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Romney no friend on women's health

By Cecile Richards, Special to CNN
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Thu May 17, 2012
Mitt Romney's promise to roll back health care reform is bad news for women, says Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards.
Mitt Romney's promise to roll back health care reform is bad news for women, says Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cecile Richards: Women's Health Week a good time to remember women should get checkup
  • She says women's preventive health care crucial: birth control, cancer screening, checkups
  • Romney wants to strike down health reform act, "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, she says
  • Richards: Unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 billion/year

Editor's note: Cecile Richards is president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

(CNN) -- A woman in Ohio recently wrote us about her struggles in finding the time and the money to take care of her health. Billie wrote, "I am 33 years old and without Planned Parenthood I would have never found out in time that I'm a woman with precancerous cells in my uterus and cervix. I cannot afford to pay for my health care, and by them having a sliding scale I could afford it or else otherwise I may have died from cervical cancer. I wouldn't have found out about it in time. ... (Now) I can see my children grow up."

This week, as we celebrate National Women's Health Week -- a time when women are encouraged to make our health a priority by scheduling wellness checkups -- Billie's story came to my mind. Like many women, Billie is busy with her family, balancing bills and struggling without health insurance. But she finally took the time to put herself first and went to get a checkup. It's amazing to think that those few precious moments she spent in an exam room potentially saved her and her family from mounds of medical bills and emotional agony.

But for a significant number of women in this country, accessing preventive health care services such as lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams is becoming more difficult, thanks to legislators who are putting politics before women's health.

In fact, in Billie's home state of Ohio this week, the legislature is debating a bill that if enacted would hurt thousands of women by eliminating federal funding for Pap tests, breast exams, STD prevention and treatment, and prenatal care at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout the state.

Cecile Richards
Cecile Richards

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion.

For many women, Planned Parenthood is the only doctor's visit they will have all year. Billie doesn't come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement, but to get high-quality, affordable health care.

Yet what is happening to patients in states like Ohio is just a preview of what women can expect from Mitt Romney if he is elected president. His promise to strike down the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that health plans cover birth control without co-pays, along with his pledge to end the nation's family planning program -- which provides preventive care to nearly 5 million women -- and his vow to "get rid" of Planned Parenthood would have real and serious consequences for millions of women nationwide.

Romney: U.S. econ woes a 'prairie fire'

Unlike Mitt Romney, we won't let politics interfere with the health care that one in five women in America have relied on at some point in their lives. Planned Parenthood's doors are open today and they'll be open tomorrow. But that doesn't mean these attacks aren't dangerous for all of us -- our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, and grandmothers.

Mitt Romney prides himself on being an astute businessman, but any woman balancing her checkbook right now could tell him that attacking basic preventive care is fiscally irresponsible. Unintended pregnancies already cost taxpayers $11 billion a year. Breast cancer caught late can be deadly, and it leaves families emotionally and financially bankrupt. Preventive care saves lives and money.

My hope this National Women's Health Week is that together we can shine a light on the irony of these legislative maneuvers. Most important, I hope that the annual observance provides an opportunity for lawmakers to take pause. They must be made to see that attacks on health care threaten the lives and well-being of real women.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cecile Richards.

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