Last week, by the slim margin of 217 to 213, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill that repealed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The vote effectively gutted the ACA in order to make way for the GOP health care replacement, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), also nicknamed Trumpcare. While the GOP healthcare bill still has to pass the Senate in order to be put into play, the threat Trumpcare poses on Planned Parenthood funding is already very real.
If passed by the Senate and then signed by the president, the AHCA would block federal funding from Planned Parenthood by ensuring that Medicaid patients would not be reimbursed for Planned Parenthood visits. A stipulation in the legislation forbids federal funding to health care providers that offer abortion services — even if the service that the patient is seeking coverage for is not an abortion (thanks to the Hyde Amendment, no federal funds have been used to pay for abortions, unless in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment to the mother's life).
The potential blow to Planned Parenthood strikes a deep chord with Gina Walkington, a co-founder of Forward Kenosha, a grassroots political organization in Paul Ryan's distract. The House Speaker is one of the chief promoters of the AHCA. Walkington's Forward Kenosha is a "politically oriented group focused on protecting civil rights and advocating an inclusive agenda in local, state and national politics," according to its website. Walkington has made it her mission to hold her politicians, including Ryan, accountable and actually testified before a Senate hearing on the AHCA on Wednesday.
"About a week after my appointment, PP [Planned Parenthood] called and said my test came back abnormal," Walkington says, "and that they found pre-cancerous cells in my cervix."
Specifically, Walkington spoke about the AHCA's impact on Planned Parenthood's ability to function would have dramatically affected her own life. You can watch her Senate testimony in the below video:
While speaking with Bustle over the phone prior to her testimony, Walkington shares how an appointment with Planned Parenthood helped her spot pre-cancerous cells in her early twenties.
"In 2006, when I was 20, I was insured on my parent’s insurance but it wasn’t great," Walkington explains. "We didn’t have a comfortable relationship talking about sexual and reproductive health. So, my best friend and I made a plan to make appointments at Planned Parenthood. They got us in really quickly and I had a pap test, STI testing, and left with a pack of birth control."
"I ended up having a procedure done that removes the cancerous cells. Now, 11 years later, I have three beautiful boys. Planned Parenthood essentially allowed me the opportunity to have children."
As it turned out, Walkington decision to visit her local Planned Parenthood with her friend was a potentially life-saving one. "About a week after my appointment, PP [Planned Parenthood] called and said my test came back abnormal," Walkington says, "and that they found pre-cancerous cells in my cervix."
While parenthood wasn't at the forefront of her mind at age 20, Walkington says that the services provided by Planned Parenthood enabled her to prevent cancer, and consequently, build a family when she was ready.
"The idea of having children in the future wasn’t something I’d given a lot of thought to, but once you hear that’s something that might be taken away from you, it becomes more important," says Walkington. "I ended up having a procedure done that removes the cancerous cells. Now, 11 years later, I have three beautiful boys. Planned Parenthood essentially allowed me the opportunity to have children."
The ways in which the GOP continues to stigmatize Planned Parenthood, and more specifically abortion itself, is a constant frustration to Walkington.
"One of the big drivers behind me wanting to speak and tell my story is that it’s incredibly frustrating to hear the rhetoric around Planned Parenthood and abortion," Walkington says. "In reality, they [Planned Parenthood] do so much. They offer cancer screenings, STI testing, access to birth control so you can have your family when you're ready. They offer education, it’s a really safe place to get great health care."
Despite living in a deeply politically red area, Walkington says that her story has not only received surprising support, but has encouraged other women to come speak up.
"People you would never expect to be supporters of Planned Parenthood have stopped me on the street," Walkington says. "One woman in my town was able to be a mother, just like me, through Planned Parenthood. They found tumors in her ovaries and removed them just in time. She was able to have two beautiful children."
For Walkington, hearing those accounts from her neighbors remind her how important it is for people to share their experience with Planned Parenthood. "I really try to encourage those people to tell their stories even more," she says. After all, it could save someone's chance at parenthood or even their life.