By Dee Dee Myers
Over the past two years, legislators across the nation have engaged in an unprecedented attack on women’s health. Nowhere is that more evident than here in Florida.
In 2011, the Florida Legislature filed 18 bills attempting to roll back or limit women’s access to health care. In 2012, they filed nine more. Several of the bills were the most extreme in the country — and took direct aim at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider and advocate.
In November, voters sent a loud and clear message to legislators: Stop playing politics with women’s health. But some politicians still don’t get it.
Florida has two million uninsured women and nearly 1.9 million more who need contraceptive services and supplies. But instead of addressing these critical issues, the Florida Legislature has filed six bills this year that attempt to take away basic, preventive health care services from the women and families that need them most. And there’s more to come. Some of the bills on the horizon would make it nearly impossible for Planned Parenthood to provide women’s health services – including abortion – even though most Americans firmly believe that it should remain a safe and legal procedure.
One in five women in the United States has come to a Planned Parenthood health center at some point in her life — for cancer screenings, Pap tests, well-woman exams, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Each year, Planned Parenthood provides care to three million women, men and teens across the country. For many, it is their main source of health care. In Florida alone, more than 80,000 women receive care each year.
Women don’t come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement. They come for confidential, non-judgmental care. And they don’t want their health care to be politicized. So when legislators attack women’s health and Planned Parenthood, they’re attacking the single mother working two jobs who gets birth control at Planned Parenthood. They’re attacking the recently laid off woman who has nowhere else to turn. When they attack birth control, they attack virtually all women in the United States, since, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 99 percent of us have used it.
No doubt, these attacks will continue. But it doesn’t mean that women (and men) have to sit by and take it.
We have to continue to defend the Affordable Care Act, which will benefit 47 million women nationwide, by providing access to birth control and basic health services, like annual exams and cancer screenings, will with no co-pays.
And now that Gov. Rick Scott has decided to support Medicaid expansion, we have to demand that the Legislature follow his lead to provide basic, preventive health care to more than a million more women and families in Florida.
Instead of attacking women’s health, politicians need to focus on real issues that voters care about: growing the economy, creating jobs, improving schools, and expanding access to preventive health services.
I consider health care a basic human right, and every individual, regardless of race, gender, income, religion, sexual orientation, or where they live, should have access to it.
Dee Dee Myers served as White House press secretary during the Clinton administration. She is a political analyst, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and the author of “What Would Happen if Women Ruled the World.” She will be keynote speaker at Friday’s 22nd Annual Tradition of Choice Luncheon, which raises money for health and education services offered by Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. The luncheon takes place at The Kravis Center.