As a retired employee of the public health system in west Kentucky, I have watched county health departments and Planned Parenthood deliver preventive services to people who would otherwise never be seen. Funding for these services was largely dependent on Title X, the nation’s only family planning program that has been around since 1970. That funding no longer exists thanks to the Bevin administration.It makes me wonder how many people across the commonwealth continue to go without access to this life-saving care. 

For those who don’t know, Title X is the nation’s only family planning program that provides affordable birth control and reproductive health care. You may have seen recently that Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide are being forced out of the Title X program because of harmful restrictions on providers. Title X was instrumental in providing care to nearly 50,000 Kentuckians. It supported critical infrastructure needs not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance, such as individual patient education, and public education about family planning, reproductive health, and sexual health issues. In December 2016, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association stated that without Title X, access to high-quality family planning services for low-income Kentucky residents would not be possible. 

They were right. 

I’ve been retired for nearly eight years, but many of my former colleagues are either still employed or have recently retired from the system. They have all described in detail how the Bevin administration has stripped public health resources down to almost nothing. The warnings that these cuts would cause to our communities continue to go unanswered by this administration. 

How can you claim to care about the “sanctity of life” when your actions place Kentuckians at greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, limit access to cancer screenings, and funding for often life saving procedures that come from complicated pregnancies? 

Family planning services at Kentucky’s Title X-funded health centers, that again provided preventive care, helped prevent 15,600 unintended pregnancies in 2014, which would likely have resulted in 7,600 unintended births and 5,600 abortions and without publicly funded family planning, the number of unintended pregnancies in Kentucky would be 46 percent higher.

This last legislative session, the Bevin administration added yet another burden to our ability to provide family planning. As a part of pension reform, health departments will now be responsible for a larger portion of funding the program. Out of fear that my friends will lose their pensions, because they don’t know how the health departments will be able to cover the cuts, many of them are choosing to retire early. 

Kentucky’s county health departments have one more year to come up with a $38 million dollar payment into their pension system, following last-minute action by the legislature. 

From where I stand, the Bevin administration has no interest in actual clinic services or public health. All I am seeing is funding cuts, departments stretched thin, and almost no general funding from the state. 

I have watched and listened to this administration spread lies, falsifying the work of Planned Parenthood, and cut out the core of public health funding. The thing is, we rely on Planned Parenthood to provide preventive care like, STI testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and health education and referrals for other health and social services.

The bottom line is, Planned Parenthood isn’t the enemy, Gov. Bevin is. His restrictive policies are forcing communities to go without the care they need. It’s time we wake up and realize this election is about so much more than abortion. It’s time to make Bevin a one-term governor. 

Evie Paschall worked in the public health system for 27 years before retiring in west Kentucky.

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