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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Cancer patient says Planned Parenthood saved her life

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:38 AM

A couple of miles away from the arena where Mitt Romney prepares to bask in the warmth of Republican love tonight, Susan McPartland sat outside at Riverfront Park and held up a little sign with impact way beyond its few words.

Planned Parenthood Saved My Life.

The park was the scene of a rally Wednesday afternoon for those opposed to the plan by Romney and the GOP to gut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The timing couldn't have been better for McPartland. She was able to stop by the park on her way home to St. Petersburg from the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida, where she is getting treatment for breast cancer. She was still wearing her hospital ID bracelet.

McPartland, in an early detection program for low-income women, had a clean mammogram just eight months before detecting a lump through self-examination. Planned Parenthood, she said, got involved right away.

"As soon as I called them, boom, boom, boom. I was in Moffitt," she said. "My doctor believes she can cure me, and it's because of Planned Parenthood."

Yet there are two sides to this story. The organization is a target because it helps women with abortions and birth control, and Republicans say that has to go. It's non-negotiable.

Supporters point to women like McPartland, who receive health services they couldn't otherwise afford, as proof the organization's mission can't be reduced to a campaign sound bite. It doesn't seem to make any difference.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, who spoke at the rally, has seen just how unyielding the opposition is. She serves on the House Budget Committee with GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and controversial U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri. You know, the guy who distinguishes between degrees of rape and believes women have a mystical ability to ward off pregnancy in such cases.

"People didn't believe the Republican Party had gone that far on Planned Parenthood and birth control until Congressman Todd Akin made that ignorant statement," she said.

In fairness, the GOP – including Romney – roundly condemned Akin.

If Republicans believe they are standing on principal – either on the use of tax dollars or on the moral high ground – it has come with a cost. The women's vote was critical for President Obama in 2008, and he enjoys wide support from that group again.

"That's what's remarkable," Castor said. "You hear from the tea party faction, 'Get government off our backs.' But this is the most intrusive type of policy for the Republican Congress to interject themselves between a woman and her doctor."

For both sides of this issue, it's personal, it's real and there doesn't appear to be any middle ground. All McPartland knows is, she will soon complete the chemotherapy portion of her treatment and will start radiation. The help she received likely enabled doctors to get a vital head start on fighting her disease.

"I'm going to be OK," she said.

And then she added, "Thanks to Planned Parenthood."


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