SF’s Power Women Speak Up for Reproductive Rights

March 23, 2017

January 23, 2017

For the first time in two decades, women form the majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. And on Tuesday, all six of them will introduce a resolution supporting universal reproductive health care for all women and girls — regardless of possible cuts to federal funding.

Other San Francisco female elected officials, including Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and school board members Emily Murase and Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell, will be at the morning announcement in support.

“We are in a period of resistance and fighting,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is introducing the legislation. “But I’m also hoping that out of this situation we can make a statement and show solidarity. There is a political divide even among elected officials in this city, but when it comes to issues critical to women, we are united.”

President Trump has long targeted the Affordable Care Act, which among other things requires health insurance companies to cover preventive reproductive services, including birth control, and the new Congress has already begun to chip away at the law.

In November, a day after Trump’s election, California state Senate and Assembly leaders released a joint statement that the presidential outcome was “clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.” Cities around the state, including Los Angeles, have already passed resolutions opposing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Regardless of who is leading from the White House, our goal must be to respect and improve women’s health care and design a system that is always safe, affordable, and leaves critical decisions in the hands of women,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen.

Cuts to federal funding, including Title X family planning and Medicaid, could affect clinics across San Francisco, including a Planned Parenthood facility and the Women’s Community Clinic on Fillmore Street. The directors of those clinics have already begun looking for alternative funding.

“We are in a progressive state, but we are in an even more progressive city,” said Carlina Hansen, executive director of the Women’s Community Clinic. “It’s important to emphasize that despite all of that, this is not going to be an easy thing to protect. Ultimately, clinics like ours rely heavily on federal funding. The city and state can only do so much to protect that funding or to backfill.”

The Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution supporting the health clinics, which also provide abortions, in 2015. At the time, cuts to funding for the clinics were proposed in Congress.

“In some ways, it shows us that the fight has always been here long before Trump became president,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who sponsored the resolution two years ago. “We were having these fights when Obama was our president. It’s great that so many people feel a sense of urgency today, because it highlights a struggle we have long had in this country.”

There is money in the city budget to cover the health care funding gap if federal dollars are cut, supervisors said. But they noted that sacrifices would have to be made elsewhere. The city is already facing budget constraints because of the failure of a three-quarter-cent sales tax on November’s ballot and a projected $5 billion pension shortfall. Trump’s suggestion that he may try to redirect money away from sanctuary cities could also tighten the city’s purse strings.

But Kim said that San Francisco is a model for cities across the country, and that sometimes those sacrifices had to be made.

“It’s unfortunate that as a municipality, we are fighting to defend the rights that we have already won,” she said. “But instead of shaking our heads and being sad about it, we just have to get up and make sure we are protecting women. One aspect of that is going to be fighting for our reproductive health care rights.”

Lizzie Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: ljohnson@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @LizzieJohnsonnn

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