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Women who serve in the military risk their lives every day fighting for our freedoms, now it’s time they enjoy the same freedoms in return. 

Under current policy, if a woman in the military is raped and wants a safe and legal abortion she must pay for it on her own dime — without insurance coverage.  Government-sponsored health insurance covers abortion services for federal employees and Medicaid recipients when pregnancy results from rape, but military women are denied this same coverage.

It’s a discriminatory policy — and completely unfair to these brave women who give up a great deal to protect our rights.  Now it’s time we protect their rights.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced and successfully passed out of committee an amendment that has received broad bipartisan support, as well as support from military leaders in the Department of Defense.  Her measure would provide coverage for abortion in cases of rape or incest.  Now is the time to act!  Contact your members of Congress, and urge them to keep this critical protection for military women.  ​

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Great news out of Ohio!  In a double victory for women’s health, Ohio legislators called off two controversial bills that would have restricted women’s access to make their own health care decisions.

After more than four anti-women’s health bills became law since the 2011-2012 legislature began, Ohioans had enough!  They sent more than 211,000 letters calling on legislators to put an end to these dangerous and extreme bills, and their voices were heard loud and clear.

Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus showed he was willing to put women’s health above politics, by acknowledging the work Planned Parenthood does every day in the state: "From my perspective, you have to look at the entirety of the work that is done by Planned Parenthood, and I believe that they offer much-needed services that are not offered other places.”

With this in mind, the Senate stopped these bills — one that could have enacted the most restrictive abortion ban in the country and another that was designed to defund Planned Parenthood.

While these bills may be dead in the current session, Planned Parenthood supporters and advocates are calling on legislators to continue to put politics aside and put women’s health first in the remainder of the lame duck session and in 2013.

This great victory happened because of the fearless supporters and activists from across the state of Ohio.  When the bill designed to defund Planned Parenthood was pushed forward, Ohioans sent 3,064 petition signatures, 138,121 e-mails to legislators, 1,487 e-mails to the Governor, and made more than 1,453 calls to legislators.  They packed the hearing rooms, and had more than 40 letters to the editors published, advocating against this anti-women’s health bill.

When the “heartbeat” bill, that could ban abortion as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant, came down the pike, Ohioans did not sit on the sidelines.  They sent 73,356 e-mails to their legislators and made more than a thousand calls, with hundreds of visits to their local legislator’s offices.

The fight is far from over as a bill that would ban abortion under certain circumstances, along with the appointment of Michael Gonidakis — the President of Ohio Right to Life and staunch opponent of women’s health — to a five-year term on the State Medical Board. 


Discuss

There are a few weeks left for this Congress to finish its business by December 31.  The biggest issues (and most consequential) involve “sequestration” and “the fiscal cliff.”  But what does it all mean and what are the implications?  We’ve put together an all-you-need-to-know guide about the fiscal cliff, including sequestration and its potential impact on women’s health.

7 Questions About Sequestration and the Fiscal Cliff

   

  1. What exactly are the “fiscal cliff” and “sequestration” and why is everybody talking about them?  

    The fiscal cliff is a term used to describe the combination of expiring policies, including the Bush tax cuts, Obama payroll tax cuts, and the impending sequestration (across the board budget cuts) set to take place January 2.  If the government allows tax rates to increase, in conjunction with cuts to major government programs, it could seriously affect the economy and job growth throughout the country. 

    “Sequestration” is a one-word term for “sequester cuts” — draconian budget cuts split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending, with exemptions for Medicaid and Social Security among others.  These across the board cuts begin in January 2013 unless Congress passes a bill to prevent them.  While important programs like Medicaid and Social Security are exempt, the impact of these cuts will severely undermine our nation’s health care infrastructure.  In fact, according to an official Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report on sequestration, there is “no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.” 
            
  2. Why is it happening now?

    Remember that “super committee” last year?  They were a bipartisan group of 12 senators and House members tasked with finding a budget solution that reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.  When they failed to come up with a deal, these automatic across the board cuts (also referred to as sequestration) were triggered.  These cuts on spending for both defense and non-defense programs, including the Title X family planning program and grants under the Affordable Care Act (the health care law), will go into effect on January 2, 2013.  One thing everybody agrees on is that they do not want the sequestration to take effect.
            
