Letter to the Editor: Funding Family Planning Program Funds Our Future

July 14, 2020, 3:00 PM HST (Updated July 14, 2020, 1:42 PM)
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The following is a letter to the editor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions of Big Island Now or Pacific Media Group. The letter has not been edited for content. 

She was just 12 years old.

Her mom and auntie brought her to the clinic because she was too young to bring herself. Not able to hide it any longer on her small figure, it was clear as she sat on the exam room table that she was about six months pregnant. She had thick dark hair and beautiful brown eyes, wide now with fear and a knowing that she was past the point of having control or a choice about having a baby while still only a child herself.

To see a 12-year-old pregnant feels like a great injustice. How does something like this still happen, even today? Itʻs not fair that this child should be in this position, or for that matter, anyone else who is not ready or who is unable to parent. Our health care system must value preventive care as much as treating an illness or health crisis, especially in reproductive health care. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there for this little girl and it isn’t there for many others.

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If anything, COVID-19 has shown us, even more, the frailties and the vulnerabilities in our health care system. As Hawai‘i’s officials look at a budget decimated by this global pandemic, they must make some tough decisions about what’s necessary and what will or will not survive upcoming budget cuts.

But access to comprehensive health care, especially reproductive health care, needs to be a priority. Our keiki, ʻohana, and community deserve it.

Here is my plea to Governor David Ige: Please ensure family planning services remain fully funded. Hawaiʻi’s state-funded program replaces Title X funds lost when the current administration forced out clinics that perform abortions. These clinics help people with low incomes and people who are uninsured or underinsured get the reproductive health services they need — services such as birth control, STI testing and treatment, cervical and breast cancer screenings, transgender care, and pregnancy testing.

Before COVID-19 hit, too many people in Hawai‘i with low socioeconomic status already had to figure out how to pay for a flight to a neighboring island to get birth control or drive several hours round-trip to the nearest clinic. Too many didn’t get needed tests for STIs because it was out of their means financially or they couldn’t afford to make the trip.

To take away their only means of funding to access these needed services after so many families have been financially devastated because of this pandemic is not fair or ethical.

The CARES Act thankfully provided Hawai‘i with funding that hospitals and clinics desperately need. But we cannot forget the providers whose services lie outside of direct COVID-19 treatment and care. Reproductive health services are essential, too.

COVID-19 has also shown us the opportunities for growth and where we can make it better, not just for some but for all people regardless of race, social class, education level, and gender. As a health care provider, I ask the governor to invest the $2.4 million needed to continue family planning programs. Primarily because the people of Hawai‘i need and deserve it, but also because it is the right thing to do.

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