Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius staked out a sound economic case on Monday while criticizing attempts in Missouri and Kansas to restrict family planning services.
Two strong downward drivers of economic mobility are teen pregnancies and unintended pregnancies among women of all ages, Sebelius said. The former Kansas governor was the keynote speaker at the annual conference sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
With attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of family planning services, and with the refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility, state governments ensure that more women and teenagers will become pregnant without intending to do so, Sebelius pointed out.
Thousands of young women will be unable to fully participate in the workplace. Many of those women and their children will be consigned to lives in poverty. They will be less well-educated and more dependent on the very social services that anti-abortion lawmakers tend to disdain.
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“Here in the Heartland the work is absolutely critical, but it’s getting harder every day,” Sebelius accurately told an audience of about 150 Planned Parenthood supporters.
The two Planned Parenthood chapters that work in Missouri have been under attack for months by extremist state legislators. Bullying from a Senate committee and its chairman, Kurt Schaefer, a Boone County Republican, led the University of Missouri to cancel essential hospital admitting privileges for a physician who also performed nonsurgical abortions. That forced the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia to shut down abortion services, at least temporarily.
A barrage of legislative actions to further restrict abortions is expected when lawmakers convene in Jefferson City and Topeka in January. Meanwhile, legislators hamper the ability of low-income women to prevent pregnancies.
Thousands of women in both states work for employers who don’t offer health insurance benefits but earn too much to qualify for state Medicaid programs, which include family planning benefits. Missouri and Kansas so far have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility, as called for in the Affordable Care Act. That leaves women who can least afford contraceptive services without help in paying for them.
“It is morally repugnant and it’s economically stupid policy,” Sebelius said.
Agreed. Voters should insist that it be changed.