This past month has shaken comprehensive women’s health to its core and the fight is not over.
The proposed cutting of all $327 million of funding for Title X through the H.1 bill would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and is a direct assault on women’s access to healthcare. Planned Parenthood serves millions of women (and men…yes, men) by providing family planning, breast and cervical cancer screening, emergency contraception, HIV screening, vaccines, well-women care, vasectomies, STD screening, counseling resources, pharmacy services, abortion, and prenatal care. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that this proposal could lead to 973,000 unplanned pregnancies and 400,000 more abortions as a result of the reductions in effective, community-based family planning services. The proposed legislation stems from a conglomerate of Republican anti-abortion groups that, ironically, cite family values as their motivation.
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On the state level, there is a virtual slaughterhouse lined up for women’s healthcare. It will come as no shock to those who follow these issues that there is an inordinate focus on abortion. These zealots continue to pretend that abortion isn’t one of the most common medical procedures for women in childbearing years. One half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and 4 in 10 of those pregnancies are terminated- thus 22% of all pregnancies, excluding miscarriages, end in abortion. One in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures with less than 0.3% having complications requiring hospitalization. Women from every socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, religious and age-group obtain abortions each year as part of their reproductive health needs. Despite being legal, current laws in many states mean women still have to cross state lines or face numerous restrictions and intimidations to secure abortions.
Virginia has gone too far. This past week, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring all offices, clinics and centers that perform first-trimester abortions to be regulated as hospitals instead of as doctors’ offices. This absurd and devastating new policy could be restrictive enough to force as many as 17 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics out of business. If enacted, this would make Virginia one of the most restrictive states for first trimester abortions in the nation. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has pledged to sign this bill, which is no surprise for such a blatantly politicized and partisan issue. If enacted this July, the Virginia Board of Health will have 280 days to write new policies for clinics that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month. These absurd policies would require that clinics meet the unnecessary requirements of an ambulatory surgical center.
Rosemary Codding, director of Falls Church Healthcare Center and a champion steward for women’s health, was recently featured in the Washington Post for her response to this latest, at-home assault on women’s health. “There’s all kinds of shenanigans when it comes to abortion.” Thankfully she is no newcomer to the volatile political world of abortion. “I live in a state where there’s an earthquake around abortion. So I had to build a center that could withstand whatever came down the road.” She built the third floor clinic to meet the 2002 state standards for a Class II hospital center. Wide enough hallways, spacious exam rooms, surgical equipment and still estimates that it may cost $100,000 to update the center, if possible, to current ambulatory surgical center standards.
I know Rosemary, a kind and loving woman who tirelessly pours her heart and energy into a clinic that provides care she believes in. I know Dr. Fruiterman, a compassionate and skilled ob/gyn provider. I know this clinic. I know the exams room. I had the honor of working at Falls Church Healthcare Center for my public health practicum and will be returning soon for my thesis work. I know the good healthcare they provide, the women they serve. I had the honor to meet women in all walks of life, those seeking a place to come for answers, those seeking a non-judgmental place to terminate their pregnancy, those seeking birth control, those seeking pregnancy tests, pap smears or STD screenings. I met women seeking abortions for all sorts of reasons. Some were young, some old. Some were married, some single and some with children in the waiting room. Many mothers, some not ready to be just yet. These women could be your sister, your friend, your girlfriend, your wife, your cousin, your co-worker, your neighbor…or you.
This clinic, and the 20 others in Virginia, serves thousands of women a year and I cringe when I realize just how many shenanigans we will be facing in the year ahead. Shenanigans that boldly and unapologetically assault a women’s access to comprehensive care. Shenanigans that attempt to place every obstacle in a woman’s way to a safe and legal abortion. Shenanigans that harass and threaten the safety of women and the providers that care for them.
Now is the time to stand up and shout. Now is the time to fight to uphold our reproductive rights. Now is the time.
Do something….while you still can.
Take a stand with Planned Parenthood.
Visit the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and learn how your faith can support a pro-choice world.
Learn how to get involved in your community.
Contact your legislators.
Trust Women to know what is best for their body, their life, their future.
Tell Your Story to the world or to a friend.
Ask a friend if they would support you if you had an abortion.
Start a conversation and keep it going. Pledge to end these shenanigans.