Friday, March 30, 2012

The President's Message to Planned Parenthood

I am the father of two daughters, a former RN, and a long-time feminist. I have had the privilege of serving on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Health Services of Southwest Oregon; Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon; and, as a founding member of the Planned Parenthood Oregon PAC. During that same period, I was also a member of the state board of directors at Oregon NARAL.

One-in-four women will use the services of Planned Parenthood during the course of their lives, for all kinds of reasons related to reproductive health. Planned Parenthood counselors help millions of American women plan their families, and tend to their personal health. They provide advice, STD prevention, pregnancy testing, access to contraception, physical examinations, breast exams; and, access to safe pregnancy termination if that is the express desire of the patient.

It is important to note that almost all of Planned Parenthood's mission and programs are designed to minimize the incidence of abortion.  Huge budgets are devoted to appropriate sex education and community outreach. Education programs help kids and young adults build successful, honest relationships, avoid STDs, and deal with difficult issues like body image and peer pressure. Adult education programs teach about birth control, general healthcare, pregnancy and family planning. Planned Parenthood health centers are a safe place for candid, accurate advice on sex and sexuality. The Organization has been providing these services for over 95 years through 75 locally governed affiliates that run 800 health care centers nationwide.  More than 90 percent of care provided in these health centers is preventative, primary care - a fact that is lost on those who inaccurately characterize Planned Parenthood as an "abortion provider." The local affiliate that I helped govern, for example, did not even provide abortion services - as there were adequate resources in this medical community to address that need.

It is, however, important that when women decide to terminate a pregnancy  there are provisions made for a safe and sanitary clinical procedure conducted by a qualified physician. Especially in areas where there is a lack of service providers. History teaches us one thing. Women will take the matter into their own hands under desperate circumstances, and put their own health and well-being at risk to manage family planning. Given that certain knowledge, it is nothing short of crass, politically-driven malpractice to deny this population control over their own bodies, access to safe clinics, and the right to chose their own course based on their own values.

I have a well-known position on access to health care and patient rights, gleaned from my years in the health care delivery system. And I have a sense of what it was like before women were handed control over their own reproductive systems. A dear friend of mine suffered through a back-ally, motel-based abortion before the procedure was legal. It was a horrifying experience for her and those of us who loved and supported her. I vowed then to work to ensure that kind of often injurious illicit procedure would go away so future generations of young women wouldn't be subject to such an unnecessary, intrusive, and out-of-line experience.

I am, therefore, very gratified to hear this kind of unequivocal statement from the President of the United States. 

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