Alexandra Rucinski has been a Planned Parenthood patient since she unexpectedly became pregnant with her son five years ago. She was 22-years-old then, and didn’t have health insurance. She drove to the Burlington, Iowa Planned Parenthood clinic where staff gave her the care she needed. Rucinski chose to have her baby, and she has since continued to visit the health center regularly: every three months for her Depo-Provera birth control shot, and once a year for a breast and pelvic exam. But on May 17, 2017, Rucinski was shocked to find out that her clinic was closing permanently.
That’s why in August, Alexandra attended a town hall hosted by her senator, Joni Ernst, who supported “defunding” of Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa. This is her first-hand account of confronting Sen. Ernst.
Yesterday I sat in the high school auditorium in Washington, Iowa hoping my name would be picked so that I could finally confront Sen. Joni Ernst on her decision to support the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood in Iowa.
Sen. Ernst has a history of supporting many anti-women policies.
This topic is always personal, but even more so for me. My community in Burlington permanently lost our clinic because of these cuts to funding. I've seen the devastation of this decision with my own eyes.
We were told that if we had a question for Sen. Ernst, we could write our name on a piece of paper. If our name was pulled from the bucket, we would be given the chance to ask our senator a question.
When they said my name at the podium, my heart started beating fast. I could feel my hands shaking, but I got up and confronted one of the most powerful people in the state of Iowa. I wasn't afraid. I knew what I needed to say to her.
As I spoke, I represented the thousands of Iowans who have lost vital reproductive healthcare. I wanted her to look into my eyes and see that I am a human being who has been hurt by her decision.
I knew her answers would be dishonest — and they were. With pride in her voice, she told me, "I stand by my decision. I am pro life." If I had the chance to ask her a follow-up question, I would have asked her, "Exactly what kind of life are you ‘pro’ for, Senator?"
The reality is that these lawmakers — from the state of Iowa and in congress — claim to care so much about life. Yet they have taken away cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, STD screenings and emergency assistance for victims of sexual assault.
Their decision is going to hurt the quality of people's lives and leave Iowans in a very scary and vulnerable place.
I know some might say it was useless to confront Sen. Ernst at the town hall. To them, I say it is never useless to use your voice. It is never useless to hold powerful people accountable for their actions and their votes. We must always hold people like Sen. Ernst accountable.
I am one just person, but I know that when I stand up it gives others the courage to stand up, too. We must continue to stand up — especially now when our rights are being threatened like never before.
Hold your lawmakers accountable, just like Alexandra did.