Bravo to our local leaders who affirmed in their recent resolutions that Planned Parenthood is a key public health partner in our community. Planned Parenthood supports sex education in local schools and provides critical services for teen pregnancy prevention. Our health centers on the Central Coast offer a wide range of health services to primarily low-income women. Services include annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. And, yes, they provide safe and legal abortions, which are not supported by federal funds.
It has been 99 years since Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. Local philanthropist and fellow suffragist Katharine McCormick helped finance the development of the birth control pill, which finally allowed women (and men) to plan their families. But this work has never been without controversy. In fact, it wasn’t until 50 years ago that birth control was legalized. And 42 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that women have the constitutional right to an abortion. Opponents of Planned Parenthood continue the long tradition of attempting to control the personal reproductive decisions of women, and now they threaten to shut down the government and defund Planned Parenthood.
They harass women and their trusted health-care providers, release selectively edited videos, and repeat blatant falsehoods on the campaign trail about Planned Parenthood and the women they serve. The great irony of these efforts, of course, is that limiting access to Planned Parenthood will likely result in an increase in unintended pregnancies and increased rates of abortion. Meanwhile, the fetal tissue research that opponents decry has resulted in life-saving medical treatments.
We can trust women to know when they have the family support, emotional strength, and financial means required to nurture a child from infancy to adulthood. Decisions about whether to raise a child, choose adoption, or end a pregnancy are personal moral and medical decisions best made by a woman, in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her faith. Politicians should have no role.
The journey for women toward reproductive freedom has been long and hard-fought. Civil rights movements in this nation have moved us slowly and deliberately toward justice. As has often been noted, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. We rely on elected leaders to ensure we do not waver on this path.
Susan Deacon is vice chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Santa Barbara, Ventura, & San Luis Obispo.