On Thursday, Dec.3, the first of three victims of the shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was laid to rest. While our thoughts and prayers were with the victims who were killed or injured, the Senate leadership was doubling down on its intent to divest millions of Americans access to necessary healthcare by defunding Planned Parenthood.
By Thursday evening, they had passed a measure that would repeal key aspects of the Affordable Care Act and strip Planned Parenthood of the roughly $450 million it receives in federal funds each year to provide patients with basic, life-saving care including cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control and HIV testing. Federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in extremely rare cases.
This isn’t the first time extreme politicians have exploited the aftermath and anguish of tragedy to infringe upon women's rights. Thus far in the 114th Congress, there have been 18 anti-women’s health votes, and the Senate has already twice rejected attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Yesterday marked the first time the Senate was able to actually pass a measure to defund Planned Parenthood. President Obama has stated he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk, making the vote largely symbolic.
But symbolic of what? The willingness to wage war upon America’s women? The right to use irresponsible, anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric without accepting responsibility for the violence it inflames? Creating a second class of healthcare refugees who must journey miles from home to access everything from cancer screenings to abortions?
In Michigan, we serve more than 70,000 patients each year, the vast majority of whom qualify for Medicaid and other federally-funded programs. For many of them, we are the only health care they will receive in a given year. It is for them—and for the 2.7 million patients Planned Parenthood serves each year nationally—that we will continue to fight for the right to quality reproductive care safe from intimidation, harassment and violence.
Today, more victims will be laid to rest. We will spend the day mourning the loss of life, honoring the sacrifice of those who were injured, and providing high-quality, compassionate health care to those who continue to rely upon us. We won't be deterred by violence, smear campaigns, or cynical political attacks.
Our doors will stay open, no matter what.