Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: OPINION: Stop trying to take away critical care in Alaska

While the country debates the morality of bodily autonomy and works to eradicate access to reproductive care, including abortion, I want my community to know how fundamental a full range of reproductive health care is to me and my family.

When I was 19 years old, I had two children and was living off welfare assistance programs because we could barely afford the basic necessities we needed to survive. As a Medicaid recipient, I was fortunate enough to have access to health care services through Planned Parenthood. This allowed me to access an intrauterine device, or IUD, so that I could have the peace of mind not to worry about another mouth to feed.

After three years, I was able to get off public assistance and independently provide for my children. The freedom I’ve gained from having the advantage of access to reproductive health care services is priceless. Without it, I cannot imagine how different my future would’ve been. I am so grateful that Medicaid was there when we were in an unfortunate situation. It is truly part of the American dream to have access to reproductive health care. Bodily autonomy is an American freedom.

This week, lifesaving, critical health care was dealt another blow. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Trump administration’s dangerous gag rule to go into effect in every state except Maryland, where a separate state ruling is blocking the rule. This gag rule makes it illegal for health care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion care and is also intended to block access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

This is wrong and will put thousands of lives at risk in Alaska. This administration continuously works to make reproductive health care inaccessible in this country. The Title X program is the nation’s only family planning program and it provides affordable birth control and preventive health care such as STI testing and treatment and cancer screenings.

The gag rule would disproportionately affect people with low income, people of color, LGBTQ2+ people, immigrants and people in underserved rural communities. With our richly diverse communities here in Alaska, the impacts of this rule would be widely and significantly felt.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed its spending bill, which included protections for the Title X program. It is critical that the U.S. Senate act and pass a spending bill that includes Title X protections, which would prevent the Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration from implementing this dangerous, illegal rule.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski continues to stand up for reproductive health care and the Title X program. We thank her for her ongoing leadership on this issue and ask her to stand with us once again. Americans do not want to see their health, freedom or their rights taken away. This gag rule is a form of oppression. Which is why we’ve been seeing thousands of protests across the country, and it’s why we’ve been gathering in the streets across Alaska to march for reproductive rights. I am a proud indigenous, LGBTQ2+ mother, and I will continue to fight for the rights of all people and protect our freedoms as Americans.

By:  Rina Kowalski
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner