BY MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK & URWAH AHMAD
The heat keeps coming for Congressmember Dan Donovan, whose Dyker Heights district office was once again descended upon on Tuesday, March 7, this time by a body of pink poster-carrying protesters pleading that he stand with Planned Parenthood.
The rally came just one night before International Women’s Day and just one day after it was reported that the House is in talks to mark up a bill that would nix the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood health centers across the country.
Specifically, reports claim, legislation currently being considered would prevent women from using Medicaid funding to get any health services at Planned Parenthood, which, since 1916, has been providing women with access to reproductive health services including, but not limited to, birth control, sex education and abortions.
“We are out here today because members of Congress last night introduced legislation that would repeal the ACA, defund Planned Parenthood and close our clinics,” said Elizabeth Adams, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood of New York City. “We are here to let Congressmember Dan Donovan know that New Yorkers, including his constituents, believe in the importance of healthcare, and believe that reproductive healthcare is healthcare, and he can’t take it away from us.”
The protest – which saw officials from Planned Parenthood standing alongside local advocates as well as a number of Donovan’s constituents from the 11th C.D., which encompasses Staten Island as well as parts of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights – was the fourth protest outside the pol’s 13th Avenue office in less than three weeks.
The previous rallies – though focused heavily on protecting the ACA, as well as protesting Donovan’s recent decision to host a phone-in, or tele-town hall, rather than meet with his constituents face-to-face – also made mention of the congressmember’s plan, or lack thereof, for Planned Parenthood.
For Bay Ridge resident Teri Brennan, the answer is simple.
“I went to the action for a variety of reasons. Planned Parenthood has been helping women in my life for decades, from teenage friends who needed birth control to adult women needing healthcare. They all got the care they needed without shame or judgment,” she told this paper. “I am also simply fed up and furious about having the will of the few continually being a constraint on the needs of the many. Roe v. Wade settled things. This should not still be a fight.”
In considering a bill of this kind, she said, the GOP is taking a massive step backwards.
“The GOP healthcare plan is a travesty and so intentionally mean,” Brennan said. “While the ACA had issues, it was actually about making healthcare possible (not ‘accessible’) for millions of people. This plan is not about that in any way and the pushback from the medical profession makes it clear that providing medical care was never their goal.”
“Planned Parenthood provides routine medical care to millions of women who would have nowhere else to go if Congressman Donovan and his colleagues in Washington have their way,” added Justin Brannan, founder of the Bay Ridge Democrats and current candidate for the City Council’s 43rd district seat. “That’s why we need to send a strong message that we will not stand for this, and that’s why I was proud to join tonight’s rally.”
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America currently consists of over 150 medical and non-medical affiliates, which operate over 650 health clinics in the United States and partner with organizations in at least 12 countries worldwide. Though there is only one Planned Parenthood in Donovan’s district — located on Hyatt Street in Staten Island — there are over 50 in the state of New York alone.
It is the largest single provider of reproductive health services, including abortion, in the states.
“Every woman has the right to make her own choices about her reproductive health,” said Brannan. “No one can take away that constitutional right – not the congressman, not the president, not anyone.”
However, Alexia Sikora, press secretary for Donovan, told this paper that, no matter the outcome for Planned Parenthood, the local pol is committed to funding other centers that would serve women.
“Most of us agree that maintaining access to quality women’s health services is critically important. Congressman Donovan has consistently supported community health centers that offer care to women at affordable rates, and he’ll continue to do so,” she told this paper. “Many believe that disagreements over Planned Parenthood funding are purely related to abortion issues, but current laws already prohibit federal funding from being used for such procedures. That being said, it’s often overlooked that community health centers – which focus on delivering comprehensive, patient-centered care – greatly outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation.
“Consistent access to health services and expanding the network of health providers should be the main priority,” she went on, “which is why Congressman Donovan has consistently voted to re-direct funds to local community health centers, which provide a full range of health and preventive care services, including health screenings, family planning services and primary care.”
Sikora also sent the following statement in response to the issue in its entirety.
“We have to understand the baseline first,” said Donovan. “Premiums on the exchanges increased 25 percent this year. 19.2 million Americans either paid the penalty or claimed an exemption to avoid purchasing insurance, while only 10.4 million people enrolled in coverage. In a few years, Medicaid spending will be higher than defense spending, while studies conclude those with Medicaid have no better physical health outcomes than people who have no coverage at all! For example, under the status quo, doctors serving Medicaid patients in New York receive less than half the fee that Medicare provides for the same service. This system is failing.
“Unlike Obamacare, we actually have time to thoroughly digest this proposal,” he went on. “I’ve said all along that we need to help those harmed by Obamacare while not harming those helped by Obamacare. I think this bill represents thoughtful analysis and some smart, innovative policies, and I’m glad it grandfathers in Medicaid beneficiaries. I’m waiting on the CBO score, speaking with health care stakeholders in my district, and doing what legislators are supposed to do: thoroughly analyzing the proposal. This is the beginning of a weeks-long process of consideration and updates.”
This story was updated (3/9) to include a response from Donovan’s office on Planned Parenthood.