By Molly Hanson
Freedom From Religion Foundation
In the zealous crusade to roll back decades of relentlessly fought for rights of women, reproductive care has become battleground zero.
The onslaught against the women’s health care provider was felt in Iowa on June 30, when four Planned Parenthoods — which together have served more than than 14,600 different patients — were shut down. Clinics in Quad Cities, Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City were forced to closed after a measure signed by Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad gutted around $2 million in public funding to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The closures were hailed by the Religious Right hell-bent on eradicating the women’s health care provider.
The Iowa Legislature voted this past spring to defund the Planned Parenthood clinics, which will cause nearly 15,000 Iowa women to lose access to affordable health care services. The GOP did this by turning down a federal Medicaid waiver that would have given the state $3.3 million for family planning funding.
So again. In order to financially starve a subsidized provider of health care and contraceptive services, Iowa Republicans decided to snub over $3 million in free federal dollars for the state.
They did this, of course, because Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is Iowa’s largest provider of abortions. The GOP seems to have a very hard time grappling with the reality that abortions are legal — and necessarily so for women to have equal footing in society. They also seem to completely disregard the fact that a total of $0.00 in public money is used to fund abortion services because of the Hyde Amendment.
Yep. Virtually no taxpayer dollars have been used to fund abortion since 1976.
And, just a side note: The most effective way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. A great way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is by providing easily accessible contraceptive services.
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Three of the four health centers that are shutting down as a result of this recent slash are in counties where Planned Parenthood provides 80 to 96 percent of publicly funded contraception.
All state and federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood is used for the reimbursement of services like mammograms, STD testing, HIV testing, contraception services, pelvic exams, cancer screening, UTI testing and treatment, menopause treatment and basic general health care, to name a few.
The impact of this legislation will be catastrophic for family planning services in the state. Republicans are falsely claiming that other clinics provide the same services the four now closed Planned Parenthood clinics administered. But according to Jodi Tomolonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, the services those clinics provided cannot be replicated by other medical providers in the state, which would need to triple their clients to make up for the loss.
Iowa women will have to bear the disastrous burden of the impact this legislation will have on family planning services in the state: unintended pregnancies, unplanned teen births, more abortions, a rise in sexually transmitted infections and undiagnosed breast and cervical cancer. This decision will deliver an even harder blow to women who can’t easily access family planning and reproductive health care services, such as women of color, young women, residents of rural Iowa and low-income families.
Of course, one group does not think this is such a bad fate. The number one opposition to abortion and contraception in the United States has always been the Religious Right. The legislation to defund the Planned Parenthood clinics signed by Branstad was supported by a coalition of 35 Iowa anti-choice groups. Most of these groups have either explicit or implied religious agendas, and are throwing their support behind the politicians who are championing their dogmatic ideals.
Theocrats and right-wing politicians — either true believers or those held hostage by their fanatical base — might think that cutting off Planned Parenthood will help “save” women. Or, more so, save them from the sin of daring to think they are autonomous beings free to do what they want with their bodies and lives. But that won’t ever happen.
Women will not forfeit reproductive choice — the foundation of political, social and economic freedom — because of bills legislators write up to dismantle their health care providers. Abortions have always happened and will continue to happen — even if at a chilling cost. Threats of hellfire, purgatory, fallacious propaganda and medically unsound legislation have never stopped abortion because women’s lives are at stake if they do not have power over if and when they become mothers.
Previous to Roe v. Wade and before safe abortions were medically accessible, the procedures involved rusty hooked tools, a lack of anesthesia, sexual harassment, abdominal infections, hemorrhages and ingesting various bleach concoctions. Thousands of deaths a year resulted from botched, unsanitary abortions.
Women have done what we’ve had to do for control over our bodies. Safe and legal abortion has been a hallowed victory in the struggle for female equality and independence. Women will not surrender the right to biological liberty that we have won. We will fight for it again, and again, and again.