I'd like to thank Sharon Lerner for her thoughtful piece on women's reproductive health issues in healthcare reform. Ms. Lerner underscores the very important point that women's preventive healthcare coverage is in everyone's best interests. It prevents infertility, cancer and abortions. More than 90 percent of the care that Planned Parenthood health clinics provide every day is primary and preventive, including wellness exams, cancer screenings, immunizations, contraception and STD testing and treatment.
Unfortunately, the process of crafting a healthcare reform package has provided a platform for single-issue advocates to advance their extreme, ideological agenda at the expense of tens of millions of women. As Lerner points out in her piece, there are lawmakers who treat birth control and other basic women's health services as a proxy for advancing their views on abortion.
Ms. Lerner's article provided an incomplete view of Minnesota Senator Franken's position on women's health and national reform. Remember, Senator Franken, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP), wasn't added to the committee until after it finished work on its healthcare reform bill. Since his arrival in the Senate, he has been a champion for women's reproductive healthcare. Senator Franken is actively working to strengthen the women's health provisions of the Senate's health reform bill by supporting Senator Mikulski's women's health amendment and engaging in ongoing discussion with local and national women's health advocates. At the October 15 hearing of the HELP Committee, Senator Franken was the only senator to clearly state that a reformed health system must include access to affordable family planning services.
Senator Franken is an unwavering ally of the women's health community. In his short time in the Senate, he has been a strong voice for women's issues. He has championed the Jamie Leigh Jones amendment to ensure that victims of sexual assault and rape have their day in court, and that no federal funds would go to companies who require arbitration in cases of rape and sexual assault. He's introduced the "Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act" to address the backlog of rape kits, which is estimated to be as high as 500,000.
Senator Franken has stated that women's health is fundamental to our nation's health. His words and actions make it clear that women's healthcare must include access to contraception and safe abortion services.