By Teri Huyck and Judy Hartig-Osanka
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
Her story is all too common.
Megan has a part-time job and is a full-time college student — but she goes to a school without a campus health center. She, like 71,959 others, is a patient at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
“I come to Planned Parenthood because I don’t have the means to have my own insurance,” she explains. “My employer doesn’t offer it, and I can’t afford it, but Planned Parenthood offers all the services I need to be a responsible, healthy person.”
As Congress works to enact health insurance reform, it must keep in mind the millions of women who, like Megan, view reproductive health care as their most basic health care — and their reproductive health care providers as their most trusted health care professionals.
Ninety-seven percent of the health care Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin provides is preventive and primary. Last year alone, we provided more than 337,000 units of FDA approved birth control methods, more than 22,000 annual exams, including cancer screenings, and nearly 64,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections.
Planned Parenthood health centers are part of an important network of community providers that includes local health departments, community health centers and independent family planning clinics. Essential providers like us serve as a critical entry point into the health care system for millions of women throughout the country.
Today, one in four women who receive contraceptive care does so at a women's health center. One in six who obtain a cancer-screening Pap test or pelvic exam does so at a women's health center, as do one-third of women who receive counseling, testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Six out of 10 patients at family planning health centers consider us to be their primary care provider.
The basic, affordable health care we and our partners provide is essential for women, particularly during difficult economic times. Consider that women of childbearing age spend a stunning 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, in large part because of reproductive-related health care. Health insurance reform cannot leave women like Megan behind.
Yet abortion rights opponents, who want to outlaw all abortions, are lying about health insurance reform in an attempt to advance that agenda. And conservatives, who want to derail health insurance reform altogether, are using false claims of “taxpayer-funded abortions” as a red herring.
None of the bills being discussed in Congress will force any American to purchase health insurance that includes abortion coverage if they don’t want it. None of the bills will undermine existing laws prohibiting federal and state funds from paying for abortions. None of the bills will force providers to offer abortion services. Instead, the current Congressional health insurance reform proposals will enable all Americans to purchase coverage that reflects their basic needs and their values.
Many media outlets have been parroting unfounded claims by abortion rights opponents that reform will expand access to abortion by mandating coverage of abortion. For example, the Racine Journal Times printed a letter last week by Barbara Lyons from Wisconsin Right to Life, alleging that health care reform will result in "taxpayer-subsidized abortions." In truth, none of the proposals mandate abortion coverage, or coverage of any other procedure for that matter. See factcheck.org for more information, and go here for an article about the abortion flashpoint.
Central to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s mission is the belief that everyone deserves access to affordable, high quality reproductive health care. Even though 98 percent of women use family planning at some point in their lives, abortion rights opponents and their supporters continually attempt to restrict women’s access to basic health care. In fact, they actually put up barriers to women’s access of birth control and STI prevention methods.
At Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, we remain committed to health insurance reform that prioritizes women’s health, promotes prevention-based health care and protects essential community providers, like Planned Parenthood.
Teri Huyck is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin; Judy Hartig-Osanka is board chair.