  3. What is the potential impact of sequestration?

    If the sequestration cuts take effect, quite simply, the impact will be severe.  The specifics of what gets cut from each program are unclear, but some estimate the Title X family planning program, which provides affordable preventive care to more than five million people each year, would face up to $24 million in funding cuts, bringing overall funding down to $270 million.  Other women’s health programs like affordable chlamydia screening programs for low-income women that help prevent infertility could face steep cuts as well.
            
  4. So, what happens next?

    It’s now up to Congress and the White House to develop a plan that avoids these detrimental cuts while still tackling our nation’s deficit.  Some speculate that Congress can fully address both by coming up with a new budget deal during the post-election session, while others have suggested they punt and defer responsibility to the next Congress which starts in January.  Either way, if this Congress takes action to prevent sequestration (as many expect), it will trigger a renewed legislative debate over proposals to reduce the deficit — a debate that women and families have a huge stake in.  And if they don’t, cuts to important programs like Title X and grants under the Affordable Care Act grants will take place.

    In any budget debate, our priority is to protect women’s health care programs, including Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the Title X family planning program.
         

       
  5. Who is working to prevent sequestration?

    Right now, the White House and congressional leaders are working closely together to broker a deal.  At some point, more members of Congress will be engaged (as they have to vote for it!).  But no matter who is in the driver’s seat, it matters most how much they hear from people in America about their priorities.   
  6. If politicians avoid the fiscal cliff, including sequestration, through budget negotiations, what’s the potential impact on women’s health programs?
    If the fiscal cliff, including sequestration, is avoided, that means Congress and the White House have to come up with a new deal to reduce the deficit — which means we will have to work hard to protect the programs that women and families rely on most, including Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.  While many programs that Planned Parenthood patients rely on could be affected by the ongoing budget debate, the Affordable Care Act is most at risk for funding cuts.  This includes cuts to women’s preventive health benefits as well as insurance coverage subsides that provide a way for low-income people to buy health insurance.  Already more than 45 million women have received preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and Pap tests with no co-pay under the Affordable Care Act, and under the law, access to affordable health insurance will become available for the nearly 13 million women of reproductive age who will be newly eligible for insurance coverage.  These are just some of the benefits that could be cut if politicians make cuts to the health care law during budget negotaions.

    Also, potentially at risk is the Medicaid program which provides health coverage for approximately 60 million people, and with Medicaid expansion set to begin in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, the number of people covered will only increase.  Needless to say, it’s not a small line-item in the budget.  Because of the price tag, policymakers who are looking for places to make significant cuts in spending may look to Medicaid.

    Right now one in 10 women relies on Medicaid for her health care needs.  Hispanic Americans account for 29 percent of Medicaid enrollees, and black Americans account for one in four.  For women, Medicaid can mean the difference between getting cancer screenings and birth control, or going without.  Currently, Medicaid protects women’s access to family planning by ensuring coverage and giving women the ability to choose their own health care provider.  There are a number of proposals out there that could restructure and redefine how the program functions — but many of these proposals could reduce access and cause women to lose these important benefits.

       
  7. What is Planned Parenthood fighting for? 

    Planned Parenthood is fighting for all programs that expand access to health care, especially for women.  The Affordable Care Act is the greatest advancement for women’s health in a generation — expanding health care for millions of women, including access to birth control with no co-pay and preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings.  Medicaid, the Title X family planning program, and the CDC infertility prevention project are crucial lifesaving programs for women’s health.  For millions of women, Medicaid and Title X make the difference between access to cancer screenings and birth control or going without.  It’s especially important that Congress protect these programs because investing in family planning programs not only saves lives, it saves taxpayers money.

    With potential cuts on the table, it is more important than ever to raise awareness about what is at stake for women’s health and the important preventive services Planned Parenthood provides.


