A guest post from Ashley Burns.
Senator Joni Ernst is bad for Iowa women.
Aside from being the first woman elected to the Senate from Iowa, she has done little to advance the progress of women in our state. In fact, Senator Ernst actively uses her legislative power against Iowa women and their families. Her numerous votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), her vote to seat Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh despite allegations of sexual assault, and her actions to defund Planned Parenthood only further hinder the progress women in Iowa have been trying to make.
When the ACA passed in 2010, millions of women gained access to fairer, more affordable healthcare coverage. Its passage meant that women no longer had to pay more solely because of their identification as female. The ACA also meant that women could no longer be denied coverage due to “pre-existing conditions,” such as pregnancy or mental health disorders. Based on American Community Survey data, there are 67 million women and girls nationally with identifiable pre-existing conditions. Of that, 642,000 of them are from Iowa.
For women like me, the ACA was a game changer. As a millennial woman recently diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), a hormone-based mood disorder that coincides with the menstrual cycle, the fight to preserve the ACA and its benefits is a personal one. PMDD can be a largely manageable disorder if controlled with proper medication and treatment options.
Joni Ernst’s repeated attacks on the ACA show just how out-of-touch she is with women who live with a pre-existing condition. Each time Ernst obtains an opportunity to preserve essential components of the ACA, she votes against them. A vote against the ACA is a vote against me. It is a vote against my ability to be taken seriously as a woman and my ability to be insured at the same rate as men. It is a vote against my well-being. Ernst’s actions to gut the ACA are unacceptable.
It is evident that Ernst has little regard for women’s healthcare and the lives of middle-class Iowa families. Just this week, in the midst of the longest government shutdown in history, she released a statement about plans to reintroduce a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Iowans overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood and the lifesaving work the organization provides to women each and every day. In fact, 7 in 10 Iowans support Planned Parenthood – so much so that it makes me wonder who Joni Ernst actually answers to, because it’s not the people of Iowa.
With each passing year, Ernst’s allegiance to the Republican Party grows while her ability to listen to everyday Iowans diminishes. I don’t know how to emphasize this more – reproductive healthcare is primary healthcare. That includes access to safe, legal abortion as afforded under our Constitution.
Joni Ernst voices claims that “Americans should not be forced to fund the nation’s largest abortion provider with their hard-earned tax dollars.” Her statement is unequivocally false. For the past 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited the use of federal funding for abortion services. That is made to include abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. The basic premise of her support for reintroducing this legislation is based on a lie.
Ernst’s primary focus in reintroducing this bill to defund Planned Parenthood is to take away women’s autonomy to choose their healthcare provider and to limit a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions. Ernst claims that her bill would defund Planned Parenthood and redirect funds to other Community Health Centers. However, anyone who knows anything about women’s healthcare in Iowa knows that this is not a feasible solution.
All Senator Ernst needs to do is look to what happened in Iowa just last year when the Republican legislature voted to defund “abortion” providers in our state. The result has been devastating for women: fewer family planning services and less options for women living in rural areas of our state. The fact of the matter is that Community Health Centers in our country and across Iowa just don’t have the resources or capacity to take on Planned Parenthood patients should their facilities ever be shut down.
In my own life, I have relied heavily on the connections I have made at Planned Parenthood as I navigate my PMDD diagnosis. The truth is that I just can’t imagine an Iowa where Planned Parenthood clinics are closed down. It would be bad for our state and even worse for Iowa’s women. I refuse to let that happen.
Senator Joni Ernst is not an advocate for women or their families. That point is also telling in her support for Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh despite the allegations of sexual assault against him. Senator Ernst has been given numerous opportunities to use her legislative power to take a stand for women and she has yet to do so. I am not going to hold my breath for it, either. Instead, you will find me actively working to unseat Senator Joni Ernst in 2020. If you believe women and believe in them, I am counting on you to join me.
by Ashley Burns