OpEd in Los Angeles Newspaper Group by Tamar Galatzan | http://bit.ly/RR2UPC
9/14/2012 :: Last month Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri, triggered a national media firestorm with his comments about "legitimate rape." But those of us at the Los Angeles Unified School District already understood too well how the influence of politicians like Akin, with their sloppy, misogynistic thinking, is playing out for real students in Los Angeles.
In June, an organized group of protestors crowded into a LAUSD board meeting to protest the operation of a school-based health center on the Roosevelt High School campus.
None of the protestors attends Roosevelt or live anywhere near the school. When they unfurled their "Abortion is not health care" banner, it was clear why they were bused in to the board meeting -- the health clinic at Roosevelt H.S. is run by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.
For the past 100 years, LAUSD has been partnering with more than a dozen organizations to staff school-based health centers. Today those organizations include the Los Angeles Department of Health Services, Northeast Valley Health Corporation and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.
The health clinic at Roosevelt is operated by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and funded, in part, by Family PACT, a public program that provides family planning to low-income and uninsured California residents. (Other school clinics are staffed by district employees, including physicians, nurses, counselors, or social workers.)
LAUSD jointly operates 48 school-based health clinics where the district provides clinic space and community health providers serve students.
The latest phase of "wellness centers" will provide care for both students and the community, and sites were selected based on critical health indicators such as pregnancy rates, asthma, obesity and STD rates. The health providers operate with state and federal funding.
These clinics are the final health safety net for many of our students.
Students and their families use school-based health clinics to provide a variety of health care services. At Roosevelt, for example, more than half of the visits are for primary care services, such as immunizations and physicals. The clinics have also significantly reduced the number unwanted pregnancies through health, sex and abstinence education and providing birth control. Neither Planned Parenthood nor any other school clinic provides abortions.
This summer, before his inflammatory comment that women "rarely" get pregnant from "legitimate rape" went viral, Akin co-sponsored a bill, H.R. 6173, which could prevent the operation of clinics like the one at Roosevelt, from operating.
While the clinic does not provide abortions, the bill also stipulates that "school-based health centers not provide abortion-related materials, referrals, suggestions, or directions for abortion for any student."
Akin will never meet the students he is blocking from getting health care. He will never know why they, and their families, log more than 100,000 health encounters at school-based health clinics, or what their needs are.
Nor does he care.
His are the politics of hate. What matters to him is that affordable health care and factual, nonjudgmental information from a group like Planned Parenthood Los Angeles not be able to get near students in any capacity.
On Tuesday, I brought forth a resolution to the board asking my colleagues to oppose H.R. 6173. I am pleased that it passed. And I, along with several other board members and district staff, filmed a video in support of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Trl4Xk9vniI)
Akin's offensive comment on rape is not just an offensive, off-the-cuff remark on a Sunday morning TV show. It is also not something that happened across the country, far away from our schools and our communities in Los Angeles. It is the manifestation of a mindset that wants to limit information that is available to families -- and it is affecting our communities and our schools.
As a woman, a mother, a school board member, and attorney, and an American, I denounce his hate, his ignorance and his bill.
Tamar Galatzan is vice president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and a neighborhood prosecutor for the Los Angeles City Attorney's office.