Some GOP politicians try to micromanage the lives of their female constituents by limiting access to abortion. The goal seems to be forcing every pregnant woman to give birth, whether she wants to or not.
The anti-choice tactics of these elected officials are largely targeted at health providers who offer abortion services. Threaten them with jail time. Pass laws requiring them to perform unnecessary ultrasounds on patients, provide state-approved literature and obtain special consent for a safe, outpatient procedure.
The favorite tactic, however, is starving Planned Parenthood of funding. Members of the GOP seem to believe running Planned Parenthood out of business will “save babies.”
Perhaps they don’t understand what syphilis does to an infant.
When a Planned Parenthood closes, Iowans don’t lose access only to birth control, cancer screenings and abortion services. They lose a place that offers testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
And rates of STDs have been soaring in Iowa.
This state had 19,807 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2018, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of more than 1,800 cases from the previous year.
Sexually transmitted diseases have been increasing nationwide. In recent years American adults had more sexual partners and were more likely to have casual sex than adults in previous years. Public health officials have seen more STD cases among individuals who use substances such as methamphetamine. Federal funding for STD clinics has also been reduced.
These realities make Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual education and condoms, more important than ever.
Yet Iowa’s GOP lawmakers are doing their best to try to close clinics. They insisted the state forfeit about $3 million in federal family planning dollars for the sole purpose of ensuring Planned Parenthood couldn’t collect it. That led to a significant decline in Iowans utilizing family planning services and contributed to the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.
In the four counties where those closures took place, STD cases increased 20% in the first year after closures, compared to a previous average increase of 2% per year.
When Iowans don’t get tested for STDs, they don’t get treated. Untreated STDs can lead to numerous health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and cervical cancer in women.
Of course if GOP lawmakers cared about the health of women, they would support Planned Parenthood, a trusted health provider that has reliably served tens of thousands of women over the years.
Planned Parenthood specializes in preventing and treating STDs. Its clinics are easy to access. Teenagers, who may not want to visit a family doctor, feel especially safe seeking confidential help at a Planned Parenthood.
Yet the anti-choice politicians—including the state’s current governor—continue a quest to target and defund the very health providers who provide testing and treatment for STDs. That puts women and infants at risk.