By Cindy Selmi, Senior Regional Director, Planned Parenthood of Northern California
In the last 29 years, my career in reproductive health care has spanned multiple administrations and weathered many threats. There have been threats to Title X, funding reductions and worries about cases before the Supreme Court that put safe, legal and accessible abortion care at risk.
Through it all, I have remained steadfast to our mission to care for the patients that come to my health centers for care.
I have worked with my team to create accessibility and a warm welcoming place to care for patients – no matter what is going on in the political climate around us. This has been my reason for coming to work in the morning and through it all everything has worked out to be all right.
The last two years have been challenging to say the least – some days it doesn’t feel like it will be all right any more. There have been many attempts to eliminate our funding, threaten our services and challenge Roe v. Wade. Each day I wake up and say “what next?” Well, here is what: On February 22, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget announced the Title X Gag Rule was cleared to be published. This would make it illegal for health care providers in the Title X program to provide abortion referrals. Health centers that provide abortion referrals such as Planned Parenthood would be denied Title X funding. This program serves 4 million people a year. Sit with that for one minute – 4 million people in the United States of America without access to reproductive health care – cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing and treatment. This is simply not all right.
Title X was created in 1970, during the Nixon administration, to provide affordable birth control and reproductive health care to ensure all people regardless of their income, where they live, or their background have access to these services. Implementation of the Title X Gag Rule would harm our patients. Medical providers, such as doctors, nurses, hospitals and community health centers would be prohibited from providing information to patients about abortion. They wouldn’t even be able to answers questions. This is not good or responsible medicine. People need accurate and thorough information to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. Planned Parenthood providers are committed to providing ethical care which includes sharing all applicable medical information. This runs in conflict with the Gag Rule which seeks to harm our patients.
This latest threat, while challenging, has inspired my resolve to continue to fight hard for the people of California – to assure they have access to care and accurate information. I feel a new sense of energy to fight for what is right and support my team in fulfilling our organization’s mission. I reflect back on the patients I have worked with over the years. I can’t help but think about a young woman I helped a few years back who came to one of my centers, was pregnant, had no resources, and was in an abusive relationship. She was seeking an abortion and we needed to refer her to another health center. My team and I spent time explaining the referral process to her, discussed in detail the procedure, helped her get Medi-Cal as well as provided her resources with which she could address her relationship. As a result, her medical needs were met. She came back to our center for birth control and was grateful for the care she received. Under the Gag Rule, any Title X provider would not have been able to help this woman and she would not have access to necessary medical information.
Thinking about this makes me angry, but also inspires me to fight harder every day to support my team and ensure that my health centers continue to provide excellent care.
My time at Clinic Leadership Institute (CLI) reinforced my focus to support this vision of reproductive access for all. I can positively impact access and compassionate service for patients by being strong for my team and empowering them to meet patients’ needs through these challenging times.
I know that Planned Parenthood and our allies will fight the Title X Gag Rule. We are committed to defeating this direct attack on our nation’s only family planning program for low-income communities. Even if the lawsuits are not successful, our local Planned Parenthood health centers will be here for patients, no matter what. I will continue to provide the leadership that supports our health centers to provide compassionate and responsible care with renewed passion.
Cindy Selmi is the senior regional director at Planned Parenthood Northern California. Cindy oversees eight health centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked for Planned Parenthood for 29 years, including 15 years at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in various leadership roles. She began her career in community health care volunteering at the original Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco. Cindy is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a degree in biology as well as a graduate of CLI Cohort 10.