Martha Stahl

Martha Stahl, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana in front on her office. 

HANNAH POTES, Gazette Staff

Sen. Steve Daines sent out an email to his constituents recently connoting Breast Cancer Awareness month. His remarks were hypocritical and nothing but political grandstanding.

It is not news that Daines is no friend of Montana women and families; time and time again, he has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and block patients from receiving life-saving cancer screenings. Montanans deserve a senator that understands the importance of access to quality, affordable health care, especially in our rural state.

Daines has been claiming for months that legislation he introduced to defund Planned Parenthood would supposedly “re-direct” funds to other community based health centers. While every health center is vital to ensuring our social safety net, the centers Daines claims can see patients who rely on and trust Planned Parenthood to provide their care include school-based health centers and dentist offices. This is another disingenuous and misrepresented policy proposal from someone who doesn’t trust women to make medical decisions for themselves nor see the health care providers they trust.

Blocking patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers would exacerbate a national health crisis, cutting off millions from lifesaving cancer screenings and other preventive care. In fact, following the closure of Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin and Texas, researchers found that an increase of 100 miles to the nearest health center resulted in fewer women getting breast exams and cervical cancer screenings.

About 15,000 Montana women, men, and young people come to Planned Parenthood health centers each year. For many of them, we are the only health care provider they see. Without Planned Parenthood, many patients would have nowhere else to go.

To our former, current, and future patients, you can rely on Planned Parenthood for caring and expert health care, including HPV vaccines, Pap tests and other cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for STIs.

Planned Parenthood is here to to provide expert, supportive, confidential care. We know the importance of cancer screenings firsthand. We’re here with the information you need to stay healthy and to help you understand when you are due for a check-up or cancer screening.

One in five women have turned to Planned Parenthood at some time in their lives for health care, and Planned Parenthood health centers provide more than 320,000 lifesaving breast exams each year at health centers across the country and nearly 4,000 here in Montana.

Planned Parenthood knows that people across Montana are deeply affected by an overwhelming lack of access to health care and health education. We believe that all people and their families deserve the highest quality of care, no matter who they are or where they live — no matter what.

Daines has encouraged his constituents to contact his office to express concerns or opinions on policy issues, and I call on all Montanans who support access to women’s health care to contact Daines. Tell him your concerns about his voting record against Montana women’s ability to access preventive cancer screenings. Montanans deserve more than political grandstanding.

Martha Stahl, of Billings, is president and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Montana.

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