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For the first time in almost seven years, Representative Erik Paulsen (MN-03) hosted a series of town hall meetings in his district. But, there was a catch: most constituents were denied admission to the heavily restricted meetings.

That wasn’t going to stop the dedicated Planned Parenthood supporters in his district from making their voices heard. Instead, constituents who were blocked from making their voices heard inside the town hall rallied outside the Brooklyn Park event to demand that he protects access to health care and reproductive rights.

A few constituents who were actually able to get into the events spoke out about Rep. Paulsen’s inaction on the Title X gag rule – a dangerous policy that would block patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers and would prevent providers from referring patients for safe and legal abortion services. In Minnesota, 53,000 people a year—and more than 7,000 in Paulsen’s own district—rely on these funds. 

When a constituent in Chanhassen asked Rep. Paulsen what he would do to protect the thousands of people who rely on Title X funds, Rep. Paulsen repeated the myth that other community health centers could absorb Planned Parenthood patients.

No, Rep. Paulsen, Community Health Centers CANNOT absorb Planned Parenthood patients.

Nearly 1/3 of all women in need of publicly funded birth control live in counties where Planned Parenthood is the primary safety-net health care provider. Even the CEO of the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers has said they could not take on all of  Planned Parenthood’s patients.

“It’s not as easy as simply flipping over the switch to the federally qualified health centers,” said Jonathan Watson, CEO of the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers. “The demand for our services is well beyond our means to provide it.”

It’s no wonder why the executive director of the American Public Health Association called the idea that CHCs could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients “ludicrous.”

Here’s the thing, Rep. Paulsen: the country’s overburdened, publicly funded community health centers simply cannot absorb Planned Parenthood’s patient base.

Later that same day at the Brooklyn Park town hall, one of Rep. Paulsen’s constituents asked him specifically about patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for services – patients that other health providers have already publicly stated they cannot absorb.

Yet again, Rep. Paulsen refused to commit to protecting health services for thousands of his constituents. He defended the Title X gag rule by saying many Americans support making sure that no federal dollars go to funding abortions – but federal dollars are already prohibited from funding abortion.

(“Defunding” doesn’t stop federal taxpayer money from paying for abortions—because federal law already prohibits federal dollars from going to abortion, except in dire circumstances. Instead, “defunding” simply blocks patients who rely on public health care funds from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers.)

Instead of answering to the very real concerns of his constituents about his support of policies that would heavily diminish access to live saving health care, this is all that Rep. Paulsen had to say:

Representative Paulsen, we can’t just agree to disagree when our rights, health, and communities are on the line.

When politicians show that they will not stand for our values, it is on us to hold them accountable at the ballot box. Rep. Paulsen is up for re-election in November, and Minnesotans have the power to send him a message once and for all: Respect our rights or pack your bags.

It’s on us to make sure that our representatives will fight for us, not against us. Pledge to vote and hold lawmakers like Rep. Paulsen accountable → resistpersistvote.org.

Tags: minnesota, Erik Paulsen

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