During an interview on Monday, the first African-American U.S. surgeon general defended the reproductive health center Planned Parenthood and federal Title X funds, both of which have recently come under attack from social conservatives.
"Reproductive rights are just an extension of every other kind of justice and right there is," Dr. Joycelyn Elders told The Root's Cynthia Gordy. The 77-year-old retired professor emeritus of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Arkansas said she's so tired of lawmakers "playing vaginal politics" that she could "just vomit."
Republicans pushed hard for a budget amendment to block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal Title X funds, which by law are to be used for non-abortion services such as cancer screenings, pap tests, and breast exams. Although the GOP failed to cut Title X, they were able to block Washington, D.C.from using any local money to help women access abortions.
Elders said without Title X funding, the United States would have many more poor women with children to support. Additionally, poor women would have less access to STD testing, pelvic exams, cervical-cancer screenings, breast exams, and testing for diabetes.
"Planned Parenthood and Title X funding goes to women's health, not abortion," she explained. "The mean income for most women who go to a Title X clinic is less than $10,830 a year. That's poor."
"Any woman who has a congressperson who votes against women's reproductive rights is headed back to the Dark Ages, when they were owned by their husbands," Elders added. "The fact that we have these votes [in Congress] alone is a threat."
Bill Clinton appointed Elders the United States Surgeon General in 1993. Fifteen months later, she was fired by President Clinton for her outspoken views on drug legalization, contraceptive use and masturbation, which riled social conservatives. She told The Root that Clinton "didn't have any real problems with anything I said" but did not want to have to waste all his time defending her.