In recent conversations with my mother and a friend’s grandmother, I was reminded of the immense struggle that previous generations went through in the early part of the 20th century to achieve women’s healthcare rights and access to family planning services. It struck me how easily my generation has been able to forget that rights to women’s reproductive healthcare including access to birth control and legal abortion have not always been a right. These rights were demanded by and fought for by our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and aunts. They are responsible for helping all women obtain the right to important health services and ultimately the right to choose what to do with their own body.
Polling suggests that most people support the preventive care that Planned Parenthood provides. However, many lawmakers in America think that Planned Parenthood only provides abortion services, that it is simply a clinic for the poor and irresponsible to go to for help. In reality, Planned Parenthood provides thousands of women the basic healthcare they require to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. In Pennsylvania, over 95% of PP’s services are preventive, meaning that they perform everything from pap smears and breast examinations to screenings for cervical cancer to family planning services. Most importantly, Planned Parenthood offers a safe environment where high-quality care is provided at an affordable price.
Over the past year and a half there has been an increase in the political debates and media coverage surrounding women’s reproductive healthcare, with hot button issues like abortion and birth control as the main focus. While abortion has always been a controversial issue that elicits major public response, the increasing political debates about birth control seems to have taken center stage. Perhaps one of the most significant achievements in women’s reproductive health in the last thirty years is contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Birth control is also symbolic of a woman’s freedom and ability to have control over her own life. However, rather than be recognized as solely a woman’s health issue, attacks on birth control have also been framed as an issue of religious freedom. In truth, these debates are centered around restricting access to contraception, thereby undermining and infringing upon our freedoms and rights as women.
The “War on Women” threatens to infringe and even take away our reproductive health rights; it is a war with a political agenda that illustrates how little policy makers and political leaders understand or care about women’s health and the needs of women everywhere. In light of the 39th anniversary of Roe V. Wade’s earlier this year, the numerous attacks on birth control, the impending Supreme Court’s decision on ACA and Pennsylvania’s new “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priorities Act,” there is no time like the present for our generation to come together and become more involved in protecting our rights and our bodies. If we don’t fight to keep the reproductive health coverage the generations before us fought for, it can and will be taken away.