Last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan revealed that he’s fast-tracking legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and subsequently defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County (PPNC) is working to fight against this legislation through rallies and political action in order to protect family planning, access to contraception and push back on women’s rights.
If Ryan, Vice President Mike Pence and the other conservative ideologues leading Congress repeal the ACA, the consequences would be overwhelming: about 30 million people will lose their health insurance, and 2.5 million Planned Parenthood patients a year will no longer have access to the sexual and reproductive health care they rely on.
“For many women – across the country and right here in Nassau County – not being able to get care at a Planned Parenthood health center means that they won’t receive care at all,” JoAnn Smith, PPNC President and CEO said. “We are calling on Congress to stop these political attacks, but, until they do, Planned Parenthood will leave no stone unturned in fighting back for our patients and ensuring that our doors stay open.”
On Sunday, Jan. 15, PPNC joined people across the country that stood up at over 34 rallies opposing the repeal of the ACA and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. PPNC was joined at the New York state rally by Reps. Kathleen Rice and Tom Suozzi as well as local advocates. The rally – entitled, Our First Stand – took place at the Yes We Can Center in Westbury.
“Sunday’s rally is one of many events and opportunities during this month for people to stand with Planned Parenthood. We hope people will … use their voices and stand up for the health care and rights of millions of Americans,” Smith said.
In addition to the rally, PPNC joined in the Women’s March on New York City and in the Annual New York Day of Action – a full day of educating state legislators in Albany with over 1,500 sexual and reproductive health advocates.
“We know we don’t have much control on a federal level but we can make a difference on a state level, so we want to focus on that,” said Shayne Larkin, the public affairs coordinator of PPNC.
In addition to protecting women’s right to abortion and the ACA, one of PPNC’s goals is to support the introduction of the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act of 2017, which would ensure women’s rights to free birth control and expand to cover male contraceptives and overall enhance New Yorker’s access to free contraception.
The legislation would require all New York insurance companies to provide coverage for all brands of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products.
“[The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act] would make it possible for people to get a year’s supply of contraceptive methods at your pharmacy instead of just three months’ worth, and health insurances would be required to cover contraceptive methods the same way a flu shot is covered,” Larkin said.
Should it be enacted, the bill would allow for more women to avoid unplanned pregnancies. For example, under current legislation, insurances only cover one form of intrauterine devices (IUD) – an internal form of birth control. One form does not work for all women, so if the act were passed it would require insurance companies to provide different forms of this contraceptive. This would allow more women to have access to these preventative measures.
To support these efforts and fight against the repeal of the ACA, Karla Bradley – grassroots organizer of PPNC – said the organization relies partly of the voices of the Nassau County community.
“PPNC has a volunteer program,” Bradley said. “We have volunteer nights every month that allow community members to come and learn what we are up to and involved in.”
PPNC has a Digital Action Network that allows for students to volunteer and also offers opportunities for students to get involved with their efforts through organizations at Hofstra, including Student Advocates for Safer Sex (SASS), a Planned Parenthood Generation Action Group.
Larkin said, “After this election season, people who weren’t involved before are going out and marching. People [who] were already involved are taking a much bigger dive.”