We are a health-care provider, plain and simple. But as I begin my tenure as acting head of Planned Parenthood, some are dismissing or mischaracterizing the organization’s mission as “political,” offering a false choice between advocating for women’s health and offering health care. The sexual and reproductive health care our organization provides is not “political”; it has been politicized — and not by us.
Providing health care is meaningless if people cannot access it. Yet some lawmakers in statehouses and in Washington seek to use our basic health care as a football to score political points. Twenty-five million women stand to lose access to abortion with one Supreme Court decision. State legislatures have passed 26 bans on abortions this year alone. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is attempting to dismantle our nation’s program for affordable birth control and tells providers they cannot offer the most comprehensive reproductive health care information to their patients.
Abortion, a legal medical procedure that 1 in 4 women will have in her lifetime, has been demonized and politicized, putting at risk sexual and reproductive health care for millions of people. We will fight anyone who attempts to politicize that care.
More than 100 years ago, Planned Parenthood was founded by a group of nurses and activists providing birth control and family planning information to women when birth control itself was illegal. Planned Parenthood has always been on the front lines of providing health care and fighting for our patients’ right to access that care. We fight for policies that allow doctors and clinicians to do their jobs and that allow patients to make the best decisions about their health without worrying about the political landscape or how they will pay their bills. We fight against policies that criminalize the care people need and those who provide it.
For as long as Planned Parenthood has existed, there have been those who are fearful of what we do — those who believe that women shouldn’t have control over their bodies; that young people don’t deserve honest, science-based information about sex; or that transgender people don’t deserve compassionate, affirming health care. Some of those people are in Congress and tried to “defund” Planned Parenthood 21 times in the past four years. Some of them sit in the White House and keep doing everything they can to make it harder to access birth control, or abortion or even sex education.
Any day, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will make a decision on whether patients in the Title X program, which serves 4 million people every year, will continue to get full information from their doctors about their reproductive health. As the Trump administration begins to enforce its gag rule — which makes it illegal for health-care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion — Planned Parenthood is fighting back. We will not comply with a rule that creates a divide between who can and cannot learn how to exercise their basic rights. As always, we are still providing health care to our patients while we continue to fight the rule in court.
We will continue to challenge unconstitutional laws in places such as Alabama, where the state legislature passed a law banning nearly all abortions and threatening doctors with up to 99 years in prison. Or in Missouri, where the state is attempting to end access to abortion by shutting down care at Planned Parenthood’s health center in St. Louis — the only health center left in the state providing abortion. These efforts hit hardest those who already struggle to access care: people of color, people with low incomes, people in rural areas.
In other states, we’re focused on policies that give patients even more access to care, whether by codifying the right to abortion or making it easier to get birth control. Some of these states — such as Illinois, which recently passed the Reproductive Health Act to make abortion a fundamental right — will be a beacon for women who might be forced to travel out of their own states for care.
When we are accused of being political, we are standing up for patients. We refuse to cower to politicians who would prefer to see Planned Parenthood destroyed. We are fulfilling our mission to deliver vital reproductive health care, sex education and information to millions of people.
The patients of Planned Parenthood don’t have the luxury of pretending that politics can be ignored without experiencing a decline in the access and quality of sexual and reproductive health care. Nor do we.
As we step forward to meet new challenges to essential health care, we will not be trapped by false choices. We will continue to provide health care and education, because we mean it when we say: “Care. No Matter What.”