Citizens voice opinions to Donnelly on surveillance bill, family planning services

[The following are two citizen-produced opinion pieces that appeared recently in the South Bend Tribune. – DW]

Donnelly Wrong on Surveillance Bill

As reported in The Tribune, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, voted to allow a vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act. Although the measure failed, the House will likely revisit this issue in the future.

We, the board of the League of Women Voters of South Bend, urge Donnelly to take a stand against the administration’s pressure to pass S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2007. We also urge Congress to support legislation that will ensure that government agencies obtain individual court warrants before wiretapping the communications of Americans and make sure telecommunications providers do not receive blanket retroactive immunity for violating the rights of innocent citizens.

For 88 years the League of Women Voters has been a strong advocate of the democratic principles that serve as a bedrock of our republic. Certain fundamental principles guard our freedoms and these must be preserved. These include independent judicial review of law enforcement actions and prohibition on indiscriminate searches.

While we recognize that our nation must guard against terrorism and other threats to national security, it cannot violate basic Constitutional principles while claiming to protect itself. As such, wholesale warrantless wiretapping of Americans is unacceptable.

Lisa A. Plencner
President, League of Women Voters,
South Bend area

:::::

Title X funds low-cost family planning services

I am writing in response to the Feb. 28 article in The Tribune by staff writer Margaret Fosmoe titled, “IUSB petitioners demand cost drop on birth control.” I applaud the students and employees who gathered signatures and delivered the petitions to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger.

The article highlighted the need for individuals (including Donnelly) to be educated about the Federal Title X program and the Olive Street Health Center. The Olive Street Health Center is located on the west side of South Bend.

The Federal Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and preventive health services to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons. The U.S. government’s Title X program funds low-cost, confidential family planning services that would otherwise be out of reach for many women.

The Olive Street Health Center is funded by the federal Title X program through the Indiana Family Health Council Inc. Services are provided on a sliding scale based on income; people at or below the federal poverty level receive services at no cost. Most importantly, no one is refused family planning services because of inability to pay. Title X funds cannot be used to provide abortions. In fact, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, publicly funded family planning services help women avoid an estimated 1.3 million unintended pregnancies each year, half of which otherwise would be terminated by abortion. Each year, approximately 4.5 million people receive health-care services at Title X-funded clinics.Being a publicly funded health center allows the center to qualify for discounted public health pricing on medications and contraceptive supplies. We also experienced a price increase as a result of the 2005 deficit reduction bill, however, not to the extent that the IUSB Health Center and other non-publicly supported clinics have experienced. The clinic continues to be able to assure that affordable birth control is available to those who want and need it. For example, the clinic charges $4 a month for birth control pills, $17 a month for the NuvaRing, and $8 for each dose of emergency contraception (Plan B/morning-after pill). This is significantly less than what the IUSB Health Center must charge to cover their cost for these same contraceptive supplies. The Olive Street Health Center also distributes free condoms.

In addition to contraceptive services and related counseling, the Olive Street Health Center also provides a number of preventative health services such as: client education and counseling; breast and pelvic examinations; cervical cancer, STD and HIV screenings; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling. For many clients, Olive Street Health Center is their only source of health care and health education.

Title X regulations require that all clients, including adolescents, receive confidential care. Therefore, the Olive Street Health Center encourages but does not mandate parental involvement in an adolescent’s decision to seek services at the clinic.

I applaud The Tribune for covering important women’s health issues such as the need for continued access to affordable birth control. I ask for The Tribune’s assistance in educating individuals about the services offered at the Olive Street Health Center in their effort to focus on important women’s health issues. The Olive Street Health Center is located at 244 S. Olive Street, South Bend. The phone number is (574) 282-3230.

Melinda Konrath is director of the Olive Street Health Center. She lives in Mishawaka.

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