Later this month our state legislators will come back together to make some tough choices in response to our state’s budget shortfall. Chief among them: investing in family planning funding.

Some may think this is not a priority, but that thinking is wrong. COVID-19 is a great clarifier and has magnified inequities across the board.

As usual, women have been hit hardest economically by this pandemic, including women of color who are disproportionately impacted by the virus. This underscores how important family planning care is right now. Family planning helps people pursue an education, get and keep jobs, and support their families — ultimately improving economic security.

Our elected officials must provide at least $2.4 million in the budget to ensure our communities continue to stay healthy.

I have access to health care, and it has been critical in my ability to continue my education and take advantage of job opportunities. As a teenager, I was able to get contraception, STI testing, pregnancy tests, pap smears, and abortion care at Planned Parenthood nearby.

Planned Parenthood.

Family planning help, available at the Planned Parenthood health center in Honolulu, is essential during these pressing times.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I was able to accompany my friends for moral support as they accessed the same services. Having accessible health care is a privilege, but it shouldn’t be.

On islands like Lanai, Molokai, Hawaii and Kauai, these types of services are difficult to access. Too many people can’t afford a plane ticket to get to a different island to access health care. Another reason to invest in family planning care.

With disproportionate access across the state, and record job losses, I know people will lose their health care and their health insurance. Requests for Medicaid have skyrocketed in Hawaii.

Vulnerable Communities

With economic uncertainty, widespread job loss, and a strained budget, Hawaii must invest in programs that have a proven track record of saving money and supporting families through tough financial times.

Since the pandemic has hit the islands COVID-19 has made it harder for people without affordable health care to know what their options are and where to access them.

Friends have shared with me that they feel unsafe going to certain facilities to check on their pregnancies, and essential workers are often afraid of going to health care centers because they can’t afford to stop working.

This pandemic is hitting multi-generational households at a much higher rate because they are less likely to be in a place where they can afford health care, many can’t afford to stop working, and their families’ survival takes precedence over having to care for themselves or their bodies.

The unfortunate reality is the pandemic has made existing barriers to health care worse. This is especially true for people of color, LGBTQ people, people who live in rural areas, people with low incomes, and those who are uninsured.

Leaving our communities without access to affordable reproductive care would be devastating because people in Hawaii may be (and will continue to be) forced to delay care or forgo it altogether.

There is no time to lose.

Life-threatening conditions, such as cancer and pelvic inflammatory diseases, will go undetected and untreated. When STIs go undiagnosed, the symptoms can lead to more serious infections that require costly emergency treatment and can even lead to infertility.

These are the types of deep personal sacrifices I’ve seen my family members and friends have to make.

There is no time to lose. No one, including the federal government, is going to come in and help fill these financial gaps.

It is up to us to protect one another and hold our elected leaders accountable, especially for the most vulnerable communities among us.

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