By Sarah Stoesz, President of the Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States:
Today, Vice President Mike Pence is in Minnesota. Two years in—it’s easy to let the extreme rhetoric of the Trump-Pence administration begin to sound normal. But we cannot let ourselves be fooled into a debate about things that we in Minnesota know are true.
Like birth control, for example. It is an unrefuted fact that birth control enables women to plan their families and their futures. We know that our communities and our state are healthier when women can get affordable birth control.
There is long-established medical, cultural, and political consensus in our country that family planning is good for people. Regardless of race, region, or political affiliation, the vast majority of adults in this country know from experience that birth control is a basic part of a healthy life. This is not controversial. It is a normal part of our lives.
And yet, this administration has forced us over and over again to assert the most basic truths: that women are human beings who deserve autonomy, that science is real, that denial of human rights is wrong. And last week we had the announcement of the so-called “conscience rule,” which permits health care providers to deny lifesaving treatment—even in an emergency room—to people in our community because they are offended that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or anything else they don’t like. We are being forced to assert that something this horrific should not be tolerated.
Decisions by the Trump-Pence administration will have a real and terrible impact on the health of people of our state. For example, when they announced the Title X gag rule, they excluded all ethical health care providers, including Planned Parenthood, from receiving funds we’ve used to care for nearly a million patients in Minnesota since the program started in 1971. They put the health care of 53,000 Minnesotans at risk. These are people with low incomes in every corner of our state. Many have nowhere else to go and they count on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving health care, like cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing.
So think about this—the Title X gag rule makes getting basic health care harder for people who already struggle to get care, the new “conscience” rule sanctions the denial of lifesaving health care to people who already face discrimination—LGBTQ people, women whose doctors refuse to prescribe birth control, and pharmacists who refuse to fill their prescriptions. And this is all the worse in Greater Minnesota, where options are far fewer than they are in the Twin Cities.
This administration continues, time and again, to make matters worse for those Americans who already have fewer resources and more obstacles to health and prosperity. In this country, the most advanced and prosperous in the world, we should have leaders who prioritize as normal the health of our families and communities—all of our families and communities.
Vice President Pence is in Minnesota today, so I’d like to remind him of the Paul Wellstone kind of politics in our state: politics that are about doing right by people. In Minnesota, we already have consensus, we know what is right, and we will not allow him to destroy these things we hold so dear—the health of all people, our families, and our communities.
Planned Parenthood North Central States includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Planned Parenthood serves more than 72,000 Minnesotans and provides medically-accurate sex education to more than 40,000 youth and adults each year.