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Giving Women Better Access to Health Care | Commentary

By Reps. Renee Ellmers and Blake Farenthold  As the rhetoric heats up over Planned Parenthood, it is critical that women retain access to quality health care. Fortunately, there are other accessible and affordable facilities that provide lifesaving health care to women. While Congress works to get to the bottom of how taxpayer dollars are used at Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide, lawmakers still have the responsibility to ensure that women’s health needs are met.  

Contrary to rhetoric, women’s health care doesn’t have to be sacrificed while protecting the life of an unborn child. These two things are not mutually exclusive, and that’s one goal of the legislation recently introduced by us. This legislation, The Women’s Health Accountability Act, de-funds Title X monies allocated to Planned Parenthood and redirects it to local health centers, including facilities like community health centers. Not only do these facilities vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood improving accessibility, they also provide greater transparency as to where and how taxpayer dollars are spent.  

For years, Planned Parenthood has received federal funding under the notion of providing a variety of women’s health services, including cancer screenings, family planning and reproductive health services; however, it is important to note that these same services are actually offered on a larger and more comprehensive scale from other places, including local community health centers.  

Throughout the U.S., community health centers have assisted over 24 million people from 9,200 locations across our country. These health centers greatly outnumber Planned Parenthood on a scale of 10 to 1 nationwide. They provide a comprehensive array of health services for women and their families including mammograms, primary care, pediatric services, dental services, pre and post-natal care, cancer screenings and even immunizations. Additionally, these health centers provide medical care regardless of age or gender – meaning that they exist to help the whole family. They provide affordable health options for millions of people – serving those who are uninsured, under insured and those living in medically underserved areas.  

While continuing to provide consistent health services to women by means of this legislation, Congress also has a responsibility to discover the truth about how taxpayer dollars are being used by organizations like Planned Parenthood. The Women’s Health Accountability Act will implement a much-needed two-year study of Planned Parenthood and its affiliates in order to uncover the truth and arrive at answers. After horrific videos swept across the nation, many Americans were left to ponder how their hard-earned dollars were being used by this organization, which medical services they actually provide to women and what medical services they are prioritizing with federal funding.  

The study implemented through this legislation will be conducted by the GAO, a non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, and it will play an essential role in examining how public funds are being used. The bottom line is that this study is a powerful tool – it provides congressional oversight of how federal funds are used by Planned Parenthood and increases transparency of the services they offer.  

Taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund abortions. However, women also must not lose access to proper care or be subjected to substandard healthcare. In the midst of an ongoing investigation, this legislation ensures that women have access to safe and reliable healthcare.  

The Women’s Health Accountability Act is proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars while providing primary health care and essential services for families. We do have a choice, but it doesn’t have to be between ending a life or risking the health of mothers. Join us in telling your member of Congress the same.  

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., is a nurse by background and sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Subcommittee on Health. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, sits on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.  

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