Posted on March 9, 2017
Originally appearing online in DelCo Times
March 8, 2017 9:29PM
By: Susan Serbin, Times Correspondent
SPRINGFIELD >> On the eve of International Women’s Day, the sidewalk outside the office of U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, was once again the scene of a gathering — not only women, but several men held a “pop-up” rally in support of Planned Parenthood, specifically to defend funding.
Mary Donahue, the Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania Field Manager, said the first notice she received for national action came late Monday evening, prompted by the release of Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act which include the defunding of Planned Parenthood. About 50 individuals responded to calls through social media. Many are becoming very familiar with the site of Meehan’s office at the highly visible intersection of routes 1 and 320 for a place to raise awareness. (Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are slated to hold a protest there today.)
“If Planned Parenthood is defunded, it wouldn’t get reimbursed for Medicaid coverage,” said Donahue. “We are the leading health care provider for reproductive services.”
A Meehan spokesman offered this statement in response to the rally: “Rep. Meehan supports increasing access to life-saving health services for women through community health centers. He shares the concerns of many constituents that taxpayer dollars should not support Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.”
No federal funds are used by Planned Parenthood for abortion services. Meehan is known his anti-abortion views.
Mary Ellen Balchunis is two-time Democratic contender for Meehan’s seat, and is on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. She has attended rallies in support of the existing ACA and generally agreed this is a much-aligned issue of health care.
“The bill introduced in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood would impact the low-income women who use services such as screenings for cancer, STDs and general gynecological care,” Balchunis.
Planned Parenthood receives federal funding of about $500 million nationally, Balchunis said.
Some of those attending had personal reasons; others saw it as a broader issue.
“Health care is a human right. As wealthy as America is, there should be both access to health care and access to affordable health care. As a woman, I see this as a really critical service,” said Jen Hallam of Drexel Hill.
Hallam was in the company of no fewer than four relatives and her dog. They all sported some item of pink clothing or accessory. Her niece, 11-year-old Sydnie Hallam, said she thought health care was important because “without it, people would get sick.”
The men attending the rally were clear indication women’s health care is not exclusively a women’s issue. William Turpin of Rutledge said there were about 10 things that were upsetting him, referring to current political actions. The ACA, and by extension Planned Parenthood funding, was in the top five. “I wish Meehan was paying attention to this,” Turpin said.
Vanessa Olenick’s sign read “Productive Rights are Human Rights.” She had come from a shift as a Planned Parenthood volunteer escort, recently trained by Mary Donahue. New at the job, she said she is learning about the service which essentially provides a safe and undisturbed passage for Planned Parenthood client to get past demonstrators and into clinics and offices.
Planned Parenthood President and CEO Cecile Richards spoke Wednesday as Congress was to begin debate on ACA actions, whether reform or replacement.
“About $2.5 million come to Planned Parenthood every year, mainly for preventative care. We are proud of the progress we made — a reduction of 30 percent in teenage pregnancies and the lowest abortion rate as a result of family planning,” said Richards. “We operate like every other hospital receiving reimbursements, but we are the only one singled out for defunding. There is a war on women’s health care.”
Many gathered outside Meehan’s office expressed the same views, some in a sharper tone.
“Congress has no clue of the struggles women are facing,” said Balchunis.