An open Letter to Congressman Denny Rehberg from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana

During the Kalispell debate between Jon Tester and Congressman Dennis Rehberg, Congressman Rehberg was asked to defend the bill he wrote to fund the Department of Health and Human Services—a bill that cut every cent of family planning (Title X) resources from the U.S. budget. Rehberg’s justification for zeroing out this program and turning his back on Montana’s families was that family planning is a duplicated service, and that Montana women can simply turn to Medicare. Congressman Rehberg’s answer is profoundly worrisome.

It’s not just his abandonment of the women of Montana. But his response reveals that after his twelve years in Washington, he’s out of touch with Montana, he knows very little about how health care works in our state, and he fails to understand the health care decisions Montana women make every day.

Congressman, let me catch you up to speed on how thousands of Montana women access health care.

First, most reproductive-aged women cannot access Medicare for the purposes of family planning services. Medicare is only available to women under 65 if they have severe medical disabilities and the men and women we are talking about simply don’t qualify. However, if you meant to say ”Medicaid”, Congressman Rehberg, let me remind you that Montana has one of the lowest Medicaid eligibility rates in the country. Basic Medicaid eligibility in Montana is quite strict. To be eligible, our state requires you to be a parent or related adult of a dependent child at or below 33% of the federal poverty level, or that you are a child, pregnant, diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer, older than 65, or blind and disabled. Through Medicaid alone, thousands of Montana women are left without care. Title X was designed solely for this purpose – so women not sick or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid could still access preventive care in the hope they can remain healthy.

Finally, in my role as the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, I have briefed Congressman Rehberg’s staff twice to explain the important role Title X plays in Montana women’s lives, and have detailed its lifesaving services provided to almost 28,000 Montana men and women across the state. I have carefully outlined why Title X family planning is not a duplicated service in Montana, just as I have here. Listening to Congressman Rehberg’s remarks in Kalispell, it’s clear these facts have not gotten through to him. Instead, he tried on multiple occasions to end a successful public health program that has proven time and again to save lives and taxpayer dollars.

Congressman Rehberg ignores the point in his office, and he clearly ignores it on his campaign trail. Maybe we need to be a little more explicit: Montana’s Title X program serves nearly 26,000 Montana women every year. This means one in eight Montana women of reproductive age use family planning for their health care. Chances are each of us can name eight women in our lives. Chances are, one of those eight women depends on these health care services. In short, each of us knows someone who relies on the Title X program. I can think of eight women in my life – my friends, my family, and one day my daughter, and I understand how vital these services are. I can do my part to stand up for a program that means so much to so many Montana women – I can vote.

I’m asking Dennis Rehberg -can you think of the one in eight Montana women who rely on this program? Can you represent their interests? Can you set aside partisanship in favor of economic sense? Unfortunately, the last 12 years have shown us that you can’t, you won’t, and that’s why you are the wrong choice for the US Senate.

Given how out of touch Dennis Rehberg is, it’s no surprise a majority of Montana women show their support for Jon Tester—a Montana farmer who shares our values. Jon is a proud father and grandfather. He understands the importance of family planning resources in Montana and the difference it makes in the lives of Montana women and families. Jon Tester is the Senator we need in Washington.

Stacey Anderson
Director of Public Affairs
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Those 26,000 Montana women need to vote, Stacey. Please be sure they do. I’ve said from the start of this election, from Obama to Tester to Bullock all the way down, that women will be the deciding vote in 2012 — if they turn out at the polls. Even moderate Republican women would be hard-pressed to look themselves in the mirror after voting for Rehberg given his pathetic stance toward women.

  • Sam – we are working hard to get those women and more to vote in 2012. Over 12,000 doors knocked so far. Several flights of mail, and both volunteer and paid phone calls. Thanks for comment and support!

  • Also, just because you are pregnant does not mean you get Medicaid. You still have to meet the federal poverty level incomes, work with csed, and can be denied coverage. None of your living expenses are taken into consideration, if you pay student loans, etc. Other states have much better coverage. There is no aid for hardworking single women who get pregnant without insurance.

