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Hillary Clinton is the only choice for voters who care about women’s health | Cecile Richards

While Donald Trump has vowed to set womens reproductive and healthcare rights back decades, Clinton has spent her career pushing for equality

During the third debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a couple weeks ago, Clinton gave the most powerful defense of reproductive rights ever from a presidential candidate.

I will defend Planned Parenthood, I will defend Roe v Wade, and I will defend womens rights to make their own healthcare decisions I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions, she said.

Most Americans agree. According to a CNN a focus group, this moment was the most favored of the entire debate. That is because seven out of 10 Americans support Roe v Wade, and a majority of voters, including half of Trump supporters, agree that Planned Parenthood shouldnt be defunded. And yet, reproductive health is not only on the line but on the ballot this election.

For those millions who continue to believe women should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, Hillary Clinton is the best and only choice. She not only trusts women to make their own decisions; she will stand up to politicians who try to take those decisions away from them. She has been a fierce supporter her entire career and we know, with her in the White House, reproductive rights advocates will have an important ally on their side.

Bold leadership from activists, health advocates and others brought us this far – 100 years after Planned Parenthood started, women have made enormous progress. Weve won the right to use birth control, to safe and legal abortion. We are half the workforce, half of college students and doctoral students. And we will not go back.

Today, we need that kind of bold leadership in the White House to make the progress of the last 100 years a reality for all and continue to build on it.

Because the reality is that access to birth control, cancer screenings and abortion is not equal in this country. Eighty-seven percent of counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider.

In 2016, black and Latina women continue to face enormous systemic barriers to reproductive healthcare, resulting in higher rates of death from breast and cervical cancer and higher rates of uninsurance.

Many immigrants are excluded from healthcare coverage or face other hurdles to getting care for themselves and their families. And LGBTQ communities face major barriers to access to reproductive healthcare, from lack of culturally competent training of providers to meet their healthcare needs to outright discrimination.

There are steps we can take to level the playing field for those left behind by uneven progress. Right now the discriminatory Hyde amendment forces women who rely on Medicaid to pay out of pocket for abortion, a financial hurdle that makes their right to safe and legal abortion meaningless.

Hillary Clinton will work to overturn it. Because she understands the experiences of women, shes committed to building on the progress of the Affordable Care Act, which covers preventive care for women, maternity care, and bans insurance companies from charging women more for the same coverage as men. She has plans for expanding access to care, especially where its needed most, for ending HIV/Aids, for womens health, and more.

We need Hillary Clintons leadership because politicians like Donald Trump and Mike Pence do not trust women to make their own healthcare decisions. They have promised over and over to drag reproductive rights back decades by punishing women who get abortions and appointing justices to overturn Roe v Wade. They want to block access to birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, and undo the progress toward equality for womens health under the Affordable Care Act by repealing it.

Unfortunately, Trump and Pences attitude toward women is not a rarity in politics. In race after race this cycle, we have seen candidates pretending to embrace policies that support women while voting repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood and restricting access to birth control. And in many states, including my home state of Texas, anti-womens health politicians hold the majority. In the first half of 2016 alone, these politicians introduced 445 provisions to restrict access to safe and legal abortion.

Deciding when and whether to have children is one of the most important decisions anyone makes in their lifetime, and its not the governments role to interfere.

The week she clinched the nomination, Hillary Clinton spoke to Planned Parenthood Action Fund members, saying, Life is freer, fairer, healthier, safer, and far more humane when women are empowered to make their own reproductive health decisions.

She knows this from her own life, as a woman, mother and grandmother, and she has made it one of the central themes of her career as a public servant. She made it clear as first lady when she traveled to Beijing, against the advice of those who told her it would rock the boat, with the message womens rights are human rights, once and for all.

She put it into action as secretary of state, prioritizing education, health and opportunity for women and girls.

Hillary Clinton is the fiercest champion for women and reproductive rights to ever be within reach of the presidency. For her, these are not fringe issues for women, they touch every aspect of our lives.

This election is a choice between someone who will divide and insult us, and set us back decades in ensuring equality and economic security for ourselves and our families, or someone who has set a new precedent for bold leadership on behalf of womens health and rights.

There is no contest. There is only one choice. We need Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/02/planned-parenthood-cecile-richards-hillary-clinton-women-health