Paul Ryan and GOP leadership have made their plans official. Along with repealing the Affordable Care Act, they want to block Medicaid patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood. I am joining thousands of my fellow Pennsylvanians to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Attacking care at Planned Parenthood would have a devastating effect in Pennsylvania, especially among people of color who already face unequal barriers in accessing care. It isn’t what voters in Pennsylvania want and we’re fighting to make sure that these attacks do not succeed.
Planned Parenthood health centers are essential. They serve 2.5 million people each year, including more than 90,000 Pennsylvanians, 63 percent of whom are people of color. While Planned Parenthood provides abortions, the bulk of what it does is preventive health care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. One in 5 women in this country will get care at a Planned Parenthood in her lifetime — many of whom would not have had any other place to turn to if Planned Parenthood wasn’t there.
Planned Parenthood provided an invaluable resource to me as a young high school student. I grew up in the Centre County region, as a woman of color. My family faced many financial hurdles after my father lost his job, and I could not afford basic reproductive health care. Luckily I, like many other young women, found myself at the doors of Planned Parenthood, welcomed by smiling faces and knowledgeable health care professionals ready and willing to walk me through how to care for myself.
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Planned Parenthood provided me with care that I could not have received elsewhere — Plan B and a contraceptive plan to prevent further mishaps. In addition, Planned Parenthood gave me an understanding of my reproductive organs, educated me on preventing pregnancy and made me aware of the risks of sexually transmitted infections and how I can prevent them.
Without this valuable resource, it is likely that I would have fallen victim to teenage pregnancy and not have made it to where I am today. Now, a graduating senior at Penn State, I feel very fortunate to have access to Planned Parenthood and can personally attest to its importance for women without access to other forms of reproductive health care.
Legislation that “defunds” Planned Parenthood — one of the most common attacks — is particularly cruel. It specifically targets patients who rely on federal safety net programs such as Medicaid or Title X — those who are already struggling to get by — and tells them they can no longer turn to Planned Parenthood for health care.
People don’t go to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement; they go because they need health care. Maybe that’s why 19 national polls have shown that voters overwhelmingly oppose attacks on Planned Parenthood. In fact, 9 in 10 adults (including 79 percent of Trump voters) reject an agenda that includes defunding Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion. (Perry Undem Poll, 2017).
To be sure, some are so hell-bent on attacking reproductive health care that they don’t care who they hurt in the process — even if it means leaving millions of Americans out in the cold. If they strip millions of people of their basic health and rights, it would send the country into chaos; and that’s not going to happen on my watch. Those extremists do not speak for the majority of Americans. And together, our voices are more than loud enough to drown them out.
So I invite everyone in Centre County to join me — and fight like hell to ensure that they do not take away our health care.
Vanessa McElroy wrote this for the Centre Daily Times.