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Senator Scott Brown and the Courage to Do What’s Right

In his recent memoir and book tour, Senator Brown showed courage and compassion by speaking candidly about having been sexually and emotionally abused as a child.
Carol Rose,
Executive Director,
ACLU of Massachusetts
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March 5, 2011

(Originally published in On Liberty)

In his recent memoir and book tour, Senator Scott Brown showed courage and compassion by speaking candidly about having been sexually and emotionally abused as a child.

Now Senator Brown has an opportunity to show that same courage and compassion on behalf of other survivors of sexual abuse by voting to keep Title X funding intact.

Title X provides comprehensive family planning services — including counseling, contraceptives, education, and preventive health screenings — to low income women and men, including many who are survivors of sexual abuse. For many of them, it is their sole entry point into the health care system.

Last month, the anti-choice majority in the House of Representatives declared an all-out war on women’s reproductive health by voting to eliminate all Title X programs. The House passed an extreme amendment to eliminate all federal funding for Title X — which enjoyed bipartisan support for decades — and for Planned Parenthood. If passed, this bill will immediately jeopardize the health of millions of women, men, and teens who rely on Planned Parenthood and other clinics, and are otherwise unable to afford basic healthcare services.

It’s up to the Senate to stop them.

Senator Brown campaigned in Massachusetts as pro-choice and as an independent thinker who would vote based on his conscience and the will of his constituents, not simply the party line. Voters should remind him now to keep that promise.

In many states, Planned Parenthood is the only provider serving low-income women. Planned Parenthood provides women with a range of services that include detecting breast and cervical cancers, preventing unintended pregnancies, treating and preventing sexually transmitted infections, testing for high blood pressure, and counseling about their options including raising the child, adoption, and pregnancy terminations. Fewer than 10 percent of the visits to Planned Parenthood clinics in New England are for abortion services.

It’s hard to imagine that Senator Brown will be unmoved by the stories of girls and women whose lives are saved each year by access to health screening and reproductive services at Planned Parenthood and other health clinics funded by Title X.

It’s even harder to imagine that he will ignore the will of the voters whom he was elected to represent. A Planned Parenthood poll released this week shows that only 27 percent of Massachusetts voters support the proposed cuts to Title X — so the Senator’s constituents have made their wishes known.

A vote to defend health care for poor women and men, particularly survivors of sexual abuse, should not require extraordinary courage. But in the current political climate of fear-mongering and political litmus tests for party purity, it requires considerable courage for politicians to cast a vote for conscience rather than the party line.

Let’s hope that Senator Brown has the courage to do the right thing.

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