Soap Box

War on Women’s Health

This is op/ed was originally published by City on a Hill Press.

By attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Congress has declared a war on women’s health.

Republicans have been steadfast in calling for a repeal of the ACA, President Barack Obama’s health care reform, since it was signed in to law. Now, their dreams might soon become many women’s nightmares with their control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and soon the presidency.

The ACA is a complicated set of reforms enacted in 2010 to address some of the major problems in the health care system. The ACA primarily sought to increase the number of insured Americans by guaranteeing no one could be denied health care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, including finally enforcing equal insurance costs between men and women — a major step towards equality.

Since it was created, Republicans have labeled the ACA as “Obamacare” to immediately portray a negative image to the bill itself and the supposed “failure” of this law as associated with Obama.

Republicans have come to fight, armed with the legislative process known as budget reconciliation. This protects bills from filibuster, so they can be pushed through the Senate and House by a simple majority — both of which are Republican-ruled. This process is how Democrats passed the ACA originally, and now it is going to be used to destroy it.

Given the opportunity to reform the entire health care system, for many anti-abortion conservatives this is also the chance to stop the federal funding Planned Parenthood gets every year. Specifically the $400 million in Medicaid funding that provides health care services to patients with low incomes, which all community health care providers receive.

This attack on women’s health and rights is being met with resistance, as it should, including the Million Women’s March on Washington D.C. and in major cities across the nation “honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us,” as is laid out in its mission statement.

Anti-abortion proponents want the funding to be stopped because it technically can be used for abortions. The Hyde Amendment, signed in 1977, prohibits the use of federal funding toward abortions, but dictated federal Medicaid funds could be used to fund abortions only in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. This exception is not just applicable to Planned Parenthood, but they are being targeted.

Now that Republicans control Congress, they are taking this opportunity to eliminate both, which will be a major blow to women’s health. Eliminating Planned Parenthood alone would mean 400,000 women would lose access to care.

Women have fought, and continue to fight, for equal treatment, reproductive rights and access to affordable preventative health care. And now that President-elect Donald Trump has promised to elect an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice, these threats are immediate as well as long-lasting.

Because being enrolled in Medicaid doesn’t guarantee access to a doctor, women –– especially low income women of color –– could be denied Medicaid services provided by Planned Parenthood and may not be able to find replacement care.

The service Planned Parenthood provides is even more important than ever in Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas of San Benito and Monterey, as the average health care price rates in 2017 increased 28.6 percent, to be the highest increase in California.

The attack against Planned Parenthood is fueled by misunderstanding and false information. The vast majority of women turn to Planned Parenthood to receive contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other services such as cancer screenings — not abortions, like Republicans say.

There are 103 counties in the U.S. where Planned Parenthood is the only provider of publicly-funded contraceptives. Republicans argue that other community health centers could absorb these patients and these needs, but research from the Guttmacher Institute shows historically when Planned Parenthood facilities close other clinics do not absorb them, whether because they don’t have the means or motives to do so.

Higher-income women will find alternatives. But a sizable minority of Planned Parenthood’s patients, particularly low-income women, would lose access to medical services.

Planned Parenthood is not going away in California. If Medicaid funding stopped nationally, Planned Parenthood would still have enough state and local support to keep it alive. In California about 70 percent of Californian respondents believe the government should not restrict access to abortion, according to a 2015 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California. The rest of the country is not as lucky.

We cannot stand for the injustice against low-income women that will take place with the repealing of the ACA and defunding of Planned Parenthood.

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