11/08/2011 06:06 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2012

Watching Mississippi and the Future of Women's Health

Today, all eyes are on Mississippi as the state's "personhood" amendment is put before the voters. And by the time the polls close tonight, let's hope common sense will prevail.

This dangerous measure is an example of government gone too far. If passed, the amendment would allow the government to intrude into private doctor/patient relationships and could criminalize everything from abortion to common forms of birth control such as the pill and the IUD.

Today's election in Mississippi is one of great consequence. But the fact is, every election matters. And, one year from now, the 2012 elections will mark a fork in the road for the women of America. Head down one path and we will preserve our hard-won rights to access essential health care and plan our families. Veer down the other and it will take us backward -- to a time we thought we had put behind us forever.

In this tough economy, many women are focused on providing for their families or finding a job and may not be fully focused on what the 2012 elections could mean for them. That's why the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has launched Women Are Watching -- a campaign designed to educate women across the country about where candidates stand on pivotal health care issues, empower women to hold anti-women's health candidates of both parties accountable, and work to elect pro-women's health candidates up and down the ballot.

Just last week Mitt Romney, a front-runner for the Republican nomination for president, endorsed the very kind of "personhood" amendment that Mississippi voters are considering today. And he didn't stop there. In a USA Today opinion piece, he showed how far he would go in giving in to the Tea Party by vowing to eliminate the nation's entire family planning program -- a plan that would strip more than five million women and men of access to birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing, and well-women exams.

Governor Romney's dangerous views on women's health reflect a disturbing trend among too many politicians -- a willingness to play political football with women's health. Over the past year, we have witnessed the most aggressive legislative attacks on women's health and rights in a generation. The 2010 elections dramatically changed the U.S. Congress and state legislatures nationwide, leading to a wave of efforts to restrict access to vital women's health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings and birth control. Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, anti-women's health politicians have been spending their time introducing and passing bills restricting women's access to essential care, which few campaigned on, and few Americans support. In fact, more than 1,000 reproductive health bills have been introduced in legislatures across the country, the majority of which seek to undermine women's health.

These attacks on women's health are unacceptable and we're putting anti-women's health candidates from both parties on notice. Women Are Watching will work to ensure that politicians who play politics with our health are defeated and to support candidates who fight for the care women need to stay healthy.

When the polls open in 2012, it will be women voters who will determine the future of women's health and rights in the United States. Women like 24-year-old Jennifer from Texas. She posted to our Facebook page, "This time I'm going to vote. I've never voted before, but there is no way I'm going to sit back and do nothing! I care about the families in my state and they should have access to affordable reproductive healthcare!"

Jennifer is one of the many Planned Parenthood supporters who will make a difference in the 2012 elections. She understands the power that's in her hands to defend herself from candidates who play dangerous political games with women's health.

It's time to draw the line and say enough. Politicians do not have a license to practice medicine. They do not belong in the examining room. They need to back off and let women make their own health care decisions.

So sign the pledge to watch, take action, share, and (eventually) vote! Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest about what we're doing to thwart the chumps and boost our champs. Most importantly, spread the word and make it your own -- tweet, update your status, re-post, and get your friends to take the pledge.

Today, keep your eyes on an election that could have far-reaching consequences for women. But no matter what the outcome in Mississippi, be prepared to stay vigilant and active right up through November 2012. Let's make sure that every candidate for elected office -- Republican or Democrat -- knows that women are watching.