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It was the late 1980s and I was working as an advocate at WomanCare Health Center in San Diego when she came to our clinic. 

She had decided to terminate her pregnancy; I went with her into the exam room, and waited with her for the doctor to arrive, talking to her and trying my best to calm her nerves. She was young and in the military, and she had come alone.

Eventually she began asking questions she clearly hadn’t before. She had a sexually transmitted disease, and was afraid it would be passed along. I explained that she could give birth without spreading the disease, and suggested talking to the doctor to make sure she had all the information she needed to make her decision. She began to cry. 

She wanted this baby. She had always wanted children.

(Courtesy of Toni Atkins)

When the Balboa Hospital doctor arrived, he said she could deliver a healthy baby so long as she didn’t have an active outbreak during the birth. And even if she did, a C-section would prevent the disease from being passed along.  

Her relief was palpable. She gave birth to a healthy baby a few months later, delivered by the same doctor who helped her that day.  

Critical information, delivered at critical moments, can change lives. 

That’s why it’s so important that women have access to quality health care and providers like Planned Parenthood, where they receive accurate information in a safe environment, free of judgement. 

And that’s why I’m proud to support Planned Parenthood and its decision to withdraw from Title X and the federal funding that accompanies it. The “gag order” rule imposed by the federal administration reaches far beyond imposing new rules regarding abortion counseling. It directly impacts women’s bodies, and our ability to seek advice from our doctors and other health care providers. 

To determine options. To make life-changing decisions. And to plan our own futures.

Here in California, Planned Parenthood serves more than a million patients and provides contraception to more than a half a million people each year. The program provides hundreds of thousands of emergency contraception kits, distributes roughly a million pregnancy tests, conducts nearly 100,000 cervical cancer screenings, plays a critical role in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and provides a host of other services, tests and treatments.

Our Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom recognized the urgent need in our state if the “gag rule” took effect, and I’m proud that we took swift action and doubled funding for reproductive health services in our most recent budget. 

That follows commitments we also made in the last two state budgets, when we included $54 million in Proposition 56 funding and $10 million for abortion services each year. 

We remain committed to ensuring that family planning programs like Planned Parenthood can continue to serve our communities. It was right for Planned Parenthood to walk away from Title X. It is right for us to continue to support them. But the ultimate right is for the “gag rule” to be rescinded. Until then, I stand with Planned Parenthood as it provides quality healthcare and access to family planning options.

It’s critical that we protect our right to information now, and for future generations to come.

Toni G. Atkins is president pro tempore of the California Senate and serves as senator for District 39, representing the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. More info at senate.ca.gov/Atkins.