Today, choice is a popular buzzword in the debate over women’s health. Women argue they should be able to choose independently about health… Do I want to have children? Where do I want to give birth? Do I want to use oral contraceptives? Gender equality will only be a reality if women can freely choose how to govern their own bodies.
But who actually has the privilege to choose?
As UW-Madison students, we are in a privileged position, considering that access to crucial health services is as simple as walking a few blocks. Women in rural communities, a demographic often lacking health insurance, however, do not have the same luxury.
Wisconsin state budget cuts have forced Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest reproductive nonprofit healthcare provider, to close four rural clinics. The loss of these health centers will affect over 2,000 patients, particularly young rural women. These budget cuts will disproportionately affect the patients who need the organization the most.
As young women, we feel it is necessary for all women to have access to the knowledge and services needed to understand our bodies and our health options. Planned Parenthood health centers annually provide education programs to nearly 1.2 million young people like ourselves
For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a single mom who cannot afford health insurance and lives 45 minutes from the nearest Planned Parenthood. Is she able to receive the preventative breast cancer screenings she needs? What about a college-aged woman who is sexually active, as nearly 80% of UW-Madison students are, but has never been educated on her birth control options. Where are her choices?
Unfortunately, important reproductive health services Planned Parenthood provides are often ignored in the debate regarding women’s health. Despite popular claims that Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortions, only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s procedures actually are abortion services.
The discussion regarding women’s health needs to include the less controversial – yet highly critical – services Planned Parenthood provides. For instance, clinics administer significantly more exams to help prevent breast and ovarian cancer than abortion services, yet the debate largely ignores these services.
In short, what is most problematic about state budget cuts forcing four Planned Parenthoods to close is that the women affected will be those who need the clinics the most. The voices of rural women are repeatedly underrepresented. The reproductive health of rural women should not be any valued less than ours.