WICHITA, Kan. - A few committed students from Wichita State University took it upon themselves to organize a rally in support of Planned Parenthood. They were compelled to do so as they watched the recent national and state attempts to defund the organization that is often the only access point to obtain low cost reproductive health care for many low income college students and other low income women within their community.
Shanna Kay Crowe contacted me and asked me to speak at the rally. I accepted and was inspired to see so many men and women across all spectrum of age, gathered to voice support for this important organization. Local media covered the event and gave great exposure to this great cause. Several people commented on the speech I gave, so I have included its text below.
I am glad to see all of you here! Your presence is important, your voices are necessary, just like Planned Parenthood's services are necessary. I am State Coordinator for the Kansas National Organization for Women. My organization stands with Planned Parenthood as we advocate for the rights of women and their families to be free to make personal medical decisions without unnecessary and politically motivated intrusions.
This attempted defund of Planned Parenthood is not new to us in Kansas. We saw it attempted in the last legislative session. The vote was hard to comprehend. We saw Democrats and Republicans alike, line up, eager to strip 150,000 low income women of a vital access point to prevent unwanted pregnancies, receive affordable pap smears and the treatment and prevention of STD's. Their "yea" votes were a direct attack on the ideals of equality and economic justice. Thankfully, we had Governor Parkinson in office and he line item vetoed the budget proviso. I'm afraid that we won't be so fortunate this time around.
I'll tell you what they should be doing in Topeka, they should be looking for ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies.... but they are not. Instead, they are busy orchestrating continuous legislative attacks against women's health care. These attacks serve them well. These attacks are attention grabbing, reactionary devices used to advance their personal political agendas. This handy political tool has real life consequences that contribute to the continued struggle for many women of various circumstances, but most profoundly the poor and the uninsured.
What they should be doing in Topeka is increasing funding for family planning, increasing access points for family planning services and sex education for youth. But instead of finding common ground in these pregnancy prevention initiatives, women continue to find increasing obstacles, increasing hostility, outright denial and lies. In Washington's recent budget fight where Planned Parenthood funding was inserted into the debate, GOP Senator Jon Kyl stated that "well over 90% of Planned Parenthood's services are related to abortion", when in fact it is only 3%.
These roadblocks toward common sense preventive solutions are the result of a fractured political system, a political system where elected officials are increasingly concerned with their personal short-term political gains, rather than the long-term well being of society as a whole. Poor women in need of reproductive health care do not wield the influence that the pro-life movement and religious groups do. The lack of empathy for women in need of low cost reproductive health care is but one part of the bigger problem, which is the overall lack of empathy for women and the poor.
We know that upper class women will still receive their birth control. Upper class women will still have the freedom to decide if, when and how often have children. Upper class women will have access to safe, affordable, and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.
And as we ponder income, it is important to ask... what is the cost of an untended pregnancy? Publicly funded family planning clinics generated net public savings of at least $5.1 billion in Medicaid expenditures. Each dollar spent to provide family planning services saves Kansas an estimated $6.14 that would otherwise be spent in Medicaid-related costs. These fiscal discussions don't make headlines or grab the public's attention quite like a good ol' abortion debate.
Something else you won't hear is a discussion of the social cost of unintended pregnancies. According to recent Kansas Action for Children data, 40% of Kansas kids are growing up in low-income or poverty stricken households. Additional social costs of unintended pregnancy can be measured in unintended births, reduced educational opportunity, greater welfare dependency, and increased potential for child abuse and neglect.
Behind closed doors, something I often hear coming from many legislators Topeka is an expressed appreciation for our advocacy on behalf of women, but then they hide behind the stated "will of the people" or listening to the desires of their constituency. Well, the "will of the people" is most often the will of the richest people, the will of the powerful people, the will of the loudest people.
It is time for you to be LOUD!! We must show them that the true public interest is what benefits society as a whole, not just the moral subjective declarations of a bullying, often violent faction of society. We MUST continue to stand up to those that believe that they can win through intimidation, through harassment and the misuse of their political power. Call them up and call them out! Let them know you support access to low cost reproductive health care, let them know you support equality of opportunity, let them know you support Planned Parenthood.