BY CAITLIN CLEMENT
One of the biggest and most talked-about controversies among the political atmosphere today is how women’s access to abortion and contraceptives should be regulated and where to draw the line.
Due to the debate surrounding abortion, it’s harder for women, especially in low-income families, to access services such as contraception and cancer screenings.
As the number one provider of abortion, stated in an article by CNN, Planned Parenthood has been the recipient of backlash from movements like the pro-life and anti-abortion movements.
In addition to these services, Planned Parenthood has been a major advocate in sexual education among women and a promoter of access to safe sex for all women.
Sami Peick, a senior music education major, stated how Planned Parenthood had helped her in times of confusion surrounding sex and birth control when she didn’t feel comfortable asking women she knew.
“Planned Parenthood has been very helpful in situations in which I haven’t really known where to go or I haven’t known who to ask,” Peick said. “I got birth control from them when I was sexually assaulted in high school and I needed to get Plan B and they helped me and didn’t make me feel judged.”
Peick was even able to get a discount for being a student because she wasn’t making a consistent amount of money, which she says has been helpful since she has had to try different types of contraception over her college years.
Peick also referred to the amount of education she received at Planned Parenthood from types of birth control and side effects to payment methods and health insurance.
“They make sure I’m comfortable with what’s happening to my body and they (make sure) I know of the consequences,” Peick said, “(which is) something that I didn’t always feel happened at the OBGYN or gynecologists I’ve been to.”
It’s no secret that the Trump administration and Republican Party have made the issues on abortion and contraception rights one of their campaign topics thus far.
At the beginning of his term, President Trump signed a bill that would nullify a rule from the Obama administration. The Obama administration sought to effectively barr state and federal governments from withholding funding from family planning services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screenings, regardless of whether or not they provide abortion services.
This legislative action gave permission to the states to defund family planning services, such as Planned Parenthood, who offer abortion.
More recently Trump made a public address during the March for Life on Jan. 19 giving his support to the cause.
Earlier in 2017, former Gov. of Iowa Terry Branstad passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and allocate funds towards the state-run Family Planning Network. This prompted the shutdown of four Planned Parenthood sites later in the summer.
These numerous legislative changes are making it harder for women, especially in low-income families, to access services such as contraception and cancer screenings, both of which are provided by Planned Parenthood.
In a press release responding to data on the effects of defunding compiled by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), Erin Davidson-Rippey, public affairs director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartlands, said “… this initial report appears to show exactly the dangers we warned lawmakers about. There have been sharp declines both in the number of people enrolled in the (state) program and the number of people accessing services.”
According to the report there was a 48 percent decline in members for the Iowa Family Planning Network Waiver from Oct. 1, 2016, before the bill, to October of 2017. Of the 6,897 who are enrolled, only 2,664 people actually accessed services this quarter.
The data is showing that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attain contraceptives in Iowa due to the war on Planned Parenthood. Many women who are of low-income count on Planned Parenthood and the federal or state funding in order to receive health care services.
The data from DHS shows that fewer than 500 providers participating in Iowa’s new family planning are not enough to handle the absorption of patients coming from Planned Parenthoods. This further bridges the gap towards affordable and accessible healthcare for women.
Statistics provided by Planned Parenthood show 2,840,000 people count on such access to healthcare, not just for contraception, around the country each year. Shutdowns of Planned Parenthood sites like those in Iowa are a hit for those who rely on the affordable healthcare it provides.
NPR found that only 42 percent of women use birth control to prevent pregnancy. For the other 58 percent, it’s been used for treating acne, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, hormone imbalances and has been shown to prevent types of cancer among women.
“Providing birth control for women of all socioeconomic statuses will save a lot of money and resources from being used on unwanted pregnancies,” first-year Alee Bruns said. “Women who are being sexually responsible and seeking out birth control should not be denied it.”
Women’s healthcare in the United States has seen a decline in recent decades. As a result, the U.S has the highest rate of maternity deaths than any other developed country, Renee Montagne said in an NPR article. In fact, the amount of deaths per year is still rising.
Montagne stated in the article that only 6 percent of block grant funding toward “maternal and child health” actually go towards the mothers.
In another recent press release done by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Davidson-Rippey gave a statement saying, “Iowans are fed up with politicians’ ongoing sense of entitlement to tell women what to do with their own bodies.”
This emotion towards the political climate around women’s healthcare is shown in the introduction of a recent bill in the Iowa legislature, Senate File 67, bringing a possible win for those advocating for more accessible birth control.
The bill would allow for pharmacists to prescribe and dispense self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives. The pharmacist can also dispense these items even if someone doesn’t have evidence from a previous prescription given by a practitioner for the contraceptives.
It will also require all pharmacists to go through a standardized training program approved by the Department of Public Health, provide a self-screening risk assessment tool to the patient as well as making sure the patient is educated on all forms of birth control before prescribing.
In theory, the bill will effectively protect birth control by separating it from those organizations offering abortion services and allowing for an easier access amongst all women in Iowa.
However, the bill has yet to pass, so it is a waiting game for some to see what the lobbyists and representatives will decide. For more details on Senate File 67 visit the Iowa Legislation website.
2017 was a big year for the fight for better access to contraception and women’s healthcare, but the women who believe in the cause must continue to advocate for their bodies.
“The less locations of Planned Parenthood or organizations like Planned Parenthood there are, the less that women would be able to advocate for themselves … for their bodies,” Peick said.