June 30, 2017 – By Jacqueline Souza

The constant legislative attack on women in the U.S. is not and never was about protecting family values, nor an attempt to shrink our national deficit and save taxpayer money. It’s always been about keeping women down and placing systematic holds on our autonomy as individuals. In recent years, Planned Parenthood has served as a symbol for the very things that women stand to lose under a Republican administration.

The Senate’s newly-drafted Better Care Reconciliation of 2017 (H.R. 1628) does a number of dangerous things. The bill, which was secretly drafted by a small group of exclusively male senators, allocates less taxpayer money towards combatting the urgent and national opioid crisis. Individuals with preexisting conditions may be unable to receive the care they need due to states’ being given rights to opt out of certain parts of different plan “requirements.” Medicaid will be slashed, and low-income customers will see their premium rates rise while the pharmaceutical industry continues to reap ungodly profits, even as over twenty million U.S. citizens would lose their health insurance.

As if the bill isn’t already catastrophic, H.R. 1628 also defunds Planned Parenthood by way of the extensive cuts to Medicaid. The talk about defunding the nonprofit group isn’t anything new, of course, but the threat of it actually occurring is as real as ever.

In the last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood comprised six hundred facilities across the U.S. and provided care and education for nearly five million Americans. Three quarters of their patients are classified as low-income earners who live at or below the federal poverty level; in 2016, one beneficiary would see only $12,060. Defunding Planned Parenthood would mean that the healthcare the group provides, would become largely inaccessible for millions of patients across the country.

Most Republican congressmen and politicians seek to defund Planned Parenthood because they provide legal abortion. To push for public approval of the defunding, these individuals lie to voters by declaring that citizens’ tax dollars directly fund the nonprofit, even though the only public funding Planned Parenthood receives occurs when Medicaid is used by patients to cover any small outstanding service costs. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of provided services- including early cancer screenings, pap tests, and breast examinations- do not involve abortion, which is a fact that many in Congress refuse to acknowledge.

Though, even if abortions were the only service that Planned Parenthood provided, that should not make a difference in public or political support of access to healthcare for women. When abortion is not accessible, it becomes a dangerous and physically unsafe act that a woman might feel the need to perform on herself. We cannot allow this to be a cultural norm as it once was.

The bottom line: H.R. 1628 is an attack on women everywhere and we cannot stand for it. It’s time to end the delegitimization of Planned Parenthood by men in power and start acknowledging it for what it really is- an absolute necessity. We will not know true equality until our basic rights are no longer under attack.

Jacqueline Souza is a former intern for the NewPeople who currently studies sociology and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in racial justice, social movements, and U.S. politics.