Defending Planned Parenthood 

On Sunday, Aug. 9, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial that contained many of the same falsehoods about Planned Parenthood that are being spread by the extremists who made the hoax video.

I submitted a column to correct the record about the work Planned Parenthood does for Coloradans and nationally. The Gazette refused to run it — a disservice to its readers and the community I represent. I'm glad the Colorado Springs Independent has higher standards for public discussion.

Question for the opponents of Planned Parenthood writing in the Gazette: Have you ever gotten a polio or measles vaccine?

If so, you benefited from the type of research condemned by these dishonest, deceptive, heavily edited videos. Fetal tissue research has been common medical practice since the 1930s, was instrumental in the development of the polio vaccine and has been federally funded since 1993. At that time, both of Colorado's U.S. senators, Hank Brown and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, voted for it. Today it's used to help find cures for Parkinson's, HIV/AIDS, macular degeneration and other chronic illnesses.

Let's be completely clear: Planned Parenthood broke exactly zero laws!

And though some Planned Parenthood affiliates have a "voluntary" donation system (the Rocky Mountains affiliates do not) there is NO fetal tissue "sales" program. According to factcheck.org and others, the unedited videos, which the fake Center for Medical Progress also has released, show no profit motive. What they DO show is heavily edited scenes meant to mislead the viewer.

These deceitfully edited videos are part of a cheap, dishonest political stunt. The more we learn about this, the clearer it is that it's part of a much bigger pattern of harassment by fanatics whose real, political goal is to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood — and cut women off from birth control and lifesaving cancer screening. These same people are associated with some of the most extreme, violent fringes of the anti-choice movement.

We're already seeing anti-choice politicians trying to use these videos to defund Planned Parenthood and push for federal legislation banning some abortions. That's what this campaign is really about.

And let's be clear on another point: Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is a front-line health care provider. Each year, more than 106,000 women, men and teens visit Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains' 30 health centers throughout its four-state region, including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. In 2014, more than 11,000 people received cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, more than 100,000 HIV and STD tests were provided, more than 100,000 people received reproductive health care, and nearly 230,000 units of contraception, including birth control pills and condoms, were distributed.

One in five American women will utilize Planned Parenthood's services in her lifetime. Also, each year 2.7 million Americans visit Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care, education, information and outreach.

Annually, Planned Parenthood provides 400,000 pap tests and 500,000 breast exams, and 80 percent of its clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy. Only 3 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides is abortion services, and federal funds are not used to finance them.

Other states that have shut down Planned Parenthood have seen terrible consequences. Indiana shut down rural clinics and was rewarded with an HIV outbreak. Poor women in Texas no longer can receive cancer screenings.

I stand with Planned Parenthood because they stand for providing health care to Coloradans. I also passionately believe in a woman's right to make decisions about her body and I find it abhorrent that such a basic concept and right is even a point of argument and subject to ugly smear campaign tactics.

Shame on the Gazette for participating.

Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, was elected to the Colorado Senate in 2014. He served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2002 to 2010.

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