RELEASE: Planned Parenthood Disappointed in Governor Walker’s Failed Leadership

Governor Allows Dangerous Barriers on Sex Ed to Become Law in Alaska

JUNEAU – Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii released the following statement on HB 156 from Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager:

“Governor Walker failed to show leadership and failed Alaskan youth by choosing to support the dangerous restrictions on sexual health education that will now become law in Alaska. HB 156 is a crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education in Alaska and his lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk, elevating sex ed to the most scrutinized subject in the state. Every single guest speaker, every curriculum, and even every piece of paper being used must be individually approved by each school board. This is designed to do one thing: block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships. Our students, and everyone else in Alaska, deserves better from their leaders.”

Opposition to this bill is overwhelming and over the course of the 2015-2016 legislative session, 232 people testified in opposition, nearly 4,000 constituents contacted their elected officials, more than 2,400 calls were made to Governor Walker’s office and legislative offices, and opponents consistently outnumbered supporters at the 17 public hearings.

House Bill 156 was initially designed to improve student performance measures and increase local control of school districts, but in a turn of events over the course of 48 hours, the bill was hijacked to significantly restrict sex education. It took an unprecedented four votes in the House to accept these changes, eventually passing by just one vote. Now that the bill will become law, local school boards will be forced to regulate sexual health education more than any other subject – a clear effort to limit what is taught in the classroom.

BACKGROUND:

Alaska is a nationwide leader in poor indicators of sexual and reproductive health, including:

  • Leading the nation in chlamydia rates
  • Unsurprisingly, Alaska is worse than 46 other states when it comes to educating our youth.
  • Targeting sexual health education is a pet project of Senator Mike Dunleavy’s, and he continues to push it forward at every opportunity. Here is his astounding record:
    • Last year he introduced SB 89, a clearly unconstitutional attempt to block Planned Parenthood’s sexual health programs. Even nonpartisan Legal Services outlined the legally questionable aspects of the legislation.
    • When SB 89 stalled in 2015, Dunleavy infamously inserted the Planned Parenthood language into the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, also known as Erin’s Law, which would have increased sexual assault awareness education for Alaska students. This effort ultimately failed.
    • This year, he not only revived SB 89 but also pulled out the Planned Parenthood language to create a new bill, SB 191, which somehow even more overtly targets Planned Parenthood. SB 191 dropped all pretense that this legislation is about anything else. If SB 89 was unconstitutional already, then SB 191 took it to a completely new level.
    • SB 89 finally died in the House Health and Social Services committee, and SB 191 and its companion HB 352 did not move forward.
    • Less than 24 hours after SB 89 died, Dunleavy inserted his agenda into the unrelated HB 156.

 

RELEASE: Extreme and Legally Questionable Bill in Idaho

Governor Otter Signs Yet Another Extreme and Legally Questionable Bill Targeting Reproductive Health Care in Idaho

Boise – Yesterday, Governor Butch Otter signed SB 1404 into law, extreme legislation based on last year’s discredited and heavily biased videos targeting women who donated fetal tissue to medical research in other states. The signing came despite the fact that Planned Parenthood does not facilitate fetal tissue donation in Idaho, the people behind the videos have been indicted by a grand jury, and Governor Otter himself refused to investigate Planned Parenthood last year due to lack of evidence.

Last year the state of Idaho paid out more than one million dollars of taxpayer money after losing several lawsuits on unconstitutional bills. Last May, Idaho’s 20 week abortion ban was confirmed as unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. SB 1404 is set to join this long history of legally questionable reproductive health care laws in Idaho.

