Did you know that 97 percent of Planned Parenthood's work is for preventive services that help women, families and communities stay healthy? If you answered "no," you may be relying on a few state legislators for your information.
During a Health and Human Services Committee hearing last week, Rep. Ron Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, misstated that almost 37 percent of the total income of Planned Parenthood is from abortions and suggested that our organization opposes antichoice bills because "they don't want to lose business."
Rep. Liz Porter, R-Lake City, during closing remarks on a bill to mandate an ultrasound prior to abortion, also misstated that "the real objections of organizations like Planned Parenthood (to this bill) … is fear of the effect to their bottom line." Earlier this month, a member of the U.S. Congress cited inaccurate statistics about the services Planned Parenthood provides and was lampooned in the press.
The very people who are charged with passing laws — including public health policies — seem to be basing their decisions on fiction or outright lies. The fact is that Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of affordable, quality reproductive health care services. Yes, it does provide abortions, which account for 3 percent of its services. The other 97 percent of its work is preventive, including lifesaving cancer screenings, breast health care, well-woman exams, contraceptive services, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
Planned Parenthood works hard to give women access to the reproductive health services that they need to stay healthy — and to avoid unintended pregnancies. Too many of our legislators are more interested in promoting their extreme antichoice agenda than they are either in the truth or in helping women avoid unintended pregnancies.
Two years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported studies that showed that women in Florida have the least access to reversible contraception, such as the pill, than women in all the rest of the states in our country. Contraceptive use prevents abortions.
During these hard economic times when Florida families are struggling and the number of uninsured is rising, more women are turning to community health providers like Planned Parenthood for trusted, high-quality affordable health care.
In this current session of our Legislature, 18 bills that attack women's health and rights have been introduced. From a mandatory ultrasound bill — which would force women to undergo an unnecessary and expensive medical procedure in order to get an abortion — to a full ban on abortion, the impact of these bills, if passed into law, will be devastating. Women's rights would be set back decades. Women's health would be at risk.
The Florida bills are among the most extreme in the nation — many lack exemptions for women who are facing threats to their health or coping with fetal impairment or rape or incest. What is missing from all of these proposals is an understanding of the complicated and unique circumstances women face when deciding to terminate a pregnancy. As legislators consider these bills, they would do well to examine the facts — not rhetoric and lies.
Our legislators owe it to their constituents to debate these anti-choice bills honestly. Instead, our Legislature has become fodder for late-night comics by censoring the word "uterus" and refusing to proclaim "Birth Control Matters Day" — all the while turning their backs on measures that would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in our state.
Florida needs community health providers like Planned Parenthood for first-rate health care and as an organization willing to fight for women's reproductive health and rights. Especially during these tough economic times, when Floridians face high unemployment rates and many do not have health insurance, good, economical health care is vital.
Our legislators should stop attacking Planned Parenthood and, instead, join them. We all want to reduce the number of abortions in our state, and family planning and sound economical health care for women are the paths to follow.
Dr. Charles Mahan is dean emeritus of the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. He served as Florida's state health officer from 1988 to 1995.