Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
Governer Owens Chooses Uplanned Parenthood
August 20, 1999
Ah Progress! When I was young the snide phrase about women was, "Keep
'em barefoot and pregnant and down on the farm." Last week Governor
Owens brought it back with, "Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant and poor."
For 20 years Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has used money
received under a contract with the state of Colorado to help provide
health services to women in outlying areas which often lack adequate
medical facilities. This year that money has been denied by a new
policy laid out by the administration of Gov. Bill Owens which says that
Planned Parenthood is no longer eligible to get state family-planning
Why? The anti-abortion political forces strike again. Planned
Parenthood provides abortions at clinics in Boulder, Colorado Springs,
Denver, Durango and Fort Collins . But no state or federal money goes
to abortion services at those clinics. The state auditor investigated
their financial records last year and said that they did not violate
constitutional provisions. He said that his investigation did not find
any state or federal dollars going to pay for abortions.
But because abortions are available at some clinics, the Governor's
administration has chosen to shut off support of all the Planned
Parenthood clinics in Colorado. The money in question would have gone
to the 13 clinics in less populated areas around the state, in some
cases the only publicly subsidized reproductive health services
available. Women and children mostly in lower income brackets and
without health insurance rely on these family centers for services such
as mammograms and pap smears as well as birth control.
If the politicians were talking about money, $319,000 is pretty small
potatoes in our overflowing state budget. But it is money that would
save money. It is cheaper to pay for a pap smear than treat cervical
cancer, and cheaper to pay for a mammogram than to treat breast cancer.
And it is certainly cheaper to provide contraceptive materials than to
pay for an infant on welfare. But no. The thinking is that because
you can get an abortion at the clinic in Boulder, you may not be able
to get a mammogram in Trinidad.
This is about the politics of abortion. "It is about appeasing the
Christian Coalition, which extracted a pledge during the campaign last
fall to de-fund Planned Parenthood," said Katie Reinisch, spokeswoman
for Planned Parenthood.
Perhaps the most divisive problem in our current political climate is
abortion. It has gone way beyond the moral issue and become a political
one. The people truly involved in abortion decisions are women of child
bearing age. But the people making the speeches and the policy
decisions are almost always middle aged men. And the abortion debate
has moved over into efforts to impose governmental control on birth
control and sex education.
Planned Parenthood is not a villainous organization designed to kill
babies. Quite the contrary. If it could be completely successful in
its goal, abortion would be a non-issue. There would be only wanted
babies and healthier mothers. Planned Parenthood is there to help
women - chiefly women who have limited access to health care (42% of
Coloradans have no health insurance) exercise individual choice in their
own fertility and reproductive health.
The Governor's action will not close the clinics. They will continue to
serve the women and children of Colorado with federal funds and private
contributions. But for him it is a handy, cheap way to pay off a
political IOU to the Christian Coalition.
Fortunately members of both parties in the Legislature are working with
Governor Owens trying to reach a compromise.
Gloria Feldt, executive director of Planned Parenthood says, "...this is
so much more than any single issue. It is about unwanted children --
it's about whether we're going to be able to live on this planet and
Come on, Bill Owens, we are long past the days of, "Keep 'em barefoot
and pregnant and down on the farm."