So far, the 114th Congress has taken 19 votes to restrict women’s access to healthcare — six in the month of September alone. Less than a week after a horrific tragedy in Colorado Springs, leaders in Congress prioritized a bill that would block patients across the country from life-saving and essential reproductive healthcare at Planned Parenthood health centers — which millions rely on.

There are just a few days left for Congress to reach a deal on a clean budget free of harmful policy riders. But Congressional leaders’ sights are once again set on cutting access to reproductive health care, inserting ideological policy riders that have nothing to do with important government programs, and vilifying both health care providers and the women who depend on them. Some in Congress are even pushing policies that would erode restraints on Wall Street abuses, endanger our environment and threaten protections for workers. We applaud the president and Democrats in Congress for drawing the line on these ideological riders. But it’s time to say enough is enough. Congress must pass a clean budget, now, with no harmful policy riders.

ADVERTISEMENT

Don’t block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood. Approximately one in five women will come to Planned Parenthood in their lifetime, and nearly 3 million people come through our doors last year — many of them low-income and in areas where it’s difficult to access care. They come for services like STI testing and treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and a range of other preventive services. These services can — and do — save lives. And if access to care at Planned Parenthood is cut, there simply aren’t other providers that could fill the gaps. Forbes recently estimated that restricting access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood would endanger at least several hundred thousand people.

Don’t roll back programs that are working, like the nation’s family planning program (Title X) or evidence-based sex education. More than 4 million people rely on Title X health centers for essential reproductive health care — many of whom would otherwise slip through the cracks. Evidence-based sex education has helped our nation make historic progress toward reducing teen pregnancy rate — currently the rate is at a 40-year low. Cutting these programs would be devastating, and those who already struggle to access care will suffer the most.

Don’t allow women’s health and lives to come second to the beliefs of others — with dangerous results for women. Some Members are pushing to allow health care entities to deny women access to basic health services — and even withhold information about her health care options. Called religious refusal, these kinds of laws have nothing to do with protecting religious liberty. Instead they undermine access to care, interfere with personal decision-making, and undercut medical standards — by allowing doctors, hospitals, and health insurance plans to disregard evidence-based practices and withhold critical information from patients, even when a patient’s health is at risk.

And don’t codify the “Global Gag Rule,” a draconian policy that restricts funding from going to any entity that provides abortion internationally with non-federal funds.  

This is no game. We know that Americans suffer when politicians compromise critical policies and priorities — like the basic healthcare and sex ed that women, men and young people receive at Planned Parenthood across the country each year. The continued demonization of reproductive health care providers and the women who depend on them — whether through rhetoric or policy — has real-life dangerous consequences. We saw those consequences in Colorado Springs, where a gunman killed three people and injured nine more, uttering the very same slogans still being used by politicians as justification to block patients’ access to care at Planned Parenthood. And we will see the devastating, life-endangering consequences for millions more if the majority in Congress succeeds in using an end of the year spending bill to limit access to critical family planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Americans have made it clear time and time again that they don't want their elected officials to focus on denying women health care — and fourteen national polls in the last six months can attest to that fact.

That’s why it’s time to say enough is enough. As our lawmakers decide on the nation’s budget, and spending priorities, the extreme rhetoric and political attacks must stop. They are endangering the health and safety of millions of Americans. Pass a clean budget, with no policy riders. And stop villainizing women’s healthcare.

 Singiser is vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Planned Parenthood.