THE BLOG

A Pocketbook Issue

10/22/2012 04:07 pm ET | Updated Dec 22, 2012

At last week's debate, Mitt Romney said "I believe every woman should have access to contraceptives." But the question is how? What is Romney's plan for providing reproductive healthcare for low-income women if he defunds Planned Parenthood, eliminates Title X funding and takes contraceptive care out of the Affordable Care Act or gets rid of this law entirely? It needs to be said that these clinics provide life-saving cancer-screenings, Pap tests, STD and HIV testing,
treatment and counseling, and birth control. For example, in 2011, New Jersey's four Planned Parenthood affiliates served 78,000 patients. Should all of these people go to emergency rooms in the future? Will a new system of health care centers have to be created?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teen pregnancy in the United States is at an all-time low. In 2010, there were fewer teenage mothers than any year since 1946. The average teen birth rate decreased 9 percent from 2009 to 2010 with an all time low of 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. This is a trend that will surely be reversed if access to birth control is wiped out.

With two weeks to go before the national election, it is imperative that women, especially those in their child-bearing years, hear what Romney is saying and understand how it will affect them
personally. Almost one hundred years ago Margaret Sanger started her battle to bring birth control to all women when she opened her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. Her battle was hard-fought and not easily won. Women cannot take the strides we have made for granted. Mitt Romney will surely pack the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and then instead of having one fight for our rights at the national level we will have 50 fights at the state level. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, has already voted at least four times to defund Planned Parenthood and he was a co-sponsor of the federal Sanctity of Human Life Act. This legislation would grant full human rights to
fertilized eggs. If passed, the bill would have outlawed certain types of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

Although this bill was not passed, a mind-boggling number of bills at the state level to limit access to abortion have been passed into law. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive trends, in its 2012 midyear report, "So far this year, states have enacted 39 new restrictions on access to abortion. Although this is significantly lower than the record-breaking 80 restrictions that had been enacted by this point in 2011."

Not only would Romney defund Planned Parenthood, he has also said that he would eliminate Title X funding of the Public Health Service Act, which provides family planning services to 5 million low-income Americans each year. It is ironic that it was a Republican president who started the Title X program in 1970 to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information. According to the Office of Populations Affairs, nearly 100 Title X grantees provide services through a network of 4,500 community-based clinics located in 75% of U.S. counties. Title X funds may not be used to fund abortions. Clearly, taking away Title X funding is an attack on birth control, not abortion. The elimination of this funding will lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, especially among the young and the poor.

The conservative right is pushing this agenda and the Republican candidates are latching onto it because they don't have real solutions to our economic problems. It's much easier to energize voters through emotional issues like abortion. So, let's put abortion funding to the
side and ask if we really want to limit access to birth control? Do families want to have a baby every year of their reproductive lives? When you think about it that way, President Obama is right when he said contraception was "not just a healthcare issue, it was also a pocketbook issue."