I spent my lunch hour today getting a breast exam. Last month, I had localized pain in my left breast, and I felt what I thought was a mass. My doctor saw me right away, and sent me for a diagnostic mammogram. Luckily, it came back normal. Today was a follow-up, just to be sure.
When I got out of my appointment, I saw the breaking news that the Speaker of the House in the US Congress has pledged to include a provision to defund Planned Parenthood in a budget reconciliation bill he plans to submit.
Make no mistake about it. An attack on Planned Parenthood will not just make it harder for women to get abortions – it will imperil many women’s access to a whole range of important health care services. Planned Parenthood is a system of health facilities throughout the United States that provide health services to at least 2.5 million people, the vast majority of whom live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Planned Parenthood does provide abortions, but never with federal funds, and they make up a tiny fraction of the services it provides.
Planned Parenthood fulfills fundamental health care needs of women in mostly rural or medically underserved areas. Millions of women get birth control through Planned Parenthood. And, in 2014, 360,000 women received breast exams and 270,000 received Pap tests. These preventative services allow doctors to detect cancer early, increasing a patient’s odds of survival.
It’s disingenuous to argue that the care provided by Planned Parenthood could quickly be replaced by other institutions. The United States spends money globally to strengthening the health systems of countries emerging from crisis. Lawmakers in the US should know, based on these experiences, that it can take decades for systems to recover from destabilizing forces. Wiping out the key funding for health centers that serve 2.5 million Americans will destabilize the provision of women’s health care. It cannot be tolerated.
I live in a city where people can receive great medical care, and I have health insurance. I was able to get the breast exam and mammogram I needed right away. Millions of women are not so lucky. What will happen to them when they find a lump, and the doors to Planned Parenthood have been shuttered by a Congress hostile to women’s health and rights?
Members of Congress, no matter their party affiliation, should stand on the side of women’s health and defeat this measure.