Legislative Attacks on Women’s Health Threaten Women’s Lives

Maridith Morris is a registered nurse and the Democratic challenger to State Representative Jake Highfill in Iowa House district 39. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A recent American College of Gynecology study uncovered concerning data about maternal mortality from Texas. Since 2011 the number of women dying during the time of pregnancy and childbirth doubled in only two years, from 18.8 to nearly 40 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The study’s authors found the data “puzzling,”-stating that-, “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.” However, when we compare the shift in data to Texas’ legislative attacks on women’s healthcare, the trend makes sense.

Here are some major legislative actions and repercussions that happened from 2011 on:

• In 2011 the Texas legislature passed a bill that would exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursement.
• At the same time, Texas Governor Rick Perry cut funding for women’s health care by two thirds.
More than 150,000 Texas women lost access to family planning services, including, cancer screening, birth control, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and early prenatal care – no abortion services were covered.
Following the cuts, Texas saw a drastic spike in unplanned pregnancies in low-income women and teens.

It’s no surprise that a drastic spike in maternal mortality accompanied this.

Much of the funding that should have went to women’s health clinics instead went to crisis pregnancy centers. These centers do not operate as medical clinics, but instead offer a limited amount of social services aimed at persuading women against abortion. They are not a suitable replacement for health clinics.

At the same time, Texas passed the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” requiring women to submit for an ultrasound 24 hours before having an abortion completed, a law that disproportionately impacts rural and working class women.

I challenge the study’s authors to re-examine their assertion that no war was going on in Texas. Texas State representative, Republican Wayne Christian responded when asked if there was a war on birth control, “yes”. He elaborated, “Well of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about,” I’m not sure how Texas lawmakers could think they are winning with a doubling of maternal death not seen in the developed world, but they have not stopped their attacks.

In 2014 Texas passed the most restrictive abortion law ever put in place. The law mandated that all clinics providing abortion services meet the requirements of ambulatory surgery centers. It also mandated physicians who perform abortion services have admitting privileges to local hospitals. The state of Texas went from 40 abortion providers in 2013 to just 16 in 2016. The law was recently struck down by the Supreme Court, but the damage has been done.

After the 2014 law, rates of unplanned pregnancy of low-income women on Medicaid continued to rise in Texas. Over 100,000 Texas women have attempted to terminate a pregnancy without medical assistance. Further studies indicate Texas family physicians do not have the resources or the education on their new family planning program to compensate for the healthcare resources lost in the closing of so many women’s health clinics.

What This Means for Iowa

We can learn from the devastating mistakes Texas made. I am a nurse, and I have dedicated my life to the health and well being of Iowa’s women and their infants. I am running for state representative in District 39, not because I want a career in politics, but because I want to care and advocate for all Iowans. I will take my voice, my education in health care, and my expertise in women’s care to the Iowa capitol for the women, children, and men of our state.

The next several years in Iowa’s politics could prove very dangerous for the health of Iowa’s women and children. The Republican-controlled house introduced and approved many bills that seek to limit women’s preventative health care and choice, such as last session’s passed House bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
That bill, which thankfully did not pass the senate, was an affront to the health and well being of Iowa women. Every yea vote, including the vote my opponent Jake Highfill passed, showed a blatant disregard for half the population of our state. Iowa does not need to be a case study in poor public health policy. We’ve seen how dangerous and damaging these policies are.

Iowans already don’t have enough providers willing to take Medicaid patients as it stands, and this bill would have widened that gap. It would leave too many women being without providers, and it would cost our state millions in federal dollars.

Rep. Highfill has made his stance clear:

• He voted for HF 2329 a bill that banned any research or donation of fetal tissue – even though the donation isn’t happening in Iowa.
• He signed a letter in 2015 to Iowa Attorney General demanding Planned Parenthood of Iowa be investigated for the sale of fetal tissue. Even though these accusations, which stemmed another state were found to be erroneous and partisan.

Attacking women’s healthcare is an attack on women and families. It’s an attack on women’s lives. Of course we need preventative services for women – we can’t afford to the pay the price of myopic partisan politics: more Medicaid pregnancies, more children on assistance, and more women losing their lives in childbirth. It’s our duty to rise up and defend ourselves and our poorest factions from these dangerous policies by politicians who think they know more about what’s best for women then Doctors. They don’t, and their legislative arm should need reach into the patient-provider relationship.

Real women’s health issues exist in Iowa. I am ready and willing to fight for them, from getting Iowa’s 4,000+ untested rape kits off shelves and tested, to establishing license of lactation consultants, to expanding family leave policies to allow women to recover from childbirth and families to adjust, and funding preventative services so women can plan healthy pregnancies.

When I’m in the Iowa legislature, I won’t wait to defend women’s health. I’ll go on the offensive. I will fight for public policy that improves the health and well-being of women and their children. The issues that affect women are issues – we are not a fringe group.

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