Staff Columnist

Once again, our rights are under attack

Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game between North Linn and Os
Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game between North Linn and Osage at the IGHSAU girls' high school state basketball tournament at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

On May 22, 127 Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst signed a letter demanding an investigation into Small Business Administration loans that were given to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Each Planned Parenthood affiliate operates as a nonprofit separate from the national organizations, with its own funding streams and leadership. The loans were applied for and received through the Small Business Administration as part of a federal program designed to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration is arguing that the affiliates were ineligible and the loans should be returned. The letter from the GOP lawmakers threatens, “These circumstances require a full investigation in order to determine whether there was wrongdoing, and we urge that any such misconduct be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

GOP lawmakers have been consistently working to defund Planned Parenthood. Last year, the Trump administration barred abortion providers from accessing family planning money through Title X. And in 2017 Iowa, GOP lawmakers defunded Planned Parenthood by funneling money for family planning services into women’s health care clinics that don’t provide abortions.

This is once again another way to further erode our constitutional right to choice. And our lawmakers are telling on themselves by showing which rights they will stand up for and which rights they will systematically dismantle.

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Several of the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics had to close as a result. An investigation by The Gazette found that many of the state’s family planning clinics, were not clinics at all, listing dermatologists, surgeons and other physicians who didn’t offer family planning services. Of the 1,400 listings, 135 were independent laboratories that don’t see patients.

Since the closure, rates of STIs have increased across the state. In 2018, Iowa reported nearly 20,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — an increase of more than 1,800 from 2017. In Des Moines County alone, the gonorrhea rate spiked 296 percent between 2016 and 2017 — the biggest jump among the state’s 99 counties. This is what happens when people cannot access affordable, reliable health care.

In the pandemic, the attack on women’s health care continued. Gov. Kim Reynolds was one of a handful of governors that tried to use the pandemic as a way to shut down abortion providers, arguing that they were “non-essential.” In a nation where you could still buy guns because they’re deemed essential, women accessing their constitutional right to choice was prohibited.The ACLU and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland brought legal action against the state and the order was amended and the clinics were allowed to operate.

But here we are again, with politically motivated attacks on an organization that provides affordable health care for millions of Americans every year and access to our constitutional right to choice.

And in Iowa, we’ve seen what happens when our access to health care is threatened.

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This isn’t about lawmakers’ concerns over waste or small businesses. This is once again another way to further erode our constitutional right to choice. And our lawmakers are telling on themselves by showing which rights they will stand up for and which rights they will systematically dismantle.

It’s exhausting that we are here again. The bodies of women in America are so politicized that even in a pandemic we have to fight for access to safe, reliable and affordable health care.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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