Guest Commentary

Planned Parenthood is under full-on attack by Republicans at both the state and federal levels

Planned Parenthood Arizona serves more than 100,000 families every year; maybe your family is one of them.

Tucson is home to the Margaret Sanger Health Center, namesake of Planned Parenthood's founder. A century ago, Margaret Sanger was a New York City nurse who witnessed the horrors of women dying prematurely after having too many children, while others died from botched abortions. This experience motivated her to become an activist for the availability and legality of contraception. Sanger was a controversial figure—and that controversy lingers to this day.

Sanger first visited Tucson in the 1930s, when she helped set up the Tucson Mother's Health Clinic (also called Clinica Para las Madres), Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona's precursor. Sanger, bedeviled by health problems, was drawn by Tucson's climate. Her husband was drawn by Arizona's lack of income tax, and in 1933, they purchased an adobe house in the foothills.

In the early '40s, Sanger and her husband moved closer to the city's heart, as gasoline rations dulled suburbia's attractiveness. They moved into a house on Elm Street, just east of the Arizona Inn. Before his death, her husband obtained an empty lot on Sierra Vista Drive, a stone's throw from their Elm Street residence. Sanger's son Stuart built a house on one side, and Sanger decided to build her dream home on the other.

Sanger's homes hosted lavish parties as well as fundraisers for organizations like Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona and the Tucson Medical Center (of which she was also a co-founder). She took up hobbies such as cooking and watercolor; today, many of her original paintings adorn the walls of Planned Parenthood administrative headquarters in Tucson, the building that was named in her honor.

Planned Parenthood, in Arizona and nationwide, is currently under attack. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to do away with Title X, a national program providing preventive health care to low-income patients; the fate of Title X is now in the Senate's hands. Since 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed it into law, it has helped millions of women access services such as contraception, preventing an estimated 973,000 unintended pregnancies and 406,000 abortions every year.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), meanwhile, seeks to interfere with services covered by private insurance. By cutting off federal funds for insurance companies that cover abortions—even when the tax dollars aren't put toward abortion coverage—his bill would deny women the legal right to an abortion, guaranteed by the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It would also impose tax penalties on those whose insurance offers such coverage.

In Arizona, families are facing further potential threats as the Republican-controlled Legislature introduced several anti-women's-health initiatives this year. HB 2384 would make Planned Parenthood newly ineligible for the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit. HB 2416 would cause additional obstacles to abortion access, including changing the definition of "surgical abortion" to include abortion by pill, which could cut off rural women from abortion services. HB 2443 would infringe upon patient privacy by denying care to women who refuse to disclose the reasons behind their decision to abort.

A century ago, Margaret Sanger witnessed tragedies that resulted from unintended pregnancies. In response, she illegally smuggled diaphragms into the country and opened family-planning clinics in defiance of the law—and spent time in jail for her troubles. This is the world Sanger and other birth-control activists came from, and it's the world lawmakers are trying to bring back.

Don't stand for it. Talk to your friends; write to your representatives; vote; volunteer; and visit to show your support for Planned Parenthood's crucial work.