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Letter: Planned Parenthood deserves North Dakota's support

This week, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and GOP leadership made their plans official. Along with repealing the Affordable Care Act, they want to block Medicaid patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood—with language crafted by Cramer and colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

I'm joining thousands of my fellow doctors nationwide to make sure that doesn't happen.

As a family medicine physician in Grand Forks, I see firsthand the good that Planned Parenthood provides to North Dakota residents. Even though the closest Planned Parenthood clinic is located in Moorhead, Minn., North Dakotans represent the majority of its patients.

For this reason, attacking care at Planned Parenthood would have a devastating effect in North Dakota.

Planned Parenthood health centers are essential. They serve 2.5 million people each year,

including 3,000 North Dakotans.

The bulk of what they do is actually preventive health care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment and well-woman exams.

One in five women in this country will get care at a Planned Parenthood clinic in her lifetime. Many would not have had any other place to turn to if Planned Parenthood wasn't there.

Legislation that "defunds" Planned Parenthood—one of the most common attacks—is particularly cruel. It specifically targets patients who rely on federal safety net programs such as Medicaid—those who are already struggling to get by—and tells them they can no longer turn to Planned Parenthood for health care.

Because of that, the people who would be hurt the most are those who already face barriers to accessing reproductive health care—hitting people with low incomes and people who live in rural areas the hardest of all.

While it's clear anti-women's health politicians would like nothing more than to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers and end access to reproductive health care across this country, that isn't what people in North Dakota want, nor is it what people across the country voted for.

Women don't go to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement; they go because they need health care. Maybe that's why as 19 national polls have shown, voters overwhelmingly oppose attacks on Planned Parenthood.

And polling shows that half of President Trump's own supporters oppose defunding.

To be sure, some anti-women's health activists and politicians are so focused on attacking reproductive health care that they don't care who they hurt in the process—even if it means leaving millions of Americans out in the cold.

Those politicians include Cramer, who said that our esteemed female members of Congress who recently wore white as a symbol of women's freedoms dressed "poorly" and "looked silly."

With all due respect to the congressman, there is nothing silly about women defending their rights—including their right to accessible, affordable health care. And I stand with them, just as I do with Planned Parenthood.

Dr. Johnson is a family medicine specialist at Altru Health System.