Last week, Minnesota State Senator Karin Housley said that laws created to help women make them "look weaker."
While Senator Housley believes that policies make women look weaker, the fact is that policies and legislation can create positive, meaningful change in the everyday lives of people in our communities. Here are five ways proactive policies around reproductive and sexual health have made an impact in people’s lives:
1. Birth Control
Access to birth control has revolutionized opportunities and advanced economic mobility, educational attainment, and health outcomes. In fact, one-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptive pills. Plus, being able to get the birth control pill before age 21 is one of the most influential factors enabling women already in college to stay in college — which has led to a significant increase in women who are college students. Many policies affect access to birth control – most recently, the Protect Access to Contraception (PAC) act, which would protect no-cost birth control coverage in Minnesota from further attacks by the Trump Administration. Giving more folks the ability to finish school, advance professionally, control their own bodies, and plan when or whether to have children makes us stronger, not weaker.
2. Comprehensive Sex Ed
The federal government leaves decisions about sexual education regulations up to state and local policymakers—for good reason—to give states a real chance to make a difference in people’s lives by passing policy that empowers more folks to have full autonomy over their sexual and reproductive health. Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of sex education in the United States, reaching 1.5 million people with education and outreach each year. In our region, more than 40,000 Minnesotans participate in Planned Parenthood sex education programs each year.
Knowledge is power. When Minnesotans receive quality sex education taught by trained educators, they are given the skills to take control of their own sexual health and the tools to treat their bodies, and the bodies of others, with respect. To see how comprehensive sex education can really make a difference, check out Riece’s story.
3. Affirmative Consent
As the largest sex-educator in Minnesota, Planned Parenthood knows that teaching young people about healthy behaviors and relationships is key to preventing sexual assault. We must equip our young people to make the best decisions for their lives and their futures. In order to prevent sexual violence, young people need access to sex education that includes consent and healthy relationships, starting well before college and well before they become sexually active. And guess what? Policy can make sure this happens. Just last week, Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley) and Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), introduced a bill to require that district and charter schools develop and implement a consent program for grades 8-12 to prevent and reduce incidences of sexual assault. When we pass policy to prevent sexual violence, it only strengthens our communities.
We believe all people should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including access to safe and legal abortion. Access to safe abortion is legal, constitutionally protected, and consistently supported by a majority of Americans; yet anti-reproductive health policymakers have made it increasingly hard to access through court battles, ballot measures, and burdensome legislative restrictions on abortion services. Many states have passed proactive legislation protecting against these types of attacks on abortion access, setting yet another example of how policy can make a difference in people’s lives.
5. Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood is committed to protecting the essential health services that people in our communities depend on – no matter what. Planned Parenthood’s staff are experts in sexual and reproductive health who offer personalized, non-judgmental health care. However, in recent years, we have seen constant attacks on Planned Parenthood’s funding. From the federal to the state level, lawmakers have threatened Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide lifesaving cancer screenings, HIV and STD testing, birth control, and sexual education. Statewide polls in 2016 showed that 69 percent of Minnesotans want to see funding for the family planning and contraceptive services Planned Parenthood provides stay the same or increase. News flash: Planned Parenthood is SUPER popular and provides essential services to thousands of Minnesotans every year, yet out of touch lawmakers are still attacking Planned Parenthood’s funding. There’s no question that funding and supporting Planned Parenthood makes our communities stronger – and this year, many other states and Planned Parenthood affiliates are passing bold proactive initiatives to defend and expand access to essential health care.
Sorry, not sorry, Senator Housley, we flat out disagree.
There are countless ways that proactive health care policy can improve the everyday lives of women and families in Minnesota. And Minnesotans are working hard in 2018 to see policies like these passed and hold our legislators accountable if they vote against them.
But no matter what happens, there’s one thing we know for sure: Planned Parenthood is here for good.
Take action. Make change. Join us in 2018 to help make sure that those who represent us reflect our values and will work to make our communities stronger → resistpersistvote.org