Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Support Planned Parenthood -- Stop the Attacks on Women

I watched CNN late last Friday, transfixed as news broke that the government shutdown had been averted and that forty policy riders had been dropped, including the amendment to ban Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country from receiving federal funds. I had just returned from a day in Washington with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Clergy Advisory Board, including an interfaith breakfast attended by hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters of faith. I had been stunned all week to think that the government shut down, in Senator Harry Reid’s words, might come down to the House leadership using the budget to attack women’s access to health care services or environmental protection.

Last week demonstrated what many of us already knew: the Tea Party is only the latest version of the religious right in new wineskins. Following the November 2010 elections, studies from both the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Public Religion Research Institute found that “the Tea Party rank and file are not in fact secular libertarians, but are social conservatives largely drawn from the ranks of the Christian Right.”

I am angry: angry as a woman, as a mother, as a Planned Parenthood staff veteran, and as a member of the clergy. And like tens of thousands of people of faith across the country, I’m doing what I can to make my voice heard. Last week, the Religious Institute joined Planned Parenthood Federation of American, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and more than twenty other leading organizations to take part in the Stand Up For Women's Health Rally in front of the U.S. Capitol. We stood together to show our legislators that faith-based and sexual and reproductive health organizations support access for women and men to the health services they need to lead healthy and responsible lives. It is immoral to use family planning and reproductive health services—vital services that save women’s lives in the United States and abroad—as a bargaining chip in politicized budget debates.

In collaboration with colleagues from other faith-based organizations, we helped to develop the “Interfaith Statement Opposing Restrictions on Women’s Health Care Options” distributed to members of Congress and endorsed by organizations as diverse as the National Council of Jewish Women, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, and Muslims for Progressive Values. As the Religious Institute’s Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice states, “The sacredness of human life is best upheld when women and men create human life intentionally and women are able to have healthy pregnancies and childbirths.” Publicly funded family planning services help women prevent STDs/HIV, provide cancer screenings, and offer access to contraception. In 2006, publicly funded family planning services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Guttmacher Institute, doubling current investments in family planning and pregnancy related care could save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants each year. To put it bluntly, access to reproductive health services is a matter of life and death.

I am relieved that sanity prevailed in Washington, D.C. and that the President and many Congressional leaders refused to trade women’s access to gynecological services, pap smears, HIV testing, and, yes, birth control, for a budget agreement. However, I am angry that once again the District of Columbia will not be able to use its own funds to support abortion services. As more details about the budget cuts are released, they will most certainly hurt the most marginalized and vulnerable among us. I made a donation to the DC Abortion Fund on Monday morning, letting them know I was a faith leader.

Some time this week, the House and the Senate will vote on whether federal funds can support Planned Parenthood affiliates. The guess is that the vote to ban them from providing FAMILY PLANNING (not abortions as some news has incorrectly inferred) will fail. But your voices are needed, and I hope you've been in touch with your Congressperson to "JUST SAY NO TO PENCE."

These are the worst attacks on women's health that I've seen in my 30 plus years as an activist on these issues. The voices of people of faith who support women's sexual and reproductive rights must be heard.

1 comment:

women's sexual health said...

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