On April 8, our government will make an important decision. It isn't about how to reduce our federal deficit, create jobs, or fix the economy.
Instead, our government will be deciding whether or not to leave millions of women, including many Latinas, without basic health care, with no provider to turn to, and nowhere to go for cancer screenings, birth control, and basic checkups.
On April 8, our Congress will decide whether or not to eliminate funding for women's health. And it's up to us to tell them not to.
If conservatives have their way, on April 8 Congress will eliminate Title X, America's family-planning program, a fund that provides basic health care to women who otherwise couldn't afford it. They would also bar Planned Parenthood, the United States' largest reproductive health care provider, from receiving any federal funding.
This would be devastating. Planned Parenthood's providers give basic, preventive care to three million people a year. Without Planned Parenthood's 800-plus health centers across the country, millions of women will have no place to go for basic, preventive health care.
This would affect Latinos too. In 2009, 23% of Planned Parenthood patients were Latinos, a 39% increase from 2000. The number of Latino men who are patients at Planned Parenthood has increased 191%. Every year, Planned Parenthood provides nearly one million cervical cancer screenings, a cancer which Latina women are most likely to die from.
In New York City, Planned Parenthood serves tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and provides thousands more with good sex education and support services. We educate both parents and teens on how to stay safe and healthy.
If conservatives have their way, all those services will disappear. The New York City Department of Health estimates that if this legislation passes, 800,000 women in New York City will lose access to basic health care.
So far, conservatives have not gotten their way. A number of key public health groups and elected officials have spoken out against this harmful legislation. Nearly one million people have signed on in support of Planned Parenthood, asking Congress to protect women's (and men's) health.
Still, that's not enough -- we need your voice too. Our elected officials need to, and must, hear from you just how important it is to protect women's health. Any one of us can make a difference, and if enough of us speak out, our voices will be impossible to ignore. It's easy -- you can call your representative, sign a petition, or even come rally with us in DC on April 7.
If conservatives have their way, millions of women will lose basic health care. It's time to speak out, before it's too late. The health of our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friend is too important not to.
A version of this op ed originally appeared in El Diario.