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Public Statements

Women's Preventive Health Services

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I join my colleagues to come to the floor this afternoon and talk about tomorrow's votes on two different resolutions and to say that I am proud to join my female Senate Democratic colleagues in this effort and to speak out about this important issue.

To me the American people have sent us a clear message. They want us to focus on job creation, promoting innovation and putting Americans back to work. But instead tomorrow we will be on the Senate floor trying to defend access to health care for women. We will vote tomorrow on whether to defund Planned Parenthood, an agency that serves hundreds of thousands of people in my State on important exams such as breast examination and helping to prevent infections and various things.

And just a few weeks ago I talked about one of our constituents, a 22-year-old woman from Seattle, who was diagnosed with an abnormal growth on her cervix at Planned Parenthood and was able to receive life-saving treatment. She was uninsured, and without Planned Parenthood, she would not have been able to get that kind of treatment and certainly her health would have been in major danger in the future. I tell her story to emphasize the importance of Planned Parenthood on prevention and that they are centers of prevention for many, many women who have no other access to health care.

And so we cannot jeopardize the access to that preventive health care at a time when it is so important for us to reduce long-term costs. In fact, even in the investment area, every dollar invested in family planning and publicly funded family planning clinics saves about $4 in Medicaid-related costs alone. So prevention of health care is good for us in saving dollars and it is certainly good for our individual constituents who have a lack of access to health care.

That is why I am so disappointed and the situation that we are having now where our colleagues are saying to us, you can get a budget deal, but you have to defund women's health care access to do so. The avoidance of a government shutdown has also brought on, I think, a challenge on the backs of women in the District of Columbia because it included a provision denying DC leaders the option of using locally raised funds to provide abortion services to low-income women.

For those who argue against big government this is a contradiction because this is a real imposition on the ability of elected officials in the District of Columbia to decide what to do with their locally raised funds. I know because I am in the Hart Building, what the Mayor and others on the council had to say about this. This is an imposition on the health services of low-income women in the District of Columbia and certainly has gone almost unnoticed in the eleventh hour. And I think sets a precedent for a dangerous slippery slope with what we are telling local governments to do.

But it is time for us to focus on our budget, living within our means, and getting back to work, but certainly not to try to do all of that on the backs of women. And it is not time to shut down access to women's health care. Republicans in the house have decided to wage war and to say women should be a bargaining chip.

Well, I think the American people have sent us a clear message. They want us to get back to work and they support Planned Parenthood and the efforts of Planned Parenthood on preventive health care and health care delivery services. A recent CNN poll showed that 65 percent of Americans polled support continued funding of Planned Parenthood.

And I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like to say that these funds are used and helped in funding organizations that may be involved in doing full reproductive choice services. But I ask them to think about that issue and that logic. Where will they stop? It is Planned Parenthood today, but are they going to stop every institution in America from receiving Federal dollars?

It is illegal for Planned Parenthood to use Federal dollars for the full reproductive choice including abortion. It is illegal. You cannot use those funds. And yet the other side would like to say that this is an issue where they would like to stop Planned Parenthood today and then they will try to stop other organizations in the future.

It is time to say no to this tomorrow and to say no on trying to pull back from the full health care funding bill at a time when we need to implement the reforms to keep costs down and to increase access for those who currently don't have access to health care and come back to the system with much more expensive health care needs in the future.

So I am very disappointed that at the eleventh hour of a budget debate that is about living within our means, about how we take the limited recovery we have had and move it forward economically, that instead we are saying we cannot move forward on a budget in a recovery until we take everything that we can away from women and access to women's health care.

We will fight this tomorrow and I am proud to be here with my colleagues to say we will be the last line of defense for women in America who are going about their busy lives right now, taking their kids to school, trying to juggle many things at home and work and they are every day as the budget people within their own homes trying to figure out how to live within their means and the national budget debate has broken to this point? We can only have a budget agreement if you defund women's full access to health care. That is wrong and we will be here tomorrow to fight this battle and speak up for women.

I just want to point out to my colleague, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, that I remember in 1993, in the ``year of the woman,'' when so many women got elected to Congress, it was the first time in the House of Representatives we had a woman on every single committee.

And the end result of that is we had an increase in funding for women's health research. So much of the research had been up to this point focused on men. Why? Because there wasn't anybody on the committee to speak up about how women had uniquely different health care needs and deserved to have a bigger share of funding for health care needs of women than were currently being funded.

That is what you get when you get representation and the women Senators will be here tomorrow to fight, to say that women deserve to have access to health care through Planned Parenthood and title X and, please, for those working moms who are out there juggling dealing with children and

childcare, dealing with their jobs, dealing with pay equity at work, dealing with all of these other issues that women are struggling with, that they don't have to be a pawn in the debate on the budget. That there are people who believe just like the majority of Americans do that we should move forward with this kind of preventive health care for women in America.


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