SB 1404 was pushed by anti-women’s health legislators as an attack on Planned Parenthood, but it has no direct impact on access to abortion and instead largely affects miscarriages and stillbirths while halting life-saving scientific research. Some of the immediate impacts of SB 1404 include:

  • Health care providers will now have to deviate from best medical practices when treating women dealing with miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • All academic research involving fetal tissue or embryonic stem cells obtained from an abortion is now outlawed, including any prospective projects at Idaho’s public universities.
  • Women are prohibited from donating fetal tissue from abortions for research, a practice that Planned Parenthood does not facilitate in Idaho. Historically, fetal tissue research has led to life-saving vaccines and treatments for polio, measles, shingles, rabies, and Hepatitis A, among many other diseases and conditions. Just last week, fetal tissue research findings on the Zika virus were published.

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii released the following statement from Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho Legislative Director, in response to the signing:

“SB 1404 is an extreme law that is part of a years-long effort to dismantle women’s health care in the state of Idaho. Rather than being based on actual science or medicine, this bill is based on nothing more than an extreme agenda to put politicians like Governor Otter into the exam room between a woman and her doctor.

“Women donating fetal tissue for scientific research has resulted in some of the greatest medical breakthroughs ever – research that has continued at Idaho’s universities. SB 1404 unnecessarily makes this potentially life-saving research against the law. At the same time, SB 1404 places a host of legally questionable restrictions on the handling of fetal tissue that have absolutely no precedent in recommended medical practices. By forcing hospitals and other health care providers to deviate from current law and best medical practices, Idaho politicians have once again proven that they will do anything to restrict reproductive health care in Idaho. Not only are these ideas against the recommendations of physicians and other providers, but they are also potentially unconstitutional.

“Idaho deserves better.”

Opposition to SB 1404  is also opposed by the Idaho section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). ACOG’s Dr. Cynthia Hayes wrote in a letter to Governor Otter:

“I urge you to veto SB 1404 as ill-advised and dangerous. This bill would set back scientific research that can improve—and even save—the lives of the women and families in our state. It would also undermine the empathetic, compassionate counseling and care we as physicians are dedicated to providing our patients.”

Additionally, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a letter from dozens of medical schools in January opposed to bills like SB 1404 that seek to prohibit fetal tissue research. University of Washington, Idaho’s public medical school through the ‘WWAMI’ program, signed on to the letter.

WA: Reproductive Health Groups Celebrate Overwhelming 91-6 Vote for HB 2465

Reproductive Health Groups Celebrate Overwhelming House Passage of “12 Months of Birth Control,” Urge Senate to Take Action After 91-6 Vote

Olympia – Today, reproductive health and rights advocacy groups in Washington celebrated House floor passage of HB 2465 on a 91-6 vote, heavy bipartisan support for legislation that would dramatically reduce barriers to birth control access. The bill would ensure that all women in Washington have consistent access to birth control by allowing them to receive 12 months at a time, meaning they would have to refill their prescription only once a year. Companion legislation in the Senate did not receive a hearing before cutoff, but with House passage the Senate has a new opportunity to take up the idea and move HB 2465 forward.

“Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii applauds the House of Representatives for moving forward on increasing access to birth control for Washington women. Now the Senate should do the same,” said Jennifer Allen, Director of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “We hope the Senate will see what we see: that everyone deserves affordable and accessible birth control that works for us, regardless of income or type of insurance.”

Editorial Boards for several major newspapers across Washington have endorsed “12 months of birth control,” arguing that it’s a commonsense policy all legislators should get behind. Newspapers taking up the fight include the Seattle Times, Spokesman-Review, News Tribune, and most recently, the Columbian. The Times called it a “sensible and important bill to broaden women’s health services to help with prevention.”

“The House vote recognizes that many women—especially low-income women, rural women, and women of color—face barriers that make it difficult for them to get to a pharmacy each month,” said Janet Chung, Legal & Legislative Counsel for Legal Voice. “This bill is good for women, good for families, and good for Washington State, which will benefit from a reduced rate of unplanned pregnancies. We urge the Senate to follow suit.”

Currently, women with Medicaid insurance in Washington already are able to receive up to a 12 months of birth control at once, but HB 2465 would ensure women who purchase private insurance have the same access. Washington would be the second state in the country to pass a law guaranteeing this access after Oregon.