Discuss

Yesterday at the vice presidential debate, Martha Raddatz asked the question that many had in mind: with consideration to their Catholic faiths, where do Paul Ryan and Joe Biden stand on the issue of abortion?

Ryan responded first saying, “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith….” So, Ryan seems to be saying that his private morality becomes the country’s public morality?

He went on to say that “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.” But Ryan also gave a coded and somewhat abstract answer that alluded to the fact that both he and Governor Romney want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Without Roe v. Wade, states would be free to ban abortion outright.

Ryan went on to falsely claim that the Obama administration has permitted taxpayer funding of abortion, conveniently omitting the well-known fact that the Hyde Amendment, (which has prohibited taxpayer funding for abortion except in cases of rape and incest or to save of the life of the woman since Congress passed it in 1976) was reaffirmed via an executive order by President Obama.

What was abundantly clear with Ryan’s answer was that not only does he want to impose his religious views upon the American public, but he also wants to restrict a woman’s right to make her own health care choices.

In contrast, Joe Biden, who is also Catholic, answered the question a bit differently:


My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life…. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.

Right on, Joe! The decision to have a safe and legal abortion is a complicated and personal one, best left up to a woman, her family, her faith, and her medical provider. Obama/Biden get it.  Romney/Ryan don’t.

At the end of the debate, when Raddatz asked, “If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?” The answer was clear: yes.

For more from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, check out womenarewatching.org


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 A new study shows that when women have equal access to no-cost birth control methods, it leads to drastically lower rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. It's a preview of what Obamacare could look like when fully implemented — and it shows that it works.

By tracking more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, the study found that when teens were given a choice of a range of different contraceptives and given access to them, teen birth rates decreased significantly as did the number of abortions.

This study is another demonstration of what’s at stake in this election.  While President Obama continues to protect and expand women’s access to affordable health care, Mitt Romney pledges to repeal the Affordable Care Act “on day one.”  And his running mate, Paul Ryan, has said he will get rid of the birth control benefit on day one.  Romney and Ryan want to separate health care from economic concerns, but this study proves birth control IS an economic issue.  Women can spend up to $600 a year on birth control and more than a third of women voters having struggled to afford it (and therefore used it inconsistently).

Low-income women are far more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than their wealthier counterparts.  This study was the latest to show the connection: 39 percent had trouble paying basic expenses.  When you’re struggling to pay the bills, the high cost of birth control can seem secondary. 

But affordable access to birth control does not just benefit the individual; it’s an important public health issue that affects the country as well.  With nearly half of the nation’s more than six million pregnancies unintended, they can cost taxpayers $11 billion dollars a year.  In fact, every dollar invested in family planning saves taxpayers $3.74.  It’s a good investment.

So, the good news is that Obamacare works.  The bad news is there are many trying to take this important benefit away.  That’s why we need to make sure voters know just how important affordable access to health care is, and why they need to protect it.  This study is a step in the right direction, and we have many more to go.

    For more from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, check out womenarewatching.org


Discuss

Tonight, President Obama and Mitt Romney will join one another on stage for the first of three presidential debates.  The topic?  Domestic policy.

The debate will be broken down into a number of sections, including three on jobs and the economy, one on health care, another on the role of government, and the last on governing.

While you can expect to hear a lot about jobs and the economy, it’s important to remember women’s health issues are economic issues.  While you may hear Romney discuss his belief that government shouldn’t be involved in health care, it’s important to remember this belief doesn’t stop him from trying to regulate women’s health and rights. 

Over the course of the campaign Mitt Romney has tried to duck the questions and hide his agenda until after the election, and tonight’s debate may be more of the same.  That’s why we’ve pulled together a brief round-up of the important facts you need to know about where the candidates stand. 

-       Women’s Health issues are economic issues

Romney wants to separate health care from economic concerns, but that’s not the reality for women across America.  The cost of birth control (which can be up to $600 dollars a year) is the equivalent of five weeks of groceries, nine tanks of gas in a minivan, or even one semester of college textbooks.  Because of the high cost of birth control, 34 percent of women voters have struggled to afford it and therefore used it inconsistently.  Furthermore, birth control has helped close the gender wage gap — researchers found the pill accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap in the 1980s.  Since birth control became available, women have been able to invest in their careers and pursue an education.

