Take a stand for reproductive rights

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Texans are now facing significant challenges to reproductive health and freedom at both the state and federal levels.

Most Texans have drawn their attention to the sonogram bill that Gov. Rick Perry pushed forth as an “emergency item,” which will require doctors to provide any woman seeking an abortion with a sonogram. Weeks after the state Senate passed a slightly milder version of the legislation, the state House passed the bill Monday, requiring even victims of rape and incest to undergo the traumatic and intrusive process.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act last month to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood — a 95-year-old federation that provides reproductive health care and education for more than 1 million people each year — and other organizations that perform abortions. Title X is the only federal grant program that is solely dedicated to providing family planning services and preventive health services.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, who introduced the legislation, said before the U.S. House of Representatives that organizations that provide abortion services should not be subsidized by federal tax dollars. Planned Parenthood received about $363 million from government grants and contracts in 2008-09, according to the organization’s most recent report. However, only 3 percent of the organization’s services were abortion-related.

Moreover, many mistakenly believe that the decision to defund Planned Parenthood would affect only women who seek abortions. However, more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood services involve preventive primary care, providing both men and women with testing for sexually transmitted infections and with sexual health education aimed to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. These services also allow for safe and reliable breast and cervical examinations. College students especially benefit from the affordability and accessibility of the care that Planned Parenthood offers.

Since the legislation’s passage in the House, several female senators and representatives have spoken out against the proposal. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said emphatically before the Senate last week, House Republicans have “engaged in an all-out assault” and have shown a “heinous disregard” for the health, safety and well-being of women, children and families in America.

With legislation at the state level threatening the freedom for a woman or family to choose to have an abortion and legislation at the federal level defunding organizations that provide reproductive health services and care, the rights of men, women and children to receive quality sexual education and health care are in jeopardy.

Take a stand, and join the effort against this usurpation of rights: Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, which serves more than 33,000 Central Texans each year, is leading an effort with other pro-choice supporters on the south side of the Capitol today to emphasize the importance of funding and supporting reproductive health and freedom.