“Barriers to birth control access, like the requirement that a woman travel to the drug store every single month to obtain pills that must be taken every day to be effective, patronize women and put them at risk of unplanned pregnancy,” said Rachel Berkson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “This is particularly true for women in rural areas or whose work hours make it difficult to get to the drugstore when it’s open. This legislation is a necessary and important step toward access to birth control for all who want it.”

Consistent access to birth control gives women the ability to control when and if they have children, giving them more career and education opportunities, healthier pregnancies, and making them less likely to depend on government programs. Today, most women have to refill their birth control every month, which is a burden for many and leads to inconsistent use, and accounts for 43% of all unintended pregnancies.

“This bill would remove an unnecessary barrier to accessing contraceptives. It’s an important step to ensuring that every women, regardless of income,  has access to effective and affordable birth control,” said Leah Rutman, Policy Counsel at ACLU of Washington.

“We encourage our legislators to champion women’s health care with the passage of HB 2465.  Access to 12 month’s birth control is vital.  Birth control goes beyond health care – it gives women self-determination and the power to control their future,” said Connie Cantrell, Executive Director of Cedar River Clinics.

# # #

Statement on Jim McDermott’s Retirement Announcement

Planned Parenthood Votes Praises Rep. Jim McDermott for his Lifetime of Advocacy for Women and Families

Seattle – Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii released the following statement from CEO Elaine Rose following U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (WA-07) announcing his retirement from Congress:

“Representative Jim McDermott has been a passionate progressive voice representing Washington state in Congress for nearly 30 years, serving as a nationwide champion on countless issues important to women and families. At each and every point in his accomplished career, Congressman McDermott has stood with Planned Parenthood and our patients and providers, including on access to birth control and safe and legal abortion. Notably, he has received a lifetime 100% score on Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Congressional Scorecard. For all these reasons and more, we look forward to working with Jim McDermott during his final year and thank him for his long record of public service.”

# # #

Save the Date – 2016 Annual Luncheon


2016 Votes Luncheon Save the Date_v4
2015 has been a difficult one in the movement for women’s health and reproductive rights, but we are ready for 2016!

2016 is shaping up to be one of the most important elections in our lifetimes. From the historic race for the White House all the way down to key legislative seats across Washington state, 2016 will be monumental for women’s health at every level of government.

Leading the charge for Planned Parenthood in this fight is Cecile Richards! Join us Wednesday, March 30 in welcoming Cecile Richards back to Seattle at the 19th Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest & Hawaii luncheon.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights. She has helped to expand safe and affordable healthcare and contraceptive services to women across America, while at the same time aggressively supporting pro-women candidates at all levels. Cecile will be joining us in Seattle to speak about Congressional fights to protect access to birth control and abortion and what is in store for the 2016 election.

Stand with Cecile, and fellow advocates from across the state, to support the crucial work of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest & Hawaii. Order your ticket right now and receive the early bird price of $125! Ticket prices will go up on March 1st.

WA: Action Forums in Ellensburg and Seattle!

This week we are hosting two action forums in Washington, in Ellensburg and Seattle. Each event will bring together dozens of Planned Parenthood supporters for a conversation heading into the 2016 election. At these events you will:

  • Talk with supporters like you about what YOUR priorities are for local, state, and national candidates
  • Discuss the major issues that impact reproductive health and rights, both nationally and for us here in Idaho
  • Make big decisions about where our candidates should focus — from sex education to abortion access
  • Hold 2016 local, state, and national candidates accountable to the issues that matter most to our communities

We hope you can make it! RSVP at the links below for exact location and additional details:

Ellensburg Planned Parenthood Policy Forum
November 19 at 6:00 PM
Click here to RSVP!

Seattle Planned Parenthood Policy Summit
November 21 at 11:00 AM
Click here to RSVP!

