Letter: Legislators failed to address health

The 2014 legislative session was a real disappointment for advocates of women and families. When given an opportunity to expand Medicaid, ensure equal pay, increase access to health education and raise the minimum wage, the legislators refused to support Louisiana families.

Louisiana leads the country in many bad health indicators — teen pregnancy, unintended pregnancies, STDs and HIV. Denying access to health care by not expanding Medicaid and restricting young people’s access to age-appropriate sex education will have dangerous consequences.

If Louisiana is serious about addressing health challenges, we should invest in health care, family planning and sex education. Unfortunately, at every opportunity to solve real problems, politics won over people.

As a legislator in 1992, I tried to pass comprehensive sex education, and Rep. Patricia Smith has continued this fight. Rep. Smith’s bill, House Bill 369, focused on age-appropriate and medically accurate health education to prevent disease and reduce unintended pregnancies, encouraging young people to make healthy decisions. We believe that parents and young people need access to high-quality health education, but the Legislature took aim at Planned Parenthood with Rep. Frank Hoffmann’s House Bill 305, which excludes our experienced educators from providing any health educational instruction in public schools.

If we don’t provide access to health care or education to prevent pregnancy, how does eliminating access to abortion care make sense? Rep. Katrina Jackson’s HB388 will eliminate access to safe and legal medical procedures. The American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is against legislation that mandates that doctors who perform abortions have hospital admitting privileges. We all want to protect women’s health and safety, but House Bill 388 bill doesn’t do that. We should rely on medical experts, not politicians, to set medical standards. It’s clear the intent of this legislation is to shut down health centers that provide abortion care services. This Legislature failed to focus on the real-life challenges facing Louisiana and capitulated to the extreme politics of the Louisiana Family Forum. For 30 years, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has been helping women and men in Louisiana access preventive health care and get the information they need to make healthy decisions for their lives and families.

If you are frustrated by the Legislature not focusing on the real people of Louisiana, stand with Planned Parenthood as we tell politicians to trust Louisiana women.

Melissa Flournoy

Louisiana state director, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Baton Rouge