Here we go again. The 2013 legislative session in Tallahassee hasn't even begun yet, and Florida politicians are already going after women's health. So far this year, the Florida Legislature has filed six bills that would strip preventive health care from the women and families that need them most. The attacks aren't new -- but are still disappointing.
And there's more to come. Some of the bills on the horizon would make it nearly impossible for Planned Parenthood to provide vital women's health services, including abortion -- even though most Americans firmly believe it should remain safe and legal.
This is a national problem; over the past two years, legislators across the nation have engaged in an unprecedented assault on women's health. But nowhere is that more evident than here in Florida. In 2011, the Florida Legislature filed 18 different bills attempting to roll back or limit women's access to basic, preventive health care; in 2012, they filed nine more. Several of the bills were the most extreme in the country -- and took direct aim at Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading reproductive health care provider, educator and advocate.
In November, voters sent a loud and clear message to legislators: stop playing politics with women's health! But some politicians still don't get it.
Florida has two million uninsured women and nearly 1.9 million more who need contraceptive services and supplies. Women don't come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement. They come for confidential, non-judgmental care. And they don't want their health care to be politicized. So when legislators attack women's health and Planned Parenthood, they're attacking the single mother working two jobs who gets birth control at Planned Parenthood. They're attacking the recently laid off woman who has nowhere else to turn. When they attack birth control, they attack virtually all women, since, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 99 percent of us have used it.
One in five women in the U.S. has come to a Planned Parenthood health center at some point in her life -- for cancer screenings, Pap tests, well-woman exams, birth control and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Along with access to preventive health care, women should have the ability to make their own medical decisions and the power to plan whether and when to have families.
Unfortunately, misguided legislators will continue these attacks. But it doesn't mean women (and men) have to sit by and take it.
Instead, we have to continue to defend the Affordable Care Act, one of the greatest advances for women's access to health care in a generation. The ACA will benefit 47 million women nationwide by ensuring that all new insurance plans cover basic, preventive care for women -- including birth control, well woman exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings and immunizations -- without expensive co-pays or deductibles. It also stops the discriminatory practices of charging women higher rates than men for health insurance and of denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
We have to continue our unyielding support for Planned Parenthood, which provides care to three million women, men and teens across the country. For many, it's their main source of health care; in Florida alone, more than 80,000 women receive health services each year.
And now that Gov. Rick Scott has decided to support Medicaid expansion, we have to demand that the state legislature follow his lead and expand coverage to more than a million more women and families in Florida.
Instead of attacking women's health, politicians need to focus on the issues that voters care about most: growing the economy, creating new jobs, improving our schools and expanding access to preventive health services.
I consider healthcare a basic human right -- and all of us,, regardless of our race, gender, income, religion, sexual orientation, or where we live, should have access to it.
Dee Dee Myers is the former White House Press Secretary, political analyst, and bestselling author. On March 1, she will be keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual Tradition of Choice Luncheon, which raises funds for health and education services offered by Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. The luncheon will take place at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.