A woman who wants to have two children will spend about three years of her life pregnant, trying to get pregnant or postpartum. She will also spend three decades of her life trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy – and that’s true whether she votes Democratic, Republican, none of the above or not at all.

Since family planning services are a pillar of any serious public health program, it’s strange to see Republicans in Washington insist that making them harder to get is essential to their idea of health care reform.

The American Health Care Act, which was rolled out last week, targets Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, aiming to deny funding through Medicaid for the non-abortion services it provides, such as sexually transmitted disease tests, birth control and cancer screenings.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has described the bill as a “conservative wish list,” which is a strange thing to call a piece of legislation that would put health care out of reach of millions of families. It’s drawn many critics from all political stripes, but it has the early and enthusiastic support of Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, who said it will provide “health care relief.”

But what “wish” would it fulfill for the woman who spends a third of her life trying to avoid pregnancy? And what “relief” would it provide for her? And who would be served by indulging some social conservatives’ grudge against an agency that serves as a vital link in the nation’s health care system?

About half of all pregnancies are unintended, but that neat statistic does not provide a true picture.

Poor women are five times more likely to find themselves in that situation than women who are more well off, largely because of the way that we ration health care in this country. A woman with private insurance who gets regular checkups is much more likely to have birth control and family planning counseling than one who gets medical care only when she’s sick.

Planned Parenthood works with anyone who walks through their doors, including people with private health insurance, Medicaid or no health insurance at all. It provides abortions – a constitutional right – but it also delivers the kind of care that makes abortions unneccessary.

Poliquin and Republican House leaders appear hell-bent on pushing through this cut to get in the way of people who need these services and make it harder for families to climb out of poverty.

That’s not health care reform, and that’s not what this country needs.

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