Monday, March 19, 2007

Planned Parenthood's holistic care under pressure

Via Feministing, we learn that Missouri's governor has rescinded a years-long contract with Planned Parenthood to fund cervical and breast cancer screening to low-income women. Ann at Feministing picks up on the poorly-informed reasoning behind the move
"Patients should not have to go to an abortion clinic to access lifesaving tests," Blunt said in a written statement.

But Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri said the clinics that participated in the program have never provided abortions.
but fails to note that the governor has not simply cut the money for the screenings (he has actually increased it), and has awarded the contract to other health care providers. While there are still potential problems with the switch (Where are the new clinics located? Will they be accessible to women with low incomes, lacking transportation, or unable to take time off of work?) it's not fair to say that the governor, Matt Blunt, is sacrificing this important program for the sake of taking a political stance.

I don't know a lot about the process of bidding for public contracts, and I would wonder if a governor's pet peeve is enough to make this kind of move (PP does as well - the article says they're evaluating the legal ramifications), but this is action of which reproductive rights advocates need to be very wary. The process of disconnecting public funds from abortion has been long ongoing, and it's gone a long way toward separating reproductive rights issues from other health issues. (I liked stellaelizabeth's comment at Feministing, "maybe next this guy will restrict women from breathing, because they might end up inhaling the recycled air of a woman who has considered abortion. and they shouldn't have to do that.") Blunt is taking things a step further, and making it harder for PP to provide the holistic reproductive health care that it has been making available throughout its history.

Around my household, Planned Parenthood was always considered a force for good, a place where couples and individuals could find the means to take control of their reproductive health and plan their families. Planned Parenthood was where I had my first pap smear and felt the most comfortable seeking birth control as a teenager. I was surprised when I began exploring pro-life propaganda that many don't know or don't care about PP's services beyond abortion. It should be obvious by now that people like Blunt are actively working to amputate female reproductive health care issues like abortion and contraception from the picture of human health.

It's a frightening, bad-old-days goal, and one that advocates for women need to take seriously. When we have people advocating against a cancer vaccine for fear that people would not suffer bodily injury for having sex outside of marriage, and governmental forces that mandate misinformation about sex so that teenagers might fear the wrath of God enough to keep it in their pants, it's sometimes hard to remember that the forces we're fighting aren't always sheer ignorance and misogyny. Blunt is putting a stumbling block in the way of Planned Parenthood's goal of making reproductive choice a reality, and luckily, he's not willing to give women cancer to do it. He doesn't deserve extra credit for not being a caricature, though.
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