By Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Originally published in the Ventura County Star

As a woman, a mother and a member of Congress, I have been a tireless advocate for protecting women’s health.

Reproductive health is a cornerstone of women’s equality and economic opportunity. Every woman should have access to reproductive health services like cancer screenings, tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, preventive care and birth control.

During the Johnson and Nixon administrations, Congress created the Medicaid and Title X programs to ensure that every American had access to family planning and health care. Today, family planning centers funded by Title X dollars serve 4.8 million young and low-income men and women every year. According to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, 6 in 10 women who use Title X clinics consider them as their primary source of medical care.

Title X clinics provide sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, HIV tests, breast cancer screenings, colonoscopies, Pap smears and contraception to millions of patients — men and women — who might otherwise go untreated. Every dollar spent on birth control provided at Title X clinics saves the public more than seven dollars by preventing unplanned pregnancies.

Now these critical programs are under attack.

Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would gravely restrict women’s access to health care by cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a critical provider of women’s health care services in America. In fact, 1 in 5 American women will use Planned Parenthood during their lifetime. In Ventura County, Planned Parenthood clinics saw nearly 16,000 patients and provided nearly 30,000 appointments over the past year.

There is no doubt that defunding Planned Parenthood would be a disaster for women’s health. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 25 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2.6 million patients, about 650,000 people, could lose access to critical health care services across the United States if the bill becomes law.

Millions more would lose health care providers they know and trust. In some states, there is a serious shortage of providers. For example, when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tried to cut Planned Parenthood from Louisiana’s Medicaid program, there were so few providers that he shockingly suggested sending women to dentists and cosmetic surgeons instead.

While the Republicans in Congress want the American people to think this is about the current controversy at Planned Parenthood, the truth is they have targeted Planned Parenthood for years as part of their strategy to take away a woman’s right to choose, and are willing to do so at the expense of women’s health in general.

This obsession with taking away a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health care decisions has reached such a fever pitch that the Republicans in Congress are even threatening to shut down the federal government if they don’t get their way. Congress has three legislative days left to avert the second shutdown in two years, and we should have stayed in session this weekend to get our job done.

As Ventura County’s representative in Congress, I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move our country forward, expand the middle class and protect women’s health care.

Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, is a member of Congress, representing the 26th District.

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