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Cecile Richards Headshot

The Craziness in Congress

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Republican leaders in Congress just don't get it. At a time when Americans want government focused on jobs and helping families weather the toughest economy in recent memory, they have submitted a budget that guts the nation's birth control funding and eliminates access to cancer screenings for millions of women. They have launched a baseless investigation against Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit provider of health care to three million women, men, and teens each year. And just last night, they pushed and passed a dangerous bill that undermines women's access to care, including eliminating protections for women seeking care in emergency situations.

Some people say that the definition of insanity is doing the same absurd thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that measure, these officials have lost their minds.

They can keep trying to dress up an empty agenda, but the American people just aren't buying it. In fact they're sick of it. And you don't need to be a mind reader to know that. Go to a grocery store, a football game, or a college campus, and people will tell you they want Congress to create good jobs, improve our nation's schools, keep cops on the streets and nurses in hospitals, and make health care affordable and accessible for as many folks as possible. They will tell you they are losing faith that congressional leaders are focused on any of these things.

The latest evidence? Last night, their top priority was passing a bill that would allow a hospital to deny lifesaving abortion care to a woman, even if a doctor deems it necessary.

And just a few weeks ago, Congressman Cliff Stearns, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a politically motivated investigation into Planned Parenthood.

In a year of relentless attacks on women's health, this is one of the most audacious yet. Spending taxpayers' money to undermine taxpayers' access to preventive care. And, like all the other attacks on women, it is so drenched in politics, it should be wearing a raincoat.

Planned Parenthood is a trusted nonprofit provider of proven professional, reliable, high-quality health care -- including birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, and STD testing and treatment -- to three million women, men, and teens across the country. While the political motivations behind this attack could not be clearer and will surely take resources away from serving the people who turn to Planned Parenthood for care -- we welcome the opportunity to tell the American people about the work Planned Parenthood does every day to detect and prevent cancers and STDs, to help parents and teens talk about healthy relationships, to reduce unintended pregnancy, and to provide safe, legal abortion care.

There are no grounds for this investigation. Planned Parenthood has a strong record of fiscal responsibility. Just like other health care providers and nonprofit organizations, Planned Parenthood routinely works with government regulators, nonprofit foundation donors, and independent auditors to ensure compliance with all rules regarding the funding Planned Parenthood health centers receive -- whether it's private contributions, foundation grants, or federal or state funding, such as Medicaid reimbursements.

Here's what it boils down to: certain Republican leaders are playing politics with women's health. The rub is that Republican voters don't even support them! A 2011 poll in New Hampshire showed that 25 percent of Republican women planning to vote in the New Hampshire primary would not vote for a presidential nominee who wants to hurt Planned Parenthood. I have to say I'm not surprised because as I travel around this country and visit Planned Parenthood health centers, I meet Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who want politicians of all stripes to quit using women's health and Planned Parenthood as a political football.

Unfortunately there is no end to political game playing in sight.

The newly released FY 2012 budget bill from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services revives the same political attacks on women from earlier this year: prohibiting Planned Parenthood from providing primary and preventive care through public health programs; eliminating funding for the Title X National Family Planning program; and effectively prohibiting insurance coverage of abortion in the new health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, which it also guts.

As President Ronald Regan -- used to say, "There you go again!"

There is a reason that sensible people of all political persuasions denounced and rejected these proposals in the spring. Eliminating funding for the Title X family planning program and prohibiting Planned Parenthood from providing care through federal programs will result in millions of women across the country losing access to basic primary and preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, annual exams, and STD testing and treatment.

And what's truly amazing about this budget proposal is that it not only guts effective programs that save lives and save money, it will also make women and families worse off economically, at a time when they are already struggling. And for the U.S. taxpayer, doesn't it make fiscal sense to provide preventive care to patients, rather than seeing them later in the emergency room?

Americans are tired of it. America's women are watching. We are paying attention to which lawmakers are working to create jobs and fix the economy, and which are playing dangerous political games with women's lives. I know that the millions of women, men, and young people who count on Planned Parenthood will again make their voices heard and speak out in favor of sane policies and a healthier America -- just as they did during the budget battle in the spring. Things may seem crazy now. But, in the end, common sense will prevail.