U.S. and World Politics

Planned Parenthood on the Offense

By Jessica Corbett

Planned Parenthood has announced that it is going on the offensive in the ongoing fight to expand reproductive rights across the United States with a new “sweeping plan” to challenge the Trump administration as well as anti-choice activists and lawmakers by proposing policies to make sexual education more inclusive and increase access to healthcare such as birth control and abortion.

“The Trump-Pence administration has been attacking our patients’ fundamental rights and access to healthcare, emboldening state politicians to follow its reckless lead,” declared Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president Dawn Laguens. “We need to do more than just fight against the bad policies—now is the time to push for good ones.”

The so-called religious freedom agenda pushed by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence—which has produced highly contentious policies that critics say give healthcare providers, employers, and others a license to discriminate—has been met with fierce protests and strengthened alliances between advocates for reproductive healthcare and LGBTQ rights, which could prove useful as Planned Parenthood’s new initiative evolves.

“We’re going on the offense. We’ve been marching, mobilizing, and organizing—and now we’re channeling that into real policy change,” Laguens added. “Together with our partners, we are moving forward to fight for people’s health and rights, state by state, bill by bill.”

This week, the group will work to advance policies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, according to a statement outlining the initiative. Particular attention will be paid to expanding healthcare access for communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals, and combatting “systemic barriers” such as “poverty, lack of transportation, lack of paid sick leave, lack of childcare, lack of insurance, the risk of detention and deportation, and a historical distrust of the medical community.”

Christine Sadovy, legislative director of Planned Parenthood in New Jersey, spoke on a press call (pdf)1 about efforts in her state, pointing to a pair of bills moving through the legislature this week. The legislation would restore funding to family planning centers and undo policies implemented by the state’s former Republican governor, Chris Christie.

In 2010, Christie “eliminated a long-standing line item from the state budget that allowed Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers to offer birth control, cancer screenings, and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) testing and treatment to 136,000 people each year,” Sadovy explained. “We’re fighting forward for our patients. And we are proud to show what’s possible when we unite to protect our rights and freedoms.”

Mauricio Calvo, executive director of Latino Memphis, which works with Western Tennessee’s low-income families on issues related to education, social services, and immigration, also participated in the call. Calvo lauded the recently introduced Women’s Health Equity Bill, which would require all health insurance plans in the state to cover contraception and other reproductive healthcare services.

“This bill is a response to the Trump administration’s action to eliminate the guarantee for birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” Calvo emphasized, and “this bill takes concrete steps to protect birth control coverage in Tennessee and help safeguard every person’s right to control their own body.”

“Everyone deserves the freedom and opportunity to control their lives at the most basic level, including access to birth control, quality sex education, and safe, legal abortion,” Laguens concluded. “No matter what Trump and Pence say, your body is your own. If it is not, you cannot be truly free or equal.”

Common Dreams, February 14, 2018