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As published in the Daily Pilot | Los Angeles Times.

As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I have dedicated my life to providing healthcare to the women who need it most.

The American Health Care Act is a mean-spirited piece of legislation that will dismantle critical healthcare laws. If this legislation is made into law, it will be devastating to the American public, particularly to millions of women who are struggling to get by and take care of their families.

This legislation will strip healthcare from 24 million people over the next 10 years. Women are disproportionately targeted by it, even losing access to vital prenatal care. Many conditions that affect women will now be considered “pre-existing.”

Planned Parenthood is singled out by this bill. It will block the organization from receiving federal reimbursements for the care provided to patients, such as birth control, Pap tests and breast exams.

For more than 40 years, no federal money has been used for abortion. Why is Planned Parenthood a target in this bill?

“Defunding” Planned Parenthood is part of a larger agenda to shut down health centers and make it impossible to access safe and legal abortion in America.

Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood won’t end abortions. What it will do is block access to birth control, STI testing and treatment and lifesaving cancer screenings. This will hurt the people who are struggling the most, especially those with low incomes.

More than two-thirds of Planned Parenthood patients in California are at or below the federal poverty level. And it will disproportionately affect people who face barriers to care, including people of color, immigrants, young people and members of our LGBTQ community.

Planned Parenthood provides one-third of all family planning visits in California, including 180,000 in Orange and San Bernardino counties. No alternative healthcare providers in the state can absorb that level of patient volume.

To the legislators who voted for this dangerous bill: You cannot call yourself pro-family and simultaneously cut women off from care. Negotiating away access to cancer screenings, birth control and maternity care is not “pro-life.” It is cruel and unjust.

I stand shoulder to shoulder with the vast majority of people in the medical community who oppose this legislation, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in addition to members of Congress from both parties and a clear majority of American voters.

That is why I am asking Americans who support funding Planned Parenthood to stand up and make your voice heard. Now is the time. Call your representatives, go to town halls and write letters. It matters!

Here at Planned Parenthood, we are going to do everything in our power to make sure the people of our community get safe, reliable healthcare. We will call our legislators, go to rallies, and ask you to voice your support. And we’ll continue to open the doors of our health centers every day to the patients who need us. No matter what.

DR. JENNEFER RUSSO is medical director of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties.

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