On Oct. 16, Planned Parenthood became 100 years strong. This is a significant moment in our history, and a significant celebration of care for the millions of women, men and teens we have seen over the last century.
We have come a long way from smuggling birth control in pickle barrels.
One hundred years ago, women were expected to birth and care for multiple children, but they lacked the information or ability to plan when or whether to start a family.
I have been working on reproductive rights for more than 30 years now. Things were different when I was first started. For instance, chlamydia was impossible to diagnose and there were fewer birth control methods. But now we have a whole range of contraceptives for women, including the most reliable form ever invented: long-acting reversible contraception, such as IUDs and implants.
While incredible gains have been made, it is clear there is more work to be done. The stakes for women's access to reproductive health are on the line. Never have we seen such unrelenting political attacks on women, reproductive rights and social progress.
Given this, we must revolutionize the way we deliver care and ensure expanded access for women. Just last year, we launched Planned Parenthood Care, an innovative app allowing women anywhere in Alaska to securely speak to a provider through their mobile device and receive prescriptions to hormonal contraceptives that are then discretely shipped to their mailing address. We have seen patients from Nome to Port Heiden so far.
Legal advocacy is another approach to expanding access. Recently an Alaska court found unconstitutional a law that virtually eliminated all Medicaid funding for abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands played a key part in this lawsuit and we were thrilled with the decision of the court to protect the health and safety of low-income women in Alaska.
However, one of the most crushing blows we experienced this year was the passage of House Bill 156. Alaska doesn't require students to take sex ed and there are no standards for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, so it is taught in some places and not in others. On top of that, there is little to no consistency in the information. HB 156 does nothing to address these issues, instead it only makes sex education even farther out of reach.
The need for medically accurate sex ed is high. Alaska leads the nation in chlamydia rates, is fifth in gonorrhea rates, the teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, child sexual assault rate is six times the national average and the rate of reported rape is the highest in the country.
We still have a long road ahead of us and we won't back down from continuing to deliver high quality health care to people in Alaska, and we won't stop fighting to bring comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education to Alaska's youth.
It is time to reframe and reenergize the Planned Parenthood movement for future generations who will take up this mantle and lead on our behalf. We need your help, so together we can stand shoulder to shoulder and fight for the future of this movement.
Chris Charbonneau is chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
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