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Barbara A. Zdravecky

Women's health under fire in Washington

Hired by voters to create jobs and boost the economy, the new conservative Congress is instead veering back into the dark ages, launching an assault on women by trying to kill the national family planning program — signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon — that helps poor women get lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, contraception and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment.

This proposal eliminates all funding for the Title X program that provides these critical health care services — that's $317 million, none of which goes to pay for abortions, which is their false battle cry. By law, Title X funds have never been able to be used for abortion services. The true target behind this stunning action is to take down Planned Parenthood, the 95-year-old national organization that receives some of these funds to provide health care to some of our most vulnerable Americans — millions of low-income women who will have nowhere else to go.

A few days ago, a 34-year-old employed mother with no insurance and two young children came to our St. Petersburg health center. She had waited too long for a Pap smear simply because she couldn't afford it — and our medical director had to tell her that she had first-stage cervical cancer and had to be referred on to an oncologist. She has a five-year survival chance.

How many times will this tragic scene be repeated in increasing numbers across the country if these critical care services are denied to women? Six in 10 women who access care from a family planning health center consider it to be their primary source of medical care.

There's seems to be little, if any, empathy for these women from the Republican side of the aisle as they have proposed no alternative for providing this care — and don't seem to realize or, frankly, care that unintended pregnancies will rise if this program is abolished. Cutting off these funds and eliminating this care for women will not stop abortion, which is their claim — only family planning will prevent abortion. It's a punitive action aimed directly at destroying Planned Parenthood, a goal that is an integral aspect of a larger coordinated plan to attack and ultimately eliminate a woman's right to choose.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is one of the congressional leaders behind a recent flurry of antichoice bills and actions proposed by Republicans — part of a multipronged attack that includes accusations by an antichoice organization, Live Action, whose admitted goal is to destroy Planned Parenthood. Live Action edits and doctors many of its video recordings to create a false impression of Planned Parenthood and its employees. Pence has openly linked arms with this group. He will offer an amendment this week to bar any federal funding of Planned Parenthood for any programs.

The major consequence of wiping out Title X will be to eliminate health care for millions of women, while also increasing the bill for taxpayers. For every public dollar invested in family planning, taxpayers save nearly $4, according to the independent Guttmacher Institute — that's roughly $1.3 billion savings to the American public.

Right now in Florida, newly elected Gov. Rick Scott is also proposing drastic cuts in vital health care services in his new budget. These cuts will affect our county health departments' ability to offer family planning and prevention services to women across the state. So women in Florida are facing a double whammy — attacks by lawmakers in Washington and in Tallahassee.

Barbara A. Zdravecky is president/chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

Women's health under fire in Washington 02/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 14, 2011 12:29am]

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