The Planned Parenthood Federation of America marked its 97th anniversary on Oct. 16. The name Margaret Sanger might be familiar to some readers. On that date, she opened the first U.S. reproductive health clinic in the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y. Since then, Planned Parenthood has grown to be a much-relied-upon worldwide provider of total health care for women.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc. has been there for women in our state since 1935. Seventy-eight years later, PPWI continues to fight for all Wisconsin women to have access to quality health care. The struggle has taken on new intensity over the last three years, since Gov. Scott Walker slashed funding to PPWI in 2011.
Four of PPWI's 27 health centers across the state have been closed this year. That means a good number of women seeking care, not just for reproductive health, now are forced to travel many miles for even the most basic health services.
PPWI reports that one in five women come to Planned Parenthood just for health care. For roughly 60% of such patients, PPWI is their only health care option right now because those women don't have primary health care providers. PPWI serves about 70,000 patients in Wisconsin every year.
Perhaps most significant, in terms of getting an overall picture of the importance of PPWI to the health of Wisconsin women, is that 98% of what the organization does every year is prevention-based health care; less than 2% is abortion services.
Like many other women locally and statewide, I've used PPWI's services. In 1984, I experienced an unplanned pregnancy. I was working two part-time jobs at the time and had no health insurance. I went to a Planned Parenthood health center, where a test confirmed my pregnancy. But it was the personal care and counseling I received, including information about adoption agencies, that helped me ultimately make an adoption plan for my baby.
I worked at PPWI in 1982-'83, in a clerical position in its nurse practitioner training program. The first of its kind in Wisconsin, that program produced highly skilled, well-trained nurse practitioners from a multistate area to serve in its health centers.
PPWI's mission is to care for women, at all stages of their lives, with the end goal being healthy women, healthy families and healthy communities. Yes, it's true. Providing abortion services for women who feel that is their best option when facing an unplanned pregnancy is part of PPWI's role. Of the four locations where women can get an abortion in Wisconsin, three are PPWI health centers.
Despite the fact Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin provide a full range of vital health services to women, continued attacks from elected officials make that mission more difficult every year. The recent legislation passed, which would require doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, is one glaring example of such attacks.
PPWI and the other abortion provider in Milwaukee asked the court to enjoin the law, which would have closed down the Appleton PPWI health center and the other clinic in Milwaukee. A federal court injunction has, so far, kept this law from going into effect.
The Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Hospital Association both have come out against the law. This type of legislation is a tactic being used nationally by those seemingly obsessed with blocking a woman's lawful right to choose. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also opposes this attempt by legislators to, effectively, practice medicine.
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, there is no single right answer for every single woman. But it's between that woman and her health care provider — not her legislator — to review and pursue her options.
Peggy Schulz is a freelance writer and third-generation Milwaukee resident. Email [email protected]
This piece originally appeared on JSOnline on October 13th 2013. Republished with permission from the author.