By Sylvia Luetmer, Alexandria, MN

Let's be clear about one thing; men and women create babies together, but women are the ones who can carry that pregnancy to term and are ultimately the ones to take the responsibility and physical risks. They need to have the right to decide what is best for them when it comes to reproductive choices.

It is proven that unintended pregnancy rates decrease as the availability of family planning services increase and we need to be doing everything in our power to provide easy access to education, contraception and family planning services. Shaming people and telling them not to have sex has never worked in the past and it won't work now.

The 1970 bipartisan Title X program was passed to ensure that no woman would be denied family planning services due to her economic circumstances. This national commitment to women needs to remain intact. Alexandria is fortunate to have a Planned Parenthood clinic right here in our community. This clinic provides services that are 100 percent preventative care focused and it boggles my mind to think about the amount of energy and resources that go into blocking funds for these services. More than 4 million people rely on affordable birth control and reproductive health care services that are funded by Title X and without it many of them wouldn't be able to access this essential care. The basic primary and preventive health care services provided by Title X include:

• Wellness exams.

• Cervical and breast cancer screenings.

• Birth control.

• Contraception education.

• Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV testing.

• In 2016 alone, health centers used Title X funding to provide 720,000 Pap tests, more than 4 million STD tests (including HIV tests), and nearly 1 million women with breast exams.

Keep in mind that Title X does not allow funding to be used for abortions. Imagine how much more we could do if we stopped fighting this anti-abortion battle and focused on providing health and reproductive care with the goal of decreasing unintended pregnancies.

Think of the resources that would be available to support women who make the choice to carry a pregnancy to full term. We could unite to make sure comprehensive healthcare is readily available to both women and children along with family leave policies affordable housing, childcare, better access to healthy food, a good education and economic opportunity. When women are ready, willing and supported to become mothers, children have a much better chance of thriving and that's a pro-family agenda!

Let's not let the voice of reason be drowned out by judgmental demonization and misinformation. Make no mistake, using emotions to drive a wedge between people for political gain is not about bettering the lives of women and children. If you really want to help families succeed, then speak up in your community and let your lawmakers know that you stand for access to reproductive care. There is just no arguing the fact that women who aren't pregnant don't have abortions. Women are depending on you to raise your voice in support of continuing Title X funding for Planned Parenthood.