A few months ago, American voters elected a new crop of U.S. House members that said they were dedicated to creating jobs, cutting debt and strengthening the economy. Apparently, there were a few wolves in sheep's clothing in the flock, waiting to impose their extreme philosophy on women's access to basic health care.
If the efforts of the House leaders led by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) are successful, thousands of Colorado women will not have access to affordable cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, Pap tests and annual exams.
Let's be clear. This is not funding for abortions. This is funding for women and their families to make healthy decisions and providing preventive care for women who need to have basic needs met. Needs that will not disappear - they will be absorbed elsewhere by all of us if we don't prevent unintended pregnancies, provide cancer screenings, Pap tests, annual exams and birth control.
What does this mean to women and families in Colorado? It means fewer, more expensive options for women in difficult economic times.
Six out of ten women say that the clinic where they receive family planning services is their main source of health care. I was one of those women, who had few options as a recent college graduate other than a Planned Parenthood health center in rural Colorado. I am grateful for the quality care I received at a time when I was just beginning my career. Every woman in Colorado should have the same choice.
If the U.S. House leadership is successful, the national family planning program for low-income women that has been in place since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970 will disappear. The House leadership is also proposing to prohibit all Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving any federal funds. Rather than have an open, honest discussion, these attacks on women's health issues have been attached to the bill to fund all government spending for 2011, to sneak it under the radar.
Let's have an honest, grown-up debate about what the elimination of funding basic health care for women means. There are 62 organizations in Colorado, from Fruita to Burlington and everywhere in between, that receive these so-called Title X federal funds. More than 60,000 women and men would go without family planning services, particularly in rural areas. In 2009, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains performed almost 52,000 STD tests and more than 11,000 HIV tests
Unfortunately, this proposal is not about saving money, it is a politically motivated attempt to advance an extreme agenda to limit women's options. For example, with this proposal, we will not save $4 for every dollar we invest to prevent unintended pregnancies, treat cancer in early stages and guide women to healthier options. It also means there will be fewer providers of Medicaid at a time when the state needs dependable services. Planned Parenthood's health centers in Colorado see nearly 3,000 new Medicaid patients each year.
The family planning programs that House leaders are excited to dismantle are programs that actually help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The simple fact is family planning programs like this save money.
The House leadership is clearly out of touch with the needs and wishes of the American people, Coloradans included. These extreme proposals are bad policy, bad politics, and bad for the health of Colorado women and families.
This is a critical time to send a message to Congress that eliminating access to basic health needs for political reasons does not make economic sense for Colorado.