As a former state representative and senator, I understand the complicated decisions that elected officials have to make every day. It is always interesting to hear people argue about the proper role of government, but for me, government exists to serve the people.
That's why I was alarmed to recently learn that at least some of Ravalli County's commissioners are considering refusing Title X federal money for their own Ravalli County family planning clinic.
Family planning clinics exist throughout Montana and fill a critically important role by providing essential health care to women who otherwise wouldn't have access to it. In Ravalli County alone, almost 90 percent of the clinic's clients don't have health insurance and over 72 percent of their clients fall below the federal poverty level. Without the clinic, women would not have access to preventative health care such as annual exams, pap tests, and nutrition counseling.
Some of Ravalli County's commissioners believe the clinic goes too far by offering contraceptives. I think they're ignoring reality. Some on the commission claim that this attack on women in Ravalli County is, in fact, just part of a larger debate on the "role of government." I think they're wrong. More importantly, you don't engage in a debate about the "role of government" by targeting a woman's health.
Refusing the Title X money will effectively close the clinic and 465 people will no longer have access to preventative care. Instead, women will be forced to wait for a health crisis to occur and go to the emergency room and those of us with health insurance will pay for it through higher premiums. It doesn't make sense and it's highly irresponsible. Ben Franklin had it right when he said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As a father and husband, I feel blessed to know that my family has access to essential services that keep my family healthy and safe. I can't imagine how we would cope if those services were taken away from us. If a woman in Ravalli County has her health care threatened, every citizen's health care is threatened.
I strongly urge the commissioners to choose prevention over crisis management, pragmatism over rigid ideology, and, most importantly, a woman's right to control her own body over the government telling her what she has to do with her body. In the end, it's really not a complicated decision.
Jesse Laslovich, from Anaconda, is a candidate for Montana attorney general.