-       Romney wants to eliminate the Title X family planning program

Title X, the nation’s family planning program, which more than five million people rely on, was signed into law by Richard Nixon and championed by President George H.W. Bush.  Romney doesn’t follow his conservative counterparts when it comes to family planning and wants to completely dismantle the program.  Not only is this harmful to the millions of women and families who benefit from the program every year, but it’s fiscally irresponsible.  Every dollar invested in federal family planning saves taxpayers and families $3.74.

-       Romney’s Promise to repeal Obamacare would undo the greatest advancement for women’s health in a generation

Already, more than 45 million women have received preventive care with no co-pay thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  Women will no longer be charged higher premiums and discriminated against, simply because of their gender, and they can no longer be denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions” like breast cancer or even pregnancy.  In addition, 3.1 million young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans; more than 30 million Americans who would be otherwise uninsured stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act; and 12.8 million women of reproductive age will gain access to insurance coverage.

-       Romney would restrict a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about her own health

Every woman should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including access to safe and legal abortion, but Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. Romney called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history” and said he wants the decision to be overturned, ending safe and legal abortion. He also has openly supported "personhood" measures, which could not only ban abortion with no exceptions, but it could also outlaw forms of birth control. Decisions about whether to end a pregnancy or adopt a child are personal and private decisions, best left up to a woman in consultation with her family, her faith and doctor — not by politicians.

-       President Obama understands the health and economic challenges women face — and has fought to address them

The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — to protect women’s right to receive equal pay for equal work.  Since then, he has stood by women, expanding health care coverage for women and families with the Affordable Care Act and ensuring access to birth control for millions of women by requiring insurance companies to provide coverage with no additional co-pays.  Obama has been a consistent advocate for women’s health and women’s rights.  When Planned Parenthood came under attack, Obama refused to give in to the demands of out-of-touch politicians and made sure Planned Parenthood could continue providing care to the nearly three million patients it sees each year.

When it comes to issues that directly affect women’s health, there is no comparison.  While Mitt Romney has promised to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood and end Title X, President Obama has done more for women’s health than any president in history and has stood with Planned Parenthood time and again, when it’s mattered most.  When you tune in to watch tonight’s debate, make sure you know the facts. 

Discuss

There have been some whoppers this summer. Nothing like an effort to make health insurance more affordable and available to all Americans to bring out the conspiracy theorists. Among my "favorite" whoppers:

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What do young people have to say to Congress about health care reform?

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Linda Tonner was 60 years old when she felt a nagging pain in her breast. She was divorced, made very little money at her job, and didn’t have health insurance.

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Hello again!

In DC, inside that thing we call the Capitol, members of Congress are getting downright scrappy about health care reform.

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Um, not to brag, but we’re assuming you’ve heard of Planned Parenthood.  You might know us from our political and advocacy work, which helps ensure that US policies protect reproductive and sexual health.  Perhaps you’ve visited one of 850 Planned Parenthood community health centers to receive quality, affordable care.  You may even be hip to our international program, which helps women, men, and families in 17 countries around the world overcome barriers to accessing reproductive and sexual health services.

No matter how much you know about Planned Parenthood, one thing is clear:  we are everywhere, and we’re more than most people think.

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Hi everyone,

Below is a message in response to the murder of Dr. Tiller from Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards, along with an open letter that you may sign.

I'm simply overwhelmed by all the kind and thoughtful comments honoring Dr. Tiller that we've received on our Facebook Page, which I'll make sure to pass along to his family. (If you wish, you can add your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to use our memorial graphic above on your blogs and social networking profiles.)

Again, I cannot thank you all enough for your incredible support of Dr. Tiller and the reproductive rights community. It means so much to the Planned Parenthood staff and helps us keep going in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.  Please read, sign, and send around our open letter below.

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood Action Fund

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