By Lyn Pitts

As a longtime advocate for women’s health, I believe voters deserve accurate information about who will represent us in elected office. Too often, candidates will say one thing on the campaign trail in order to get elected, hiding their true agenda until safely in office.

So I was deeply disappointed to read that The Bulletin doesn’t think a local candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives should clarify what I believe is his questionable stance on women’s health (“Local Attack Ad Is Appalling,” Aug. 16). Knute Buehler claims to be “pro-choice,” but he has met with and was recommended by Oregon Right To Life.

Why would he agree to meet with this organization? And why did he decline to participate in the endorsement process for Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon — instead dismissing it as a “special interest?” Is Buehler truly “pro-choice?”

Let’s be clear: Oregon Right To Life’s agenda is out of touch with our values and threatens women’s health. This is an organization that would ban all abortion — even in cases of rape and incest — and would restrict birth control. This is an organization that thinks bosses should be allowed to interfere with their employees’ birth control decisions. This is an organization that believes our youth aren’t entitled to sexual health education that’s medically accurate.

It doesn’t end there: Oregon Right To Life wants to defund Planned Parenthood’s effective, confidential, nonjudgmental health care services, and instead would send vulnerable young women to fake medical clinics that don’t protect their privacy and that endanger public health by providing misleading information. Meanwhile, Oregon Right To Life’s website perpetuates junk science (falsely claiming that abortion “is the root cause of a significant number of breast cancer cases”) and has spread outright lies about rape (“the trauma of sexual assault is likely to inhibit ovulation”).

There was a good reason why the 2012 election saw a historic gender gap at the ballot box. Women want to be represented by leaders who genuinely believe in protecting their health, not by desperate politicians who will say anything to get elected (“binders full of women”) or who literally don’t understand how a woman’s body functions (“legitimate rape”).

For the 2014 election, women have real, urgent cause for concern. In the past three years, states have passed more restrictions on safe, legal abortion than in the past decade. The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed unprecedented power to for-profit corporations that want to take control of their employees’ birth control, despite its widespread economic and medical benefits: reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, controlling the debilitating symptoms of endometriosis, managing menstrual pain, treating migraines, etc. These are decisions that must be left between a woman and her doctor — because it’s none of your boss’ business.

In addition, politicians have a troubling history of trying to play both sides on women’s health. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory promised on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t restrict abortion access, then he signed a law imposing costly, medically unnecessary rules that could shut down every provider in the state. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has his eye on the White House, recently denied that politicians are trying to ban birth control — even though he himself supports “personhood,” which would outlaw the most popular forms of birth control. Another presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, claims Republicans are fighting a “war for women,” while in the same breath he insults women who “can’t control their libido.”

Given these circumstances, The Bulletin should recognize the need to hold candidates accountable. Buehler may say he’s “pro-choice,” but actions speak louder than words. I’m watching and I’m voting in 2014.

— Lyn Pitts is a member of the Deschutes County Leadership & Advocacy Team for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. She lives in Bend.

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