It’s only January, but Congressman Tom Reed is already hard at work. He has stepped up as the only New York Congressman to co-sponsor the 2013 edition of a bill to axe family planning funding from Planned Parenthood.
How does Mr. Reed justify cutting Planned Parenthood funding when many families in this rural district can only access health care through those clinics? At Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes (PPSFL), which has five clinics in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Tompkins Counties, forty percent of patients in 2011 were at or below the federal poverty line. Add poverty to the vast mileage between towns and hospitals, and Planned Parenthood may sometimes be the only place to turn.
I got a chance to ask Mr. Reed about this when he stopped in Dryden last Saturday during his Town Hall tour of the new NY 23rd. Right off the bat, Mr. Reed said he knows how “important” Planned Parenthood is in our region. He nodded in agreement when I said that Planned Parenthood is not just for pregnant women. I didn’t lay out details because he clearly knew them – for example, many men receive vaccinations against HPV through Planned Parenthood clinics, and 58 percent of women who use the birth control pill use it for purposes other than pregnancy prevention, including managing endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and other medical conditions.
Instead of debating the “importance” of Planned Parenthood, Mr. Reed voiced it himself. Yet despite that importance, Mr. Reed said that he must vote his conscience as a pro-life public servant. Even though he knows that there are men, women, and children in his district who may not otherwise see a doctor, he intends to de-fund Planned Parenthood because 4% of their services are related to abortion.
After he eliminates Planned Parenthood funding, he said, he wants to find a way to “preserve” the 96% of “important” services.
I pointed out that the 96% of services that Mr. Reed considers “important” would be a heck of a lot easier to “preserve” if funding weren’t yanked first. I also asked why he feels a need not just to vote his conscience, but also to add his name as a co-sponsor of the bill – something that no other Congressperson in the entire state of New York has done. He smiled and shook his head when I asked him to consider removing his name from the legislation.
Chemung County, in Mr. Reed’s district, has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the New York State, ranking 5th out of 62 counties in 2011. If Mr. Reed truly were concerned about women and families, he would work with Planned Parenthood to reduce unintended pregnancy in the first place by doing what works — increasing access to affordable birth control and comprehensive sex education.
Instead, Mr. Reed wants to eliminate not only the clinics that will care for many of those women through their pregnancies, but also the nurses and teachers who will help other adolescents avoid getting pregnant.
Mr. Reed calls himself a conservative, but throwing resources away like this seems wasteful in the extreme.
–Leslie Danks Burke