WARNING: Family planning safety net is under risk nationwide


The Guttmacher Institute, an indispensable research and policy organization committed to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights, has issued a grave warning: With an incoming administration deeply hostile to contraception and abortion access, Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, and conservative state legislators across the country determined to erode the family planning safety net, reproductive rights have never been in such danger.

We have been documenting the early indications that anti-choice legislators have been emboldened by the imminent presidency of Donald Trump, powerful vice-presidency of Mike Pence, a Republican-controlled Congress, and a Supreme Court vacancy waiting to be filled.

With the little time he has left in office, President Obama is doing what he can to safeguard reproductive rights, but an important new report from the Guttmacher Institute issues a dire warning: "[T]he U.S. publicly funded family planning effort now hangs precariously in the balance."

Never in its history has the nation’s family planning safety net faced as significant a threat as it does today. The policy agendas of the incoming presidential administration and the next Congress are being shaped by leaders adamant in their ideological opposition to—and intent to dismantle—the network of providers and the funding streams on which they rely that have comprised this country’s publicly funded family planning effort for decades. And foes of reproductive rights continue to dominate state legislatures and gubernatorial administrations.

…Up until now, President Obama, his administration and the federal court system have served as a firewall, stopping a multitude of these harmful policies from taking effect.

Going into 2017, that firewall will likely fall, and it remains to be seen how the courts will respond to states’ ongoing attempts to undermine publicly funded family planning. At stake is the health of millions of low-income, young, immigrant and other underserved individuals who rely on the safety-net programs and providers for affordable contraceptive and related care. The potential harm to these individuals and families—and to society as a whole—is considerable.

As if on cue, the state of Texas has removed Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, which Planned Parenthood will challenge in federal court in Austin.

Reproductive justice advocacy organizations will stay engaged in this fight — as will activists, including the many people across the nation who have been politicized by this grim threat. People like Esther Gordon.

A teacher in Lower Merion schools for 35 years, she describes herself as "apolitical" most of her life, recalling how her dad had to browbeat her into voting when she turned 18. That suddenly changed during the fall of 2015, as she watched Trump dominate the early GOP primary debates. "I said there was no way this man could win," she recalled, a vision she clung to even after Trump claimed 306 electoral votes on November 8.

What doesn't she like about The Donald?

"There's everything," she said. "How he lies, how he treats people, how he interrupted people during some of the debates, how he didn't show respect for anybody, especially women..."

This afternoon, momentarily crushed, she said she wandered outside the capitol and ran into some more experienced organizers who were handing out food and water.

"What do we do now?" Gordon asked.

"Now get out and pick a cause," one responded. And so she did, making plans to volunteer with Planned Parenthood.

During these troubling times, we can — and should — take inspiration from one another. There are millions of people across this nation who are willing and determined to be the barrier against the erosion of reproductive rights. And we will make ourselves heard.