Murkowski and Sullivan Cast Extreme Vote

Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan Cast Extreme Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood

Murkowski disappoints Alaska women

Anchorage — Today, by a vote of 53-46, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have blocked Alaska women and thousands more across the country from receiving preventive health services at Planned Parenthood health centers. Among the Senators who voted to defund Planned Parenthood were Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. Murkowski’s vote is particularly disappointing, as she previously supported Planned Parenthood funding in 2011.

The vote comes after a relentless, coordinated smear campaign by anti-abortion extremists to dismantle by any means necessary the nonprofit reproductive health care provider and the lifesaving services it provides.

Statement from Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii:

“Despite Senator Murkowski and Sullivan voting for this extreme measure, the Senate stood with the majority of voters who oppose this bill that would have cut women off from basic health care. People in Alaska and across the country have seen it for what it is — a political attack on women by a group of out-of-touch politicians. The elected officials behind this bill should listen to the public and the medical community. Medical experts not only assert that Planned Parenthood provides high-quality reproductive health care, but that unequivocally, other providers would not be able to fill the gap, with women losing access to care as a result.

“While Senator Sullivan’s vote is not surprising, Alaska women are extremely disappointed in Senator Murkowski’s vote which allows government to restrict access to health care for Alaska women. Women and families in Alaska have trusted Senator Murkowski to show sensible leadership on essential health care services, but today, it appears that trust has been misplaced.

“We already know how far some in the GOP will go in their quest to end safe and legal abortion — allying themselves with a group associated with the most extreme wing of the anti-abortion movement, obstructing funding for breast cancer research, and politicizing a bill to help wounded veterans start a family. We know that this won’t be the last time Congress attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, with some already threatening a government shutdown in order to block millions from getting basic health care.

“Next time, rather than listening to their extremist allies, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan should listen to the people of Alaska, who strongly oppose these attacks on women’s access to reproductive health care.”

Two national polls have now showed that the majority of American voters strongly oppose attacks on Planned Parenthood and the reproductive health care it provides — with a new Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll released tonight showing that voters rate Planned Parenthood most favorably: above both political parties, the NRA, Supreme Court, and all leading 2016 presidential candidates.

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s most trusted reproductive health care provider. Every year, 2.7 million women, men and young people rely on us for birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams.  More than 90 percent of the care Planned Parenthood provides is preventive, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Planned Parenthood has been a trusted health care provider for nearly 100 years.

###

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii (PPVNH) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization educating residents and policy-makers about reproductive health issues in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Hawaii. PPVNH lobbies and educates to advance Planned Parenthood’s mission and also engages in limited electoral activities.

Say hello to Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii!

Planned Parenthood Advocacy and Political Organizations Merge for Northwest and Hawaii

Seattle and Honolulu — Today, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Planned Parenthood of Hawaii Action Network announced the official merger of their two organizations. The newly named 501(c)4 nonprofit, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii (PPVNH), will be responsible for Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political work across the four-state region of Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, and Washington state. Elaine Rose, Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, will continue in that role at PPVNH.

“This merger is great news for reproductive health care access in Hawaii. PPVNH will continue to be a forceful and vocal champion for the women and families of Hawaii,” said Amy Monk, board member of the former Planned Parenthood of Hawaii Action Network and now PPVNH. “By pooling our knowledge, experience, and resources, the highly effective governmental advocacy and political work that we are known for will only improve across Hawaii and the rest of the four-state region.”

The merger comes after Planned Parenthood 501(c)3 nonprofit health care and sexual health education provider affiliates in Hawaii and the Northwest similarly merged earlier this year to become Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI). PPVNH works as the advocacy and political arm of PPGNHI and three other regional provider affiliates, a purview that includes limited electoral work.

We are thrilled to merge with Planned Parenthood of Hawaii Action Network. Their history of fighting for smart reproductive health policies and electing passionate leaders who stand up for women’s health is one to admire,” said CEO Elaine Rose. “The team at PPVNH is already experienced at working in many diverse communities, and we are excited to take on this new challenge. Expanding to work with our amazing colleagues in Hawaii is a natural fit that will ensure a seamless transition.”

