Planned Parenthood will never stop fighting to protect patients’ lives


There are few better ways to start the New Year than by welcoming a historic number of women, including a historic number of women of color, to the 116th United States Congress. More than ever, this House looks like the America it’s meant to serve — diverse and overwhelmingly supportive of access to reproductive health care.

This month, as we approach the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the landmark Supreme Court case that affirmed the constitutional right to access abortion in the United States — our new legislators have a clear mandate to protect and expand on that hard-won right.

{mosads}Yet threats to access to reproductive health care, including the right to safe, legal abortion, remain as persistent as ever. Whether gutting Title X or attempting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, the Trump-Pence administration and state governments have been unrelenting in their attacks. So while some set resolutions for the New Year, I’m setting my resolve: to fight with everything I have for reproductive health and rights. As a doctor, I know that fight is about patients’ lives.

The gravity of the situation is clear: Since 2011, more than 400 abortion restrictions have been introduced at the state level. This past year, for the first time since Roe was decided, three states enacted bans on abortion early in pregnancy.

In Iowa, the ban is at six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. While these restrictions have been blocked by the courts for now, we can no longer rely on the judiciary to protect our fundamental rights. The Trump-Pence administration has forced through a record-breaking 80-plus judges to lifetime appointments, many of whom openly oppose a woman’s right to access abortion care.

These judges defy medical convention, which is that abortion is standard medical care that one in four women in the U.S. will receive in our lifetimes. With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the right to this lifesaving, life-changing care is endangered like never before.

Planned Parenthood was founded over a century ago and our core mission is to provide, protect and expand access to reproductive health care. Given our country’s political realities, the advocacy work of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund is crucial to delivering on that mission.

With the threat to Roe, one in three women of reproductive age (25 million women) could lose access to abortion in their state within the year. That’s why we are committed to protecting and expanding access all across the country. State advocates have already begun this important work: New York State announced plans to codify legal abortion protections in its state constitution and Oregon is expanding access through the Reproductive Health Equity Act. At last count, more than 30 states have committed to pursuing proactive legislation to protect and expand women’s access to reproductive health care.

Behind these positive actions by state governments are legions of activists, advocates and volunteers pushing for change. Planned Parenthood is proud to count more than 12 million people in this country as supporters and every time a state legislature introduces another medically harmful TRAP law or other abortion restriction, these proud activists stand up to stop these bills. We saw the unequivocal power of this advocacy work in the 2018 midterm elections.  

Working with other progressive organizations, our advocacy and political organizations ran one of the largest ground-game operations in our history to elect reproductive health champions to seats at every level of government. Seven states now have newly formed pro-reproductive health trifectas in leadership — from the governor’s office, to the attorney general and the state legislature. Twenty-five states now have governors who campaigned and won on pro-reproductive health-care platforms.

The American people have spoken: we want more health care, not less. And we will hold our elected officials accountable, working with our new majorities to ensure they listen to the voters who expect their rights to reproductive health be protected and their access to care expanded. Heading into 2019, we are now in a position to affect real change and ensure that health care is held as the fundamental human right that it is.

So, as the fights wage on, we will be working with our affiliates across the country to help ensure they can provide reproductive health care and other health services that women and families need. For so many patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. As a doctor, I take seriously the responsibility to treat the whole patient and meet the unique needs of each community we serve.  

To be sure, this is not an easy task. My physician experience has taught me that it’s not enough to just provide care, if patients are prevented from accessing that care. That’s why I know that Planned Parenthood’s core mission to provide care must be matched with huge determination to protect access to that care. With our new champions in the Congress, state legislatures and governors mansions around the country, we will be fighting for patients — in the legislature, in the courts and at the ballot box.

For over 100 years, Planned Parenthood has kept our doors open in the face of unbelievable obstacles. Those doors are open today. They will be open tomorrow. And we will be here to provide care, no matter what.

Dr. Leana Wen is the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

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