Why I’m fighting for Planned Parenthood in Congress

Since its creation, Planned Parenthood has endured countless attacks from extremist, anti-choice activists who believe defunding the organization would further their cause. In reality, that’s far from the truth.

As a member of Congress, one of my top priorities has been to ensure that every American can access the health services he or she needs – particularly preventative care that keeps our population healthy. Planned Parenthood provides these crucial services to thousands of women across the country and throughout New Hampshire – everything from cancer screenings, flu vaccines, and preventative STD testing/ treatment to general health care services and birth control prescriptions. These services represent 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s total budget.

With the other 3 percent – which by law cannot be funded by the federal government – Planned Parenthood also provides options for women facing unplanned pregnancies. As an adoption attorney for 25 years, I have represented hundreds of women facing the challenge of unplanned pregnancy. I strongly believe the decision regarding how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy is personal, private, and consequential – and I believe every woman has a right to make her own choice.

Providing birth control to women who are not yet ready to start their families is the best way to prevent unplanned pregnancies from happening.

For example, between 2009 and 2013, Colorado implemented a new state program to provide birth control (in the form of IUDs) at little or no cost to low-income women in specific counties around the state. During those years, Colorado’s teen birth rate plummeted by an astonishing 40 percent – and from 2009-2012, the teen abortion rate fell by a whopping 35 percent in the counties where the program was in effect. These types of programs show that increasing access to birth control – not taking it away – is what we should be fighting for in order to decrease the need for abortions.

That’s why it’s so outrageous that extreme, anti-choice activists are once again calling for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood – when this organization is providing millions of women with the very services needed to reduce the occurrence of abortions.

And that’s why I’m so astonished that some extremist, federal lawmakers in Congress are currently waging a war against Planned Parenthood’s funding. First of all, by law federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives does not support abortions – instead, it goes to the myriad of other health services patients need. Second of all, why wage a war on an organization that actually serves to limit the amount of unplanned pregnancies?

Congress should be looking for ways to ensure every woman can receive the treatment, care, and services – including birth control -she needs, not jumping on partisan political bandwagons in order to strip these services away from the thousands of women and families who depend on them.

It’s time to stop catering to extreme anti-choice activists and the endless political schemes they perpetuate in order to bring down an organization they don’t even truly understand. Instead, let’s support an organization that moves us all towards a common goal – limiting the occurrence of unplanned pregnancies and ensuring overall high-quality health outcomes for our communities.

I agree with the majority of Granite Staters who believe in every American’s right to access the health services he or she needs, and in a woman’s right to make her own personal health care decisions. For many women, these services would not be available without organizations like Planned Parenthood – after all, nearly 80 percent of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for care are low-income. Let’s protect their rights, and let’s join together to stand up against harmful attacks to women’s health in Congress and across the nation.

Rep. Annie Kuster represents the Second Congressional District of New Hampshire in the U.S. House of Representatives.