Rachel's Sabbath and the Far Right's Attack on Women


This article was originally published by the IndyStar.com.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, congregations across the country are designating the weekend of March 4-6 as Rachel Sabbath. In the Bible, Rachel is the matriarch who dies in childbirth.

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the crisis in reproductive health services and care around the world. Rachel Sabbath supports the United Nations goal of improving maternal health by doubling current global investments in family planning, reproductive and health services to women around the world. The effort could save $1.5 billion in long-term medical costs and it would save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants each year.

Women in developing countries are at greatest risk. In Niger, the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications is one in seven, the highest in the world. The lowest-risk country is Ireland. Despite our exemplary medical care, 40 nations have a lower risk of maternal death than the United States.

So it is both shocking and appalling that in America, federal legislation is being proposed that would eliminate Title X funding, which covers family planning and preventive reproductive medical care. Federal and state legislation also is targeting Planned Parenthood funding.

What's behind these efforts? There are those who say that the economy is bad; we have a huge deficit. We can't afford the money. Yet the facts tell a different story. For every public dollar spent on family planning in Indiana, taxpayers save $4.78 in state and federal Medicaid costs. If funds are cut from Planned Parenthood, it could potentially cost the state an additional $68 million in Medicaid-covered births.

There are those who claim that Planned Parenthood uses federal dollars to fund abortions. Yet the facts tell a different story. The Hyde amendment prevents any federal funds from being used for abortions except in rare cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the woman.

Where do the federal dollars go? They are used to provide preventive health services from Pap tests and breast exams that detect cancer; they are spent for birth control that reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies which, in turn, decreases abortion; they serve to screen and treat sexually transmitted diseases that protect the health of our young people.

From a purely fiscal perspective, we cannot afford the economic costs of failing to provide these services. But this is not only about numbers; it is about people. And the human cost is staggering. Imagine considering passing laws that would put in jeopardy the health and lives of more than 22,000 Hoosier women who rely on Planned Parenthood of Indiana and 1.85 million low-income women nationwide who receive medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics each year. It should be unthinkable; but it is not.

There is a crisis in reproductive health care around the globe. If this legislation passes, there will be a crisis here in Indiana and around our country. Despite inflammatory rhetoric to the contrary, this isn't about the economy or even about abortion; it is about the lives and health of women -- our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

We need to let our legislators know that the health and well-being of women is not expendable. This is not an issue of concern to women only. It is a moral, human issue that ought to be of concern to every one of us.


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