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Cecile Richards Headshot

Women's Health on the Fiscal Cliff

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Like the vast majority of Americans, I want Congress to come to a deal that will avoid the budget conundrum known as the "fiscal cliff." I want Congress to resolve this because I know what's at stake for women.

Make no mistake: access to health care for millions of women is on the line if Congress fails to act and the fiscal cliff's mandatory budget cuts take effect.

The American people sent a clear message on Election Day that women's access to quality health care is not negotiable -- and not political. Congress needs to listen to that message. Our nation is better -- it is healthier -- when as many Americans as possible have access to care. As President Obama has made clear, our nation's budget problems can't be solved on the backs of those who can least afford it. At Planned Parenthood, we couldn't agree more.

Planned Parenthood health centers see nearly three million patients each year. Some of these patients are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act -- some women already receive their well-woman exams and birth control at no cost because of the law, and millions more will in the months ahead. Women no longer have to choose between putting food on the table and refilling their birth control prescription.

While many Planned Parenthood patients have private insurance, many are low-income Americans who are able to get basic preventive health care like cancer screenings thanks to Medicaid or the Title X family planning program.

Last year, two-thirds of Planned Parenthood patients were low-income people who would not be able to receive care without Medicaid and Title X. Planned Parenthood health centers provide them with everything from birth control to diabetes screenings. For fully 40 percent of Planned Parenthood patients, the only medical care they get all year is when they come to Planned Parenthood.

So Planned Parenthood health centers know firsthand why it's so it's critical that Congress reach a budget deal that doesn't take away people's health care. The doctors, nurses and staff see it every day.

Medicaid and Title X have helped millions of Americans get the health care they need. Right now, one in ten American women get their health care through Medicaid, letting them choose their own health care provider. Beyond low-income women, Medicaid also serves women with disabilities and many middle-class women as well. For millions of women, cuts to this program could mean the difference between getting cancer screenings and birth control, or going without.

These are not abstract line-items on a budget -- these are real-world savings for millions of women and families across the country. They help struggling families manage their budgets -- the ACA's birth control benefit alone can save a woman up to $600 a year -- and they are also good for our nation's budget, since every $1 the government spends on family planning saves nearly $4 further down the line.

As congressional and White House leaders continue their discussions about a balanced budget, they need to understand that Americans cannot afford to cuts Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act or Title X.

On Election Day, America decided to move forward. This victory was about so much more than reelecting President Obama. It was an affirmation that the American people are not going back -- on birth control, on women's health care and on the historic steps we've taken to provide all Americans with access to quality care.

Our nation's fiscal situation needs serious attention. A balanced solution will not be found in cutting Americans' access to health care. We'll address our budget challenges by moving forward -- not going back.