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Suzanna deBaca is the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

State senators, when faced with the crowd, cut the hearing short — halting citizen testimony after 25 minutes to rush the bill forward on a party-line vote

On Jan. 21, people flooded the streets of our nation in huge numbers to resist attacks on women’s health and dignity.

Over three million, all told, turned out in communities across the globe to march. As I watch state lawmakers grind forward with legislation here in Iowa, though, I’ve seen first-hand that Saturday’s outpouring of energy and solidarity has begun to spill into corridors of power to counter attacks on Planned Parenthood here at home.

Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill — Senate File 2 — that would “defund” Planned Parenthood, despite more than 30,000 Iowans every year relying on Planned Parenthood health centers for care. On Tuesday as I waited to testify before a state Senate subcommittee considering the bill, I watched as women’s health advocates flocked to the capitol building in support of our work for reproductive and sexual health.

A Des Moines Register account of the hearing counted the number of protesters in the hundreds. According to the paper, “400 raucous supporters of Planned Parenthood stood in the hallways outside the door,” while a crowd of 200 filled the room to capacity. Of course, I wasn’t surprised by Planned Parenthood supporters’ powerful presence — not in the least.


Planned Parenthood Supporters Hold ‘People’s Hearing’

State senators, when faced with the crowd, cut the hearing short — halting citizen testimony after 25 minutes to rush the bill forward on a party-line vote. The crowd in opposition to the “defund” bill, however, took over the room to hold an impromptu hearing on its own — beaming citizen testimony to the public via Facebook Live broadcast.

The stories at the people’s hearing reflected the stakes of the funding debate for Iowans’ health. I made those stakes clear to state senators in my prepared testimony — telling lawmakers that those who vote for the bill were “choosing to hang [their hats] on defunding PP, even though … constituents have made their voices abundantly clear that this is not what they want you to focus on during a time when Iowa is headed for a financial crisis.”


An Avoidable Crisis, with Personal Stakes

Passing the “defunding” bill would, as I warned lawmakers, set in motion a health-care crisis that Iowa does not want. For many, the stakes are personal.

Des Moines resident Jaclyn Zimmerman visited Planned Parenthood after encountering a two-month delay when attempting to get an intrauterine device (IUD) — one of the most common and effective forms of birth control — from her primary care provider.

She wrote, in a letter that I shared at the hearing:

If I am not able to access common birth control methods through my primary care provider, how can we expect a woman with fewer resources, or who receives Medicaid, to be able to do so?  If major care providers within metropolitan communities of Iowa already struggle to provide reasonable access to contraceptives and to women’s health, how will these providers all over the state absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients if Planned Parenthood is defunded?

That critical question is one that anti-Planned Parenthood lawmakers have yet to answer. It’s no wonder that 74 percent of Iowans surveyed by the Register in 2016, including 51 percent of Iowa Republicans, support maintaining patients’ access to the high-quality, often lifesaving care Planned Parenthood provides — or that seven in 10 adults nationwide reject an agenda that includes “defunding” Planned Parenthood.

So as our fight continues, lawmakers should take heed: People know the value of Planned Parenthood, and will stand up in numbers to resist anti-Planned Parenthood legislation.  

Learn how you can stand up for the patients’ access to reproductive and sexual health services at Planned Parenthood by going to IStandWithPP.org.

Suzanna deBaca is the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Tags: Abortion, Planned Parenthood, State Fights, Iowa

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