Editorial by Rep. Sara Gideon, the assistant House majority leader
This week Democrats stood up for health care access and for women’s reproductive rights as we turned back attempts to undermine women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Maine.
I’m proud to report that I and my fellow Democratic legislative leaders stood with Planned Parenthood as we said, “No” to proposed bills that targeted this vital health care provider.
We know, as Mainers across the state do, that Planned Parenthood keeps women, men and young people healthy. Right here in Maine, Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive health care to 10,000 patients a year.
Men and women like you and me, or like your son and your daughter, or perhaps even like your parents before you. I myself relied on a Planned Parenthood wellness doctor when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford health care.
The organization’s services include birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and safe abortion. Planned Parenthood’s work has helped significantly lower rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in Maine.
Planned Parenthood is a key part of our safety net too. Many of its patients would literally have nowhere else to turn for medical care and family planning. In fact, half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas, and 66 percent of it patients receive free or discounted care.
Planned Parenthood opponents claim that community health centers could simply step in and fill the gap if the organization was defunded.
But an analysis from the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 630,000 Planned Parenthood patients nationally would lose access to care defunding efforts succeeded.
Make no mistake about it: this is simply part of the cynical attempt to limit women’s access to safe and legal abortion. It’s just another smokescreen – like the discredited, doctored videos that have been at the center of the political sideshow in Washington, D.C.
Mainers across the state are well-aware of accusations against Planned Parenthood and they know they are false. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of Maine voters oppose congressional Republicans’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Fifty-five percent are strongly opposed.
Extremists in Congress were willing to hold all of American hostage in pursuit of their agenda. We say “No” to importing this political circus to our state.
We could have seen some of this in Maine, but we squashed that effort by rejecting proposals before the Legislative Council, the bipartisan group of leaders that determines which bills can move forward for the upcoming legislative session.
We will not let anyone hold a woman’s access to safe and affordable health care hostage. A person’s health is not available for sale. It’s not available for trade and it’s certainly not available for blackmail.
That’s the promise we Democratic leaders affirmed this week, one that we will continue to honor. You can count on that.
I’m Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport, and I stand with Planned Parenthood.