The merger has already made a positive impact in Hawaii with the Hawaii State Board of Education’s (BOE) vote to require public schools to provide students with sexual health education. Staff from both merging organizations and PPGNHI worked closely to build support for the new policy, encouraging parents and community leaders in Hawaii to send in letters and attend the vote. Planned Parenthood supporters ultimately sent in over 350 messages to express their support.

“This merger adds new energy to all of Planned Parenthood’s work in Hawaii,” said Dr. Susan Wurtzburg, also a former PPHIAN and now PPVNH board member. “Our supporters, board members, and staff are looking forward to renewing their efforts to increase access to reproductive health care in the 2016 legislative session and holding politicians accountable in elections at all levels.”

# # #

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii (PPVNH) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization educating residents and policy-makers about reproductive health issues in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Hawaii. PPVNH lobbies and educates to advance Planned Parenthood’s mission and also engages in limited electoral activities.

 

AK: HB 44 Signed After Avoiding Sex Ed Restrictions

Alaska Safe Children’s Act Signed into Law after Narrowly Avoiding Extreme Restrictions to Sex Ed

Anchorage — Today, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest (PPVNW) applauded Governor Bill Walker for signing House Bill 44, the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, into law last night. Formerly known as both Erin’s Law and Bree’s Law, HB 44 is an important measure for sexual assault and abuse prevention. Alaska’s child sexual abuse rates are six times the national average, and this law will lead to awareness education for students in desperate need of access to information to protect themselves.

“The Alaska Safe Children’s Act is a landmark bill for Alaska in our fight against the epidemic of sexual abuse. Governor Walker and the legislature deserve praise for their leadership in making this bill become a reality,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. “We owe it to our children to do everything within our power to prevent sexual assault and abuse, and HB 44 is an important first step. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest was proud to advocate for this bill.”

HB 44’s status was in doubt near the end of session after Sen. Mike Dunleavy and his colleagues hijacked it by inserting their own unrelated and extreme agenda items. Among others, one amendment featured restrictions on the sexual health education programs available to youth across Alaska. A May 20 editorial by PPVNW advocated against the amendments, stating that it was “time to stop playing politics with vulnerable children and students at risk.” Even Erin Merryn, namesake of Erin’s Law, came out against the hijacked bill.

Alaska’s youth and parents narrowly avoided an extreme and damaging outcome when legislative leaders came to their senses and allowed a clean version of HB 44 to move forward,” said Cler. “The amended version of this bill would have taken away the freedom that communities across Alaska have to make the decisions that are best for their families by interfering with the education that students need. Unfortunately, we likely have not seen the end of this horrible idea. Make no mistake, advocates for smart sexual health education policy will be ready to fight again in 2016 if it returns.”

The amendment restricting sexual health education access is identical to language contained in Senate Bill 89. Dunleavy is SB 89’s prime sponsor, and has already promised to bring the bill up again at the start of the 2016 legislative session in January. The effect of the bill would be to prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any sexual health education in Alaska public schools. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands is the largest nonprofit organization in the state of Alaska providing sexual and reproductive health education.

Alaska continually leads the nation on rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including being the first for rates of chlamydia infection. 15-19 year olds contract chlamydia at a rate three times higher than other people in the state. Additionally, Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, and child sexual abuse rates in Alaska are six times higher than the national average. These and other figures underscore the true need for comprehensive sexual health education like the programs provided by Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood provides unbiased, medically accurate, comprehensive sexual health education across Alaska. When invited, educators work closely to provide a variety of education opportunities, including a focus on consent and healthy relationships, tailored for the needs of each individual community. Sexual health education has been proven time and time again as essential to help young people avoid unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, and delay the onset of sexual activity.

Planned Parenthood education programs are not only accepted and solicited in Alaska and states across the country, but they are proven to be effective as well. A 2014 study in the Journal of School Health examined one of Planned Parenthood’s three-year middle school prevention programs. The results showed that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex in the schools that used Planned Parenthood education programs versus schools that did not.

# # #