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Representatives should respect women, families

Tanya Atkinson

Last week, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin and legislative leaders had a forum on women’s health and economic security, we invited State Sen. President Mike Ellis, but he didn’t show up. We have extended multiple invites over the years to Sen. Ellis to tour Planned Parenthood’s health centers in his district so he can talk with our medical professionals and the women affected by his actions to take away women’s health decisions. He has never shown up. As a health care provider who serves women and families everyday with quality essential health care, we see the impact of these negative policies on our patient’s lives. And while Ellis has repeatedly declined our invitations to talk about women’s health with women, he has put more time and effort into taking health care decisions and services away from women than any other senate president.

Indeed, it is hard to comprehend how much Ellis and the far right majority in the Legislature have taken away from Wisconsin’s women in the last three years. As senate president, Ellis ultimately makes the decision about which bills move through the Senate. Not only does he advance these bills, he voted for them.

Since 2011, Ellis has devastated Wisconsin women’s ability to access health care and to make personal private health care decisions. Ellis cut women’s access to affordable cervical and breast cancer screenings, cancer treatment referrals, STD testing and treatment, health exams and birth control at Planned Parenthood. Ellis also ended BadgerCare for tens of thousands of women and families, further threatening the health and financial well-being of our community. Ellis weakened teen pregnancy prevention efforts by repealing sex education program requirements in our schools and ended equal pay protections for women. At the same time He worked to undermine women’s economic security and preventive health care access; he also worked to pass new laws that threaten women’s access to safe and legal abortion in Wisconsin.

If not for a federal judge, one of Ellis’s unconstitutional abortion restrictions would have closed half of Wisconsin’s four remaining abortion health centers. Wisconsin now has more abortion restrictions than any state in the nation. We are one of the worst states when it comes to job creation, but we are No. 1 in abortion restrictions. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child are better left to a woman and her family, not politicians like Ellis.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just recently, we saw data showing a decline in the number of abortions in Wisconsin and across the nation. For those of us who work every day to keep our communities healthy, we know that increased access to birth control and sexual health education are key to reducing unintended pregnancy and abortion. In Wisconsin, we have a long history of working together to ensure our citizens have access to essential health care and the freedom to make their own health care decisions. It is our responsibility to take action and contact our elected representatives to protect these freedoms, and push back on the politics that invade our ability to make our own informed, personal and private health care decisions.

For nearly 80 years, Planned Parenthood has been serving communities all across Wisconsin with essential reproductive health care including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, health exams and community education. We believe in a Wisconsin that trusts women to make their own health care decisions and works to protect the freedom of women and families to access quality, essential care.

In order to achieve this vision, we must work together. Join us in calling for a better future for women’s health that is free from political agendas. Call Ellis today and tell him to honor women and families by restoring access to essential health care programs and respecting a woman’s hard fought ability to make her own informed, personal private health care decisions.

Tanya Atkinson is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.