The 211 statewide hotline connects people to local resources such as shelters, food banks, health care, and finances. It’s an essential thread in the fabric of providing Arizonans with access to resources in times of great need.
In 2008, after the economic crash, 211 lost the majority of its funding, drastically reducing the quality and ability to provide services. Funding for the telephone-based state referral has been in the midst of a debate as special interest groups are conjuring up ways to exclude referrals to organizations that provide a variety of health care services, the crux of it being referrals to abortion services.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, access to birth control and abortion services is an even more pressing and time sensitive issue. In times like these, our local representatives need to stop wasting time debating how to circumvent access to these vital resources. I’m continuously confused as to why we allow faith-based organizations to dictate allocation of funds, and subsequently access to resources. Our Constitution calls for a separation of church and state. Why do we allow these organizations to make health care decisions for people without their consent by omitting referrals to care?
It is unethical to allow organizations to limit people’s access to information. As a future health care provider, I am continuously taught the importance of providing people with comprehensive and appropriate information so they can make decisions about their health and well-being for themselves. For a state-funded resource to limit people’s autonomy, due to the desire of lobbyists to impose their beliefs on people in a time of vulnerability and need is abhorrent. We must allow people to get the information they need to make the most appropriate decisions for themselves. We must also stop discussions debating the merits of abortion. If pregnant people do not want an abortion, they do not need to get one. We cannot tell people what to do with their bodies and lives, especially such life-changing decisions such as growing a family. Those are not decisions for us to make.
Furthermore, I’m confused as to why our lawmakers even entertain the Center for Arizona Policy, an Evangelical Christian group, in bullying decision-makers into reducing people’s access to information. Abortions are health care and it is absurd that we are still having debates about taxpayer dollars going toward necessary health care. It’s worth noting that providers who perform abortions, oftentimes provide much more care than simply abortions. They provide birth control, health care services related to reproductive health such as ultrasounds, breast exams, HIV and STI testing, PAPs, and well-woman exams, which are preventative in nature, and an important part of general wellness. Currently, 211 cannot make a referral to any health care provider if even just one of their services is abortion. This means if a woman needs birth control or an STI test, Planned Parenthood cannot be a referral. What if Planned Parenthood is their only local resource for care? With laws written as they currently are, this individual would not be given information for the health care services they need.
We are causing more harm than good here. We are causing further harm to people in their most vulnerable time: when they are in need. We are causing harm primarily to poor women, women of color, and disabled women and placing an even heavier burden upon them by making them navigate complex systems without assistance or advocacy. The politicians supporting these measures are the ones we need to vote out of office. It is exhausting that politicians and special interest groups continue to dictate the type of resources we get access to. My body, my choice – with everything, not just access to abortion, but especially access to abortion!
We must stop wasting time. Fund 211 well and keep it well-funded. Allow people the opportunity to get access to the information they need. Trust people to make the best decision for themselves with the information they have. If you limit their information, they cannot make informed decisions, and this directly causes harm.
Politicians supporting the measure to limit people’s access to information include:
- Gov. Doug Ducey,
- Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City
- Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa
Adriana Berusch Gerardino is a fourth year naturopathic medical student in Tempe.