Friday, February 25, 2011

Protect Women's Reproductive Freedoms

One of the things that I value most about being a woman in a free and democratic nation is the ability to do what I please with my own body. It sounds cheesy, I know. And my friends and I always joke around about that line they teach you in Health class, “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want.” Maybe we changed it around a little in retrospect, but the message is the same. I have control over my body, and I can decide if I want to have sex, have a baby, prevent having a baby. Then after that, I have the resources to obtain health care for whatever choice I make.

It seems simple, but the reality is that women around the world don’t have these freedoms. In the United States, if someone attacks a woman and forces her to commit sexual acts, that person can be prosecuted. If a woman becomes pregnant and decides she can’t have the baby, she has legal access to abortion. Here, if a woman finds herself being abused by her partner, she can leave the marriage and seek help at a medical facility or crisis center. If she contracts a sexually transmitted diseases, there are places to seek treatment. These things set us apart from much of the world.

Planned Parenthood is one place where women (and men) of any age or socioeconomic status can access this type of care. If young women are afraid that their parents will find out they’re sexually active, they can go to Planned Parenthood to receive care. If women don’t have the money to afford birth control, or don’t have insurance, they can go to Planned Parenthood to receive health services for free, or on a sliding scale basis depending on the scenario. This public health institution has made prenatal and reproductive health a reality for many women who previously could not afford it. I support their mission 100%, and donate when I can.

Over the past week, the House of Representatives has approved approved a series of budget cuts that would include totally defunding Planned Parenthood. The cuts eliminate all Title X funds for the institution. In past years, the health center used $317 million of funds like these to support the range of care they offer. Without this money, the center is likely unable to survive.

Federal funding has always been banned from financially assisting abortion. These cuts would eradicate vital health services including free pelvic and breast exams, family planning (read: birth control), infertility counseling, and HIV tests. In short, this bill is pushing the right to take care of your own body out of reach for thousands of women across the United States. It is a public health crisis.

Why do they think they can get away with this? Well, it’s simple. Many people (read: pro-life conservatives) equate Planned Parenthood with promoting abortion (read: evil), and abetting the sexual activity of youths (read: greater evil) and those who may not be monetarily privileged. Never mind that the center does exactly the opposite by giving access to contraceptives and educational materials. Let’s just focus on one main thing here. People aren’t going to stop having sex. Bam. I said it. Sorry to the Catholic Church, and abstinence supporters. We might as well make it safe, right?

So what can you do to stop this attack on the care of women, men and teens who rely on Planned Parenthood? Sign their open letter to the members of Congress who voted to bar federal funding here . Find an event where you can stand up for Planned Parenthood in your local area here. Donate to help Planned Parenthood stay open here. Or find out how your representative voted and share your thoughts here.

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