During the past few weeks and months, I have watched states advance and pass dangerous restrictions on reproductive health care, specifically on abortion access. State by state by state, we are facing a coordinated attack on access to safe and legal abortion care.
Alaska can’t be one of those states. As an OB-GYN who sees patients from all across Alaska, I know firsthand how detrimental denying reproductive health care and abortion access will be should our elected officials pass this legislation.
And it’s not just abortion — this administration is trying to dismantle access to birth control, cancer screenings and other reproductive health care across the country.
I am a doctor who believes that health care — including abortion care — is a fundamental human right.
A recent report ranks Alaska 45th in the U.S. for children’s well-being. The bottom line: Alaska’s children and families are hurting. According to this report, “10% of children in Alaska didn’t have health insurance.” We must do better as a society to support women and families. We should not be enacting laws that create barriers to services that should only involve a patient and their provider.
If that’s not enough, a federal court ruled last week that the dangerous, unethical Title X “gag rule” can go into effect across the country. This rule threatens birth control access and other essential health care for more than 8,000 people in Alaska who access care through Title X, the nation’s only family planning program. If the ruling stands, health care providers like me would be forced to withhold information about safe and legal abortion from patients – a blatant attack on reproductive health.
Congress is poised to pass an appropriations bill in the next few weeks that would block the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule — protecting access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatments, and annual exams. The U.S. Senate must act.
Planned Parenthood is a critical part of the health care safety net in Alaska. The Title X program allows us to see thousands of Alaskans and provide discounted contraception, as well as preventive health services for all people. This care is delivered by the most comprehensive and compassionate providers I know.
To think that Alaskans may not be able to access care and make personal decisions about their bodies and their futures makes me deeply frustrated.
I am proud to have an elected leader, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, stand in support of Title X and the valuable services Planned Parenthood provides. My patients depend on this care, and I know she will continue to be an advocate.
We have more work to secure the right to control our bodies and our lives, but I will continue to provide care to my patients and ensure they get the care they need.
Dr. Tanya Pasternack is a doctor practicing obstetrics and gynecology with Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. She lives in Anchorage.
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