As discussion at the State Capitol focuses on Medicaid expansion and access to services, we need to focus on the stark health-care realities in Louisiana. The Louisiana Women’s Policy and Research Commission’s 2012 report confirmed that women need access to reproductive health care, and health care providers need to step up to ensure access to much-needed services.

Nearly six in 10 pregnancies in the state are unintended, and rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, are among the highest in the nation. Teen birth rates are rising in Louisiana and so are rates of poverty, domestic violence, and overall poor access to health care. Twenty-three percent of Louisianians lack health insurance. There is a clear need for expanded access to critical preventive services like STI and HIV testing, contraception, domestic violence screening and cancer screenings.

We have become too complacent about Louisiana being 50th in everything. But we can help women and families get life changing health care. Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider. Louisiana can address the challenges of affordability, because cost should not prevent access to health care and timely screenings for high blood pressure or diabetes. To put it simply, women in Louisiana are facing poor health outcomes because they can’t get the high-quality, affordable care they need.

Planned Parenthood is stepping up to meet those needs. For more nearly 30 years, Planned Parenthood in Louisiana has been a trusted provider of preventive health-care services, including well-woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing and counseling and HIV testing and risk-reduction counseling. Over the years, tens of thousands have relied on our health centers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Yet, so many more need our help.

We are determined to keep working hard to provide the care that will improve health outcomes in our state. In New Orleans, Planned Parenthood will be moving to a new health center so that we can serve even more patients, meet the need for high-quality health care, and provide an even broader range of preventive and comprehensive reproductive health services. We will also expand our education programs that provide medically-accurate information and help parents start conversations with their children about tough issues like dating, sexuality and staying healthy.

Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit health-care provider, driven by our mission to provide affordable, quality health care to the communities who need it most. With the support of our dedicated health-care professionals, committed volunteers and generous donors we look forward to opening our new health center and making high-quality health care more accessible in New Orleans.

Melissa S. Flournoy,

Louisiana state director

Planned Parenthood Gulf CoastBaton Rouge