Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thanks a lot, Congress

This past Friday, millions of Ugandans placed their votes for the 2011 presidential elections (I'm pretty sure it was only a small percentage of the 14 million that actually registered though.. Not that I can blame the non-voters, it was pretty obvious who would win), and it looks as if Museveni is in for another term. Despite some violent clashes mostly in the east, despite the allegations that Museveni's party (National Resistance Movement, NRM) has been bribing voters and despite the cries of corruption throughout the campaigning period, it seems to have been a relatively uneventful election period. So, even in a country that's battling poverty, a high maternal mortality rate and a rapidly growing population (one of the highest birth rates in the world!), things appear to be moving forward. Can I say the same about my country right now? Sadly, no.

In fact, it looks like we're moving backwards at an astonishingly fast rate. Without even delving into the terrifying influence of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party-ers, or the support for cutting foreign aid and lots of civil service jobs (two of the smallest sections of our budgets! You really don't want policemen and fire fighters in your town? Seriously? You don't care about the 911 dispatcher service or the people who plow your streets? You don't see the value in having an international presence that isn't limited to the military?), let's consider the most recent indication that we're country full of morons.

The house voted last week to bar all funding for Planned Parenthood. As one of my best friends put it, "this is a truly disgusting attack on women's health." This affects every woman in the country, and even a lot of men. It disproportionately affects poor women and women of color, and it leaves so many young women without access to the reproductive health services and education that they need (I emphasize young women because of their increased risk for STD's and the greater possibility of unwanted/unintended pregnancies).

As the old saying goes, you don't know what you've got till it's gone, and to all the republicans and few democrats who voted for this bill, that applies to you too! Or maybe you wouldn't care if Planned Parenthood was gone because your moms, wives, sisters and daughters can afford to get their health services elsewhere. But good luck to you when your teenage daughter decides to become sexually active and doesn't know where to go for contraceptives. Good luck to you when your voters can't afford the expensive private clinics, or can't afford insurance (Planned Parenthood has a sliding fee scale that also applies to people without insurance). Good luck when young people no longer know where to go to check their STD and HIV status, and so they just don't. Good luck dealing with an increased number of dangerous abortions by unlicensed/untrained practitioners.

Planned Parenthood provides one of the best ways for women, of all ages and backgrounds, to take control of their health and therefore, their future. Defunding Planned Parenthood would move us back decades in terms of women's rights, and I can't help but believe that the people who voted to pass this bill absolutely know that. I only hope the Senate has women's interests a little closer to heart.