This week, gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson confirmed what he has been trying to hide about his plans for women’s health. He pledged to sign a bill to “defund” Planned Parenthood if he becomes Minnesota’s next governor. Minnesotans should understand the implications of this position before they vote.
With this single statement, Johnson recklessly put politics before Minnesotans’ health. Here at Planned Parenthood, our 71,000 patients don’t come to our clinics to make a political statement — they come to us because we provide the compassionate, expert health care services they need. But Johnson has committed that if he becomes governor, he would cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood patients, thereby dismantling a major piece of our state’s public health infrastructure and denying thousands of Minnesotans expert reproductive health services such as birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment at our clinics.
Take a moment to think about that. Johnson essentially wants to treat being a woman as a preexisting condition, denying them the health care they need. That effectively is what defunding Planned Parenthood patients would do. This is not hyperbole or speculation. We need only look to our Iowa neighbors to see the disastrous consequences of cutting off public funding for Planned Parenthood. Just last week, the that one year after excluding Planned Parenthood from Iowa’s family planning program, the state’s family planning services declined by 73 percent. Other clinics just couldn’t serve all the people that Planned Parenthood had cared for. If Johnson gets elected and has his way, we don’t have to guess what will happen.
The changes would have devastating, long-term consequences on Minnesota’s public health, particularly for the young people in the state who rely on Planned Parenthood. Johnson claims there are other providers who can serve these patients. But Minnesota’s federally qualified health centers have been clear that they can't absorb Planned Parenthood's patients. The recent experience in Iowa proves they’re correct about that. So, why are politicians like Johnson so bent on denying people critical health care services like birth control? It certainly isn’t because it’s what Minnesotans want.
Whatever Johnson’s motivation, he's willing to ignore all the public health benefits, all the medical research and all the historical data that tell us that when women have access to birth control, they are able to pursue their education and careers. This in turn increases their likelihood of economic security. Fortunately, Minnesotans have the opportunity on Tuesday to choose a Governor who will be a champion for health care for women and families: Tim Walz. Walz won’t allow anyone to take Planned Parenthood services away from the people of Minnesota. He understands that Planned Parenthood has been providing health care for more than 100 years and 71,000 Minnesotans choose us as their preferred health care provider each year. And he knows that young Minnesotans in particular need affordable birth control.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Sarah Stoesz is the President of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund.