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Planned Parenthood under fire from Congress, Colorado Legislature

Lawmaking proposing several measures that would affect the organization
Supporters of Planned Parenthood gathered for the Capitol Pink Out Day 2017 rally on Jan. 17 in Sacramento, Calif. Colorado lawmakers are proposing several measures that would affect services of the organization.

DENVER – As the Trump administration and Congress make moves to cut funding from Planned Parenthood and international organizations that provide abortions, some see it as the first volley in an outright assault on women’s health options.

But others say they are separate issues.

“Protecting the lives of innocent children shouldn’t be an attack on women’s health,” said Shelley Gundrey, board member of Lifeguard of La Plata County, a nonprofit that opposes abortion and provides adoption and other family services.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains agrees that it shouldn’t be, but says that it is. And it’s coming from both the federal government and from Republican-sponsored bills in the Colorado Legislature.

“They’re not just targeting access to abortion; they really are targeting health care access for women. I mean, they’re talking about contraception and the need to make that illegal, so we’re taking really big steps back to pretty archaic concepts of the need for women’s health,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Gundrey disagrees, because women, at least in La Plata County, have access to health care providers that can make up for any services that would be lost from the closing of Planned Parenthood, she said. “San Juan Basin Health does everything that Planned Parenthood does, except for abortion.”

Ashley Wheeland, legislative and political director of Planned Parenthood, said that fails to account for the full scope of her organization’s efforts.

“We’re actually a primary point of care for a lot of young people,” Wheeland said. “We might be the first place they go to understand how to get health care.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that reproductive care is a specialty within health care, and that service rendered by a general practitioner might fall short of those offered by someone who specializes in the field, Taylor-Nanista said.

“We have folks who are absolutely trained in that area, and when that goes away, folks are going to have a hard time finding that specialty of medicine, especially in rural areas,” she said.

The focus on reproductive health and the scope of services offered was what brought Addy Santese, a recent Fort Lewis College graduate, to Planned Parenthood, she said.

“It’s not just purely for women who want abortions. It’s everybody going for every kind of reproductive health care,” Santese said.

Planned Parenthood has two separate nonprofit designations, one of which is funded by federal dollars and provides primary care, and the second of which is funded by donations and offers elective services, such as abortion, Taylor-Nanista said.

Gundrey said her organization believes the reproductive information provided by Planned Parenthood is unreliable, and has concerns over tax dollars going toward abortions.

“As a taxpayer, I don’t trust that they’re going to keep those monies segregated,” she said.

Legislative action

In addition to the potential for a federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, several pieces of proposed legislation in Colorado could affect the services offered by the organization.

House Bill 1108 would place a prohibition on “terminating the life of an unborn child” except when it is performed to save the life of a pregnant mother or if it is the accidental result of chemotherapy or removal of an ectopic pregnancy.A violation would result in the physician who performed the procedure to face a class 1 felony charge, which is the same as murder in the first degree.

H.B. 1085 would require abortion clinics to register with the attorney general and provide statistics on how many procedures they perform each year.H.B. 1086 would require physicians to provide information to women who are pursuing chemically induced abortions on how they can be reversed. And H.B. 1099 would mandate that universities file an annual report showing that they did not engage in the trafficking of aborted human body parts for any purposes.If a report shows that a university did engage in trafficking, directly or indirectly, the general assembly would not appropriate funds for the school.

“Ultimately, the goal of all of these is to mix up the conversation and make it seem like it’s not about the one goal, which is to eliminate access to abortion and to shame women who need that care,” Wheeland said.

House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, spoke at a women’s rights gathering at the Capitol and said these types of legislation will be fought by Democrats in the House.

“In Colorado, our values are: we move forward for all people and that includes all people’s rights to decide if and when they want to have children,” Becker said.

These bills will go before House committees in the coming weeks, and based on the Democratic majority in this chamber, are unlikely to make it into Colorado law.


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