Too many women and families cannot afford the health care they need and deserve. Prices are rising even as the economy continues to struggle, and women continue to earn less than men.
To make matters worse, new U.S. House of Representatives’ leadership and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana are aggressively pushing a dangerous agenda to take health care away from women. Just last month, the House approved an amendment to the budget resolution which does just this.
The Pence amendment is the most devastating legislative assault on women’s health care in American history. Those who voted for it, and I’m pleased to say Rep. Mike Michaud was not among them, aim to eliminate the national family planning program (known as Title X), which has provided low-income women affordable cancer screenings, birth control, HIV testing and counseling, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses since the 1970s.
Even more, they want to deny Planned Parenthood, which has been providing these services and primary care to women for 95 years, any federal funding at all, including funding for MaineCare (Medicaid), HPV and HIV testing, and cancer screening. Simply put, their legislative attack will cut off health care to thousands of Maine women who need it the most.
Under the guise of deficit reduction, these House leaders, who share an extreme agenda, are gunning to end this popular and effective program that does so much to prevent unintended pregnancy and provide essential health care. Ninety percent of the care provided at our health centers is preventive. Sixty percent of the women who are cared for by Planned Parenthood and similar health centers report that these centers are their only source of health care.
Gutting this program means that more Maine women will live with untreated diseases, and will discover too late that they have cancer or cannot have children at all.
As for fiscal discipline and deficit reduction, family planning programs like Title X save money. For every public dollar invested in family planning, taxpayers save nearly $4. Denying low-income women access to birth control does not stop them from having sex; instead, it increases the number of abortions, or leads those women to depend on MaineCare and other state welfare programs. Yet, in their ideological zeal to attack women’s health, the House leadership doesn’t seem to care.
The recent House vote shows these lawmakers are clearly out of touch with the needs and wishes of the American people, especially those of women. These extreme proposals are bad policy, bad politics and bad for the health of our women.
That’s why we urge Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to reject this dangerous assault on women’s health. We urge the senators to stand by women, vote to continue good health care for women and men, and to support women’s right to control the time when they have families.
Steve Trombley is the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.