Despite Friday’s cancellation of the scheduled American Health Care Act congressional vote, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and its supporters vowed to continue fighting against future efforts to defund the organization.
Democratic elected officials from throughout Westchester and Planned Parenthood representatives gathered Friday afternoon at its health center in Greenburgh a few hours before the vote was called off, skewering Republicans they argued were bent on depriving health services to women.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (R-Scarsdale) said the debate over the now scuttled legislation should serve as a wakeup call that insurance coverage for women’s reproductive health services and benefits such as maternity leave must be fiercely defended.
“So, this is personal for all of us. This is something we have to put behind us. This is so our young people can move on and do something else, can take on a new issue,” Paulin said.
“We’re going backwards, folks, we’re not going forward, we’re going backwards. It’s not only an attack on Planned Parenthood, it’s an attack on maternity benefits, it’s an attack on women, it’s an attack on women’s health care.”
Planned Parenthood officials said the insinuations that federal money is spent on abortions is wrong. Vincent Russell, the interim CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said what is done at the region’s 10 health centers, including four in Westchester, is provide thousands of tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pap tests, cervical cancer screenings and other services.
He said the Republican health care bill that was proposed would have hurt many of the thousands of patients the regional Planned Parenthood serves. More than 36,000 unduplicated patients were seen at the 10 health centers last year that are also in Rockland and Suffolk counties, Russell said.
“These are the excellent health services that Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic provides to the men, women and young persons of this region and stripping Medicaid reimbursement from us – also known as defunding – means that our ability to continue to provide these services are in jeopardy,” Russell said.
Dr. Benita Gross, chief medical officer at the regional Planned Parenthood, added that she and her colleagues also provide information on contraception, family planning and OBGYN and prenatal care.
Two of the region’s congressional representatives, Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) joined the group by telephone from Washington and pledged to continue fighting against efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act or make changes in laws that negatively impact women.
“Americans just don’t want health coverage stripped away,” Lowey said. “Americans don’t want to go back to the time when being a woman was a preexisting condition.”
Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) said the state Assembly was ready to include funding in the 2017-18 budget toward services such as Planned Parenthood if federal funding was cut off.
While that would certainly be met with resistance in the state Senate, Buchwald said that it would send a message that the Assembly supports protecting women.
He also warned that while the GOP’s American Health Care Act didn’t get off the ground, there would likely be additional attempts through federal budget decisions to take away funding from Planned Parenthood and other programs.
“They’ve talked about defunding Planned Parenthood separately from that so we have to remain ever vigilant,” Buchwald said.