Planned Parenthood rally
A rally in support of women’s rights. Courtesy Planned Parenthood

The State of the Union is a declaration of a President’s priorities. President Donald Trump’s speech was a reminder that, from his earliest days on the campaign trail, he has promised he would wage a war on women.

He’s kept that promise, from slashing funding for birth control to nominating radical advocates to key administration positions and lifetime appointments on the federal bench.

One promise he hasn’t been able to keep: defunding Planned Parenthood.

Millions of Americans marched, organized and voted over the past two years against Trump’s attacks on women’s health.

They know reproductive health care works. With easier access to birth control, California teen pregnancy rates have declined 66 percent over the past 15 years. Sexually transmitted infections were brought under control through education and testing. The ability to plan a family has given millions of women the opportunity to succeed in the workplace.

But President Trump is guided by zealots on the right who want government to control access to health care.

Trump pledged in the State of the Union to “eliminate the HIV epidemic,” while his Administration has spent the last two years trying to dismantle federal support for reproductive health care.

Teen sex education is being redirected to abstinence-only organizations. Title X family planning and sexually transmitted infection testing funds will be off limits to any health center that discusses abortion, including the 115 California Planned Parenthood health centers that provide life-saving prevention and treatment for HIV.

Crystal Strait

In California, we have the opportunity to be the counter to the Trump administration’s crusade, thanks to a healthy state budget and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledge to make bold investments in reproductive health care.

Planned Parenthood’s California health centers are working to meet today’s urgent needs, logging more than 1.5 million patient visits annually. But it’s clear that when it comes to reproductive health care, more needs to be done to reach underserved communities.

While teen pregnancy rates have fallen, significant disparities persist. Latina teenagers have the highest teen birth rate of any ethnic group, almost four times that of white teens. African-American teens were 2.8 times more likely to give birth than white teens. Kern County has a teen birth rate five times higher than Marin County. San Bernardino’s rate is more than three times the rate in San Francisco.

After steady declines, rates of sexually transmitted infections are rising. Syphilis increased by 21 percent from 2016 to 2017. Again, disparities exist: African American rates of chlamydia are nearly five times that of whites.

To fill the gap, Gov. Newsom proposed a budget that doubles funding for reproductive health to a record $100 million. This historic investment will give more women the opportunity to plan their families, reach for their dreams and contribute to their communities.

With this new investment, Planned Parenthood health centers and other health care providers will be able to reach more patients and increase services in underserved communities with the greatest unmet need.

We will be able to provide more screening, testing and wrap-around services for patients.

Meagan is one such patient. She thought she felt a lump in her breast. Unemployed and uninsured, she knew her neighborhood Planned Parenthood center would see her.

During the exam, the lump was confirmed and a biopsy scheduled. At a Sacramento hospital, she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and received a mastectomy. Two years later, Meagan says access to health care at Planned Parenthood saved her life.

Every day, our health centers see patients like Meagan who trust Planned Parenthood. We know we can deliver quality health care and help more families thrive, if we have the funding to reach more people in need.

As President Trump works to undermine access to health care, we’re counting on the Legislature to join Gov. Newsom in making this new investment in reproductive health care a reality. Lives are depending on it.

Crystal Strait is president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the state public policy office representing California’s seven Planned Parenthood affiliates. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.