Planned Parenthood summons help from lawmakers, health experts

Decrying the "politicization of women's health," Planned Parenthood held a conference call with doctors and Democrats on Monday as conservative Republicans threaten a government shutdown, in part, over its funding.

Women's health experts and two Democratic congresswomen joined the call with reporters, which sought to dispel conservative accusations that Planned Parenthood doesn't perform mammograms and other preventive care services it advertises. The group says it doesn't claim to offer mammograms, only referrals, and cutting funding off would be particularly harmful to poor and minority women.

"Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses screen more than 830,000 women for women for breast cancer, and nearly 1 million for cervical cancer, every year," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). "And for many of these women, Planned Parenthood is their only source of healthcare — whether it's because they can't afford health insurance, or because they live in a community … where Planned Parenthood is the only local provider of women's healthy services."

Cutting federal funds for the nation's largest abortion provider has become a major sticking point in Congress as lawmakers debate a spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year. Conservative Republicans are using the threat of a government shutdown to demand an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but 41 Democratic senators vowed Monday to oppose any such cuts.

Also on the call were Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), National Medical Association President Leonard Weather and Hal Lawrence, the incoming executive vice president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"ACOG simply cannot underscore enough how important the care that Planned Parenthood provides is to women's health," Lawrence said. "Politicizing women's healthcare is dangerous and frankly unacceptable. Because of Planned Parenthood, women are able to detect cancers early on and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. As a result, fewer women wind up in doctors' offices with advanced diseases and a lower chance of survival."