Protecting women's health

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Within days of the election, Ohio legislators tried to advance bills to practically ban abortion and to prevent women from going to Planned Parenthood health centers for basic health care. Last week, legislators in Michigan pushed through bills that aim to shut down women’s health providers and block insurance coverage for abortion.
 
And here in Washington, some members of Congress are moving perilously close to the so-called fiscal cliff, which would threaten the health care that millions of women rely on.
 
If the fiscal cliff’s mandatory budget cuts take effect, funding for the nation’s family planning program, Title X, would be at risk. And if Congress decides to delay entitlement reform into next year, Medicaid will continue to be at risk. These aren’t faceless government programs – they’re the way that millions of low-income women get breast cancer screenings, Pap tests, birth control, diabetes screenings and other health care.
 
Without Medicaid and Title X, most of these women simply would not get health care. Their breast cancer or cervical cancer would be caught later – too late to treat, in some cases. Their diabetes or high blood pressure would go undetected and untreated. They would find it significantly more difficult to get affordable birth control.
 
That’s what’s on the line in the fiscal cliff standoff.
 
Planned Parenthood Action Fund ran our largest campaign ever this year. Up and down the ballot, our political arm played a key, decisive role in electing candidates who would protect women’s health and unseating politicians who would not.
 
In key Senate and House races, women overwhelmingly elected solid advocates for affordable preventive care like Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney in New York and Patrick Murphy in Florida. And voters ousted politicians who once led the charge to restrict women’s access to health care, including Ann Marie Buerkle in New York, Joe Walsh in Illinois and Allen West in Florida.
 
We engaged in this campaign so heavily for one reason, and one reason only – because women’s health was at stake. Access to birth control, basic health care, and safe and legal abortion were all on the ballot this year.
 
Three million patients a year come to Planned Parenthood health centers. We fought hard for them in this election, and we won. Now, we intend to ensure that lawmakers follow the will of the voters – so that women can get the health care they need.
 
Congress needs to work with the White House to find a solution to the budget crisis. But that solution won’t be found in cutting women’s access to health care. Voters made that clear last month – and Congress would do well to listen to them.
 
Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.