s preventive care. It’s amazing: In just one year under the Affordable Care Act, women saved $483 million more than the year before we had this benefit. We need to keep moving in that direction.
- Support efforts to strengthen and protect Medicaid — so women and families who most need affordable health care can get it.
- Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act so that abortion is always safe and legal, no matter where you live.
You can read more from Cecile Richards in her op-ed “The Real Lessons of the House Majority Leadership's Abortion Fiasco,” here: http://www.
You can read the full letter to Congress here; a fact sheet on abortion safety here; and fact sheet on Planned Parenthood’s services and the role that access to reproductive health care has played in economic advancement here.
To speak with a Planned Parenthood representative or a policy expert, please contact our media office at 212-261-4433 or [email protected].
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
January 27, 2015