Way back in my college days, I and every young woman I knew relied on Planned Parenthood for health screenings, preventive medicine and, yes, birth control. It was the only solution for those of us who paid tuition, worked part-time jobs for peanuts and no insurance, and couldn't afford anything else.
Last year, 51,000 men and women went to Planned Parenthood's Utah clinics for contraception, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, cancer screenings, vasectomies and preventive medicine.
Now, in its wisdom, the U.S. House has voted to strip all funding for Title X, the national family planning program that over the years has helped millions of Americans, most low-income, to plan their families so they can properly care for them.
Naturally, Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz voted with the majority to save $327 million, the full federal contribution to family planning nationwide. To his credit, Rep. Jim Matheson stood with most other Democrats and voted no.
However, under an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Planned Parenthood in particular would not receive federal money, including Medicaid or even help from the national Centers for Disease Control.
All that to punish not only the organization, but "to punish every man and woman who relies on our care," says Karrie Galloway, director of Planned Parenthood of Utah.
Since last fall, the organization has broken a long-standing policy and began offering early-term abortions (legal in the U.S. since 1973) to help meet demand in a time of a dwindling number of providers. To date, fewer than 100 procedures have been performed, Galloway says.
Still, Planned Parenthood's main emphasis is not just on birth control, but STD prevention and treatment to ensure that men and women can protect their fertility and the health of all our children.
It also uses its Title X funding wisely. Every dollar spent on family planning saves $4 in Medicaid and other social service costs, Galloway says. Its health centers and contract locations serve not only the metro areas, but Utah's sparsely populated areas.
"We stretch a dollar pretty thin," she says.
I understand how many people can't bear the thought of abortion, and they have the right to their convictions. What I don't understand is why anyone would want to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, which focuses on contraception and reproductive health for those who couldn't otherwise afford it.
It's telling that in Utah, 97 percent of those served are uninsured, and 85 percent of the services provided are paid for with Title X money.
That's not money down the drain, or some insidious scheme to abolish moral tenets. Back in college, it was a way for young women and men to safely express their sexuality without risking disease or, at worst, a lifetime of regret. It still is.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.