Many of the same forces behind the constitutional challenge to President Obama's historic health care reform are simultaneously waging an unconstitutional war on women's health.
Laura Bassett, writing in Huffington Post, says that 18 states have passed one or more measures to limit the services that Planned Parenthood can offer in what she calls an "unprecedented avalanche of attacks" on the family planning provider in this year's legislative sessions.
Legislatures in five states – Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin – voted to defund Planned Parenthood altogether because some of its clinics include privately-funded abortions along with such services as affordable exams, cancer and STD screening and birth control for men and women.
In the three states (Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas) where Planned Parenthood challenged the new laws, judges temporarily blocked the legislation and unanimously ruled that state governments may not punish a particular health provider for offering abortions, a legal, constitutionally-protected medical service (see also, Roe v. Wade).
Because many Planned Parenthood facilities serve rural communities, low-income women with little or no health insurance will be particularly hard hit by the funding cuts.
In Texas, the legislation would cut off funds at year's end to the Women's Health Program, a Medicaid program that provides exams, screenings and health care services to 120,000 low-income women. The program generates $9 in federal funding for every $1 spent by the Lone Star State. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that 284,000 women could lose family planning services as a result of the law, which could cost $100 million in Medicaid births during the next two years.
In Arizona, new laws require a woman to make two separate visits to a doctor before she can obtain an abortion and ban specially-trained nurse practitioners from performing first-trimester surgical or oral medication abortions, both of which stand to increase the number of more dangerous later-term abortions.
Planned Parenthood attorney Roger Evans said that one thing is certain to come of this legislative pig-pile: a massive legal bill to taxpayers in these states to defend the unconstitutional actions of their elected officials. "You talk about irresponsibility – this is the height of irresponsibility," he says.
As long as the naysayers are so keenly focused on the constitutionality of health care reform, perhaps it's a good time to remind them that women have a constitutional right to choose abortion in the United States. Other women's health services also have become more affordable and widespread as a direct result of Roe v. Wade.
For packs of predominately male politicians to so cruelly shred these advances made by and for women strikes me as the height of demagoguery.
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