By Ryan Rogers
Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk, it read “The Buck Stops Here”. A lot has changed in our country since the 1950’s. Instead of the president taking responsibility for the direction of the country, under the advice of the business community, we have abdicated responsibility to the states. This has led to many horrible and backward things such as cutting funding for family planning because of a vendetta against Planned Parenthood and abortion. I feel it’s my duty to catalog the decisions made by our various levels government that have harmed my home of Burlington Iowa.
If you’re reading this you, of course, know of the bill passed by the Iowa legislature this last session that stole federal funding from entities that provided abortion at any level. That was a conservative wet dream as they have used Planned Parenthood and abortion to distract voters from their horrible pro-business and anti-worker record for decades. This time they finally had the legislative trifecta and that trifecta was finally going to follow through with the promises that had kept the base voting Red for the past couple of decades. Come hell or high water, this group was going to follow through for social conservatives this time.
With the news of the passage of this bill, Planned Parenthood had 4 locations that they had to close. Two of them in southeast Iowa. One in Burlington. The other in Keokuk. In one fell swoop, southeast Iowa went from two dedicated women’s health clinics to zero.
The closed clinics had been revenue stable for some time in large part to Title X family planning funds. Title X family planning services help lower-income people have access to needed services, such as birth control, STI prevention, and women’s health. With the state removing the funding allocated for the clinics, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had to close them or risk the rest of their clinics closing due to keeping us afloat. I can’t blame them for that.
So in Burlington, my friends and I fought back. We did a large march in protest of the closure and in support of our clinic. Our dedicated healthcare professionals worked for months to create a backup plan. To recreate the one stop shop Title X family planning clinic that was taken from us. A clinic that, regardless of income, that people can go to for all manner of sexual health care. This plan was brought before the Des Moines County Board of Supervisors.
Well friends, I wish I had happy news to report on this. I wish I could say that the good guys won and the women of southeast Iowa didn’t have to endure insurance copays, long waits to see new doctors, and could get birth control and reproductive health services as needed. That they could get all of the help they needed in one convenient, secure, and supportive place. Nope. If our less than well-off residents need Title X family planning they have to travel 100 or more miles to Iowa City for “immediate” care. Either that or they go to the emergency room and likely never pay that bill ending up costing the residents more money as the hospital makes up for that lost income via higher rates for service.
Our board of supervisors, consisting of one registered Republican and two registered Democrats, voted 3-0 to not move forward. They cited various concerns for this vote. The concerns ranged from financial, (difficult to find as Burlington was never managed as a stand-alone clinic) to fears of the Feds killing Title X family planning funds altogether, to complaints about the “rushed” nature of our proposal, and in a hot mic moment, one of our “democratic” supervisors dog whistling about busloads of Chicagoans traveling over 4 hours one way to “take advantage of our clinic.” That is the biggest load of rancid, left out in the sun, feces-laden, mayonnaise slathered garbage I’ve ever heard. It seems that if you don’t like something in Burlington, the crutch is to blame “Chicago people” in some capacity.
This decision is a kick in the teeth. It’s something that will do nothing to deter teen pregnancy. It will do nothing to help our worst in the state graduation rates. And if we were having problems with STI’s before losing Planned Parenthood, you better believe that this is going to get far FAR worse.
The Federal government in its zeal for austerity, cuts funding to programs that help the poor. The State then follows suit. The County and the City are unwilling and unable to try to take on new services due to being cash-strapped. It robs the citizens of a city already struggling of their income and pride. Along with all but guaranteeing that southeast Iowa is a desperate backwater. It’s hard to not feel doom and gloom over this. I worry for my city and my corner of the world. The buck stops in cities like Burlington.