January 29,2018

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Wyden: Attacks on Women’s Health Are a Key Part of Trump’s Agenda of Health Care Discrimination

The odds are good that when this Republican-controlled Congress closes up shop in December, it’ll have spent more time and effort on legislation attacking women’s health than on any other issue. They’re back at it today, and this latest attack goes after women’s control of their own health care choices.

This is another anti-woman plank in the Trump agenda of health care discrimination -- an agenda that Republicans are doing their best to march through the Congress into law. This is not just a one-off proposal. So let’s take a few minutes to put this discriminatory, anti-women’s health proposal in the context of what’s happened since day one of the Trump administration.

This administration and Republicans in Congress came right out of the gate with legislation that would have deprived hundreds of thousands of women the right to see the doctor of their choosing. It was another attack on Planned Parenthood that completely ignored the fact that Congress already regulates how this trusted health provider can spend its public funding.

What Planned Parenthood does use public funding for are vital health care services that have nothing to do with abortion. Cancer screenings, prenatal care, preventive services, routine physicals and more. That’s what Planned Parenthood provides to millions of women in Oregon and across the country -- and it’s what those women stand to lose if this discriminatory agenda goes through.

Next up it was the ongoing attempt by the Trump administration to deny women guaranteed, no-cost access to contraception. This is one of the most popular health care policies in recent memory. And there are a lot of reasons why it’s smart policy -- not just because it’s a matter of fairness for all women to have access to birth control. When women have access to contraception, it means healthier pregnancies and healthier newborns. It also reduces the risk of cancer among women.

You can also look at it in terms of dollars and cents. When you take away no-cost contraception, you’re essentially taxing women based on their gender. You’re driving up the cost of their routine health care. It’s obviously wrong, and it flies in the face of everything my colleagues on the other side say about the problem of health care costs in America.

So those are Strikes One and Two -- denying women the right to see the doctor of their choosing, and making it harder for them to access contraception. Now the Senate is debating whether to throw a matter of settled law out the window with a hyper-partisan ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

Here’s my view on abortion -- it ought to be safe, legal and rare, and the federal government ought to keep its hands off women’s bodies. The proposal under debate is all about telling women what they can and cannot do. It criminalizes health care services that ought to stay between women and their doctors -- health care services that are often necessitated by potentially life-threatening complications. I don’t see how a lawmaker or a bureaucrat in Washington or in some state capital can tell a woman how severe the danger to her life has to become before she’s legally allowed to get an abortion. This issue has been settled law in this country for 45 years. This debate should be over, but here it is again, along with these other unjustifiable anti-woman proposals.

So colleagues, let’s recap. Under this Republican agenda of health care discrimination, women would lose the right to see the doctor of their choosing, they’d lose the guarantee of no-cost contraception, and the federal government would get in the business of telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

And let’s recognize that the biggest victims under this discriminatory agenda are women who are walking an economic tightrope. If their local Planned Parenthood clinic is forced to close its doors, they may not have the ability to take time off work and travel long distances to see another provider for routine health care. They’re already balancing the everyday costs of life -- food, rent, electricity, gas. Taking away no-cost contraception would make their struggle to get ahead that much harder -- especially when the rate of unintended pregnancy is five times higher among women living in poverty. They may not be able to afford a plane ticket or even a bus ticket to somewhere they can find access to abortion services, should it become necessary.

There are serious, genuine health care challenges facing this country. Millions of Americans are getting clobbered by the cost of prescription drugs every time they walk up to the pharmacy window. There ought to be a bipartisan debate looking for solutions.

Another example -- the opioid epidemic is ravaging this country from the inside out. More than half a million lives lost in the last two decades. Countless families and entire communities torn apart. The Congress and the Trump administration haven’t done nearly enough to fight this crisis.

Instead of taking on those challenges, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are full steam ahead with this cruel anti-woman agenda of health care discrimination -- one that’s creating a crisis for women across the country.