Stop politicizing women’s health care

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pushing to defund Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pushing to defund Planned Parenthood. The Associated Press

As one of the few practicing doctors serving in Congress, I understand the real consequences ending federal funding to Planned Parenthood would have for patients.

That’s why I stand with Planned Parenthood and will not vote to defund it. We need to keep politicians out of the exam room and instead work together to make sure women have access to preventive health care.

Recent attacks against Planned Parenthood are about nothing other than politicizing and restricting access to health care.

If organizations and politicians truly were serious about preventing unwanted pregnancies and protecting women’s health, they would be talking about and investing in preventive care, not trying to defund it.

As a doctor, I know that early preventive care is more effective than dealing with problems after they are diagnosed, which is why preventive care makes up more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.

Women and men need important reproductive health care throughout their lives. This means the exact kind of preventive care Planned Parenthood provides for contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, screenings for breast, prostate and cervical cancer, and advice on infertility and family planning.

And yes, that sometimes, but rarely, means abortion care.

According to Planned Parenthood, abortion accounts for just 3 percent of all the services its clinics provide.

Current law already prevents federal funds from being used for abortion. That means threats to defund Planned Parenthood in reality are threats to eliminate access to these essential preventive-care services.

By focusing on preventive care through sex education and birth control, Planned Parenthood does more in one day to prevent unwanted pregnancies than people who oppose abortions do in a lifetime.

In California, Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive health care to 800,000 patients annually in more than 1.5 million visits.

According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 5 women in the United States has been to a Planned Parenthood clinic, and the critically important women’s health care its health professionals provide is unmatched.

Last week, the U.S. Senate attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, instead of focusing on areas we can agree on to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Senators voted to eliminate the primary source of health care for 6 in 10 of Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million patients nationwide.

Luckily, this time their extreme partisan efforts failed. But as history has shown, this probably won’t be the last attempt.

As a doctor, a Californian, and the father of a daughter, I stand with Planned Parenthood and will continue to put people before politics and work to keep politicians out of the exam room to ensure all women have access to high-quality health care that meets their needs.

Rep. Ami Bera, a physician, is a Democratic member of Congress from Elk Grove, representing District 7.