Women in the World

05.20.12

Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards: Romney Puts Women’s Lives at Risk

A Romney presidency would decimate health care for 5 million poor and uninsured people a year, writes Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

If you want to see what women’s health care in America will be like if Mitt Romney becomes president, just look at Texas and Arizona.

Both states are in the news these past few weeks for trying to prevent women from getting health care at Planned Parenthood. It’s wrong, and it will have devastating consequences for women for years to come—and Mitt Romney wants to do it in all 50 states.

Romney said in November that he wants to eliminate the nation’s family-planning program, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and provides essential preventive health services to more than 5 million people a year, the vast majority of whom are poor and uninsured.

Beyond the millions of people who are helped by this health-care program, investing in family planning saves the government money—for every dollar spent on family planning, experts say taxpayers save around $4.

Romney said in March that, if elected president, he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. He clarified his remarks to say he would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Either way, he would seek to dismantle a nationwide network of community-based health centers that one in five American women rely on for care at some point in their lives.

This isn’t about abortion. These health-care programs provide blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring, flu shots, breast-cancer screenings, Pap tests, and birth control. Planned Parenthood is the only medical care many women receive all year.

Michele Azzaro knows what Mitt Romney’s America would look like—because she’s already experiencing it in Texas.

Azzaro has been a Planned Parenthood patient in Dallas for more than 20 years. Planned Parenthood was there when she had a breast-cancer scare, and her local health center has been there when she needs her yearly cholesterol test.

Last year, Texas drastically cut its family-planning funding, the same way Mitt Romney says he would cut federal funding. Michele lost access to annual breast screenings and the birth-control pills she needs to manage her painful uterine fibroids.

She isn’t alone.

An estimated 160,000 women lost their health care when Texas slashed its family-planning program last year. Now, the state is trying to throw more women off health care by taking Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Women’s Health Program. Planned Parenthood health centers provide care to 52,000 women in the program.

This isn’t about abortion. These health-care programs provide blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring, flu shots, breast-cancer screenings, Pap tests, and birth control.

Texas’s program provides low-income working women in Texas with lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, contraception, screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The program was sponsored and implemented by Republicans less than a decade ago—an indication of how far to the right some in the party have gone in just a few years.

Planned Parenthood sued the state in federal court in order to continue providing these critical health services to women, and last week a federal appeals court blocked the state’s effort to deny women the health care they rely on at Planned Parenthood while the lawsuit proceeds.

Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed legislation that cuts state funding for Planned Parenthood’s preventive care. The new law could cut 4,000 women off from the health care they need.

What’s happening in Texas and Arizona isn’t about Planned Parenthood. It’s about Michele Azzaro—and the 3 million people a year who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.

Women aren’t making a political statement when they come to Planned Parenthood. But they’re not afraid to make a political statement to keep the health care they rely on when they vote in November.