  • Also, Just because the family meets the poverty guidelines, does not mean the parents are eligible. Our Children are eligible for medicaid but we are not. Planned Parenthood has played an essential role in my healthcare for several years, I had HPV (High) when I was younger, leaving me vulnerable to cervical cancer. PP has given me peace of mind and allowed me to live a more progressive life in that I don’t have to worry or wonder IF I have it, but know absolutely that I do not. I own a small business that has been slowly growing and because PP offers a sliding fee, I am able to afford quality care without setting me back, which means I can continue to move my income and family forward so someday we won’t have the need for medicaid for our kids and Planned Parenthood for me. But even when I won’t need them someday, I will still continue to support them and donate to PP whenever I can. PP isn’t in the business of “Murder” they are in the business of Compassion, Care and Saving lives.

      • If Denny cared about the unborn, he would vote for single payer healthcare and against abstinence-only education. There’s no evidence that anything Denny has done or said has actually reduce our incidence of abortion. But Holland, where abortion is legal and hardly an issue at all, has a much lower rate of abortion than the US. Lowering abortion rates required social changes, not political demagoguery.

        • The ave. person is TIRED of paying for birth control for others. And especially tired of paying for abortions that are used as a form of birth control. What about all the female babies who are aborted, don’t you care about their health/life???By pulling funding and strictly limiting what situations will be approved for abortion, we WILL change social habits. Side note: are you aware of PPH’s involvement in underaged sex trafficking? Look it up if you’re not. This should appall all of those claiming to be women’s rights advocates?

          • average people are tired of paying for birth control? nice of you to speak for all of the “average” people in this country. the [often less than] $1000 a typical legal abortion can cost is a lot less than the several thousand dollars that a birth costs, or the several hundred thousand dollars it can cost to raise a child to adulthood. to me, paying for an abortion, or birth control, or education to teach young people not to become pregnant to begin with, is a bargain.

            this is just one of many problems with the point of view of anti-abortionists. they do not look at either the short or long term impacts that giving birth to an unwanted child can lead to…in how it impacts the life of the mother, but can also cost Society if that mother is ill-prepared for life with a child. so, who is going to pay for raising that child, Kelli? you?….are you going to raise that child if the mother can not? have you ever had a child, yourself, and if so, how did you pay for it?

  • I cannot stand Rehberg – his lies about Tester (Tester voted AGAINST the farm bill, he’s a farmer for god’s sake – and – there IS NO farm bill, Congress didn’t do a thing w/ it, they went on break!) Rehberg will take us back to the ’50’s w/ his attitude on women, healthcare, and everything else. His attitude on the environment – we’ll have NO environment if he wins, big oil & gas & coal will just have a free pass to do whatever they want. He’ll still pay hardly any taxeswhile the rest of us support him – NO THANK YOU

    • You would have us believe: 1) He has no women in his family, 2) He likes to breath polluted air because somehow it won’t effect him, 3) That the EPA will no longer have any say over what happens in MT, 4) And, all the middle class and poor people will be supporting all the rich people…Obama said it best in 2007, “If you don’t have a record to run on then you paint your opponent as someone to run from. You make a big election about small things”. That’s exactly what’s going on here!
      To take this discussion to the next level, Tester was the 60th vote needed to pass Obamacare. There wasn’t a single GOP vote for it and there was a handful of dem.s that voted against it. There’s no provision that says a healthcare provider must take this insurance and many won’t. Just like now, more and more doctors are no longer taking Medicare patients because the reimbursement is so low. This healthcare bill is a disaster and needs to be repealed and a plan proposed that has bipartisan support.

      • Let’s go ahead and ignore the factual errors that litter this comment and focus on something simple. Care to point out the Republican “plan” that protects those with preexisting conditions?

  • there is a slight error in the author’s information. Rehberg has actually been in politics since 1977…as a staffer for Ron Marlinee, and ran for his own position in the Montana House of Representatives in 1984. he is a career politician. what “ranching” he might actually be associated with [part of his campaign rhetoric is that he is a REAL MONTANA RANCHER] was a small 500 head herd of cattle and goats he owned and had others handle for him.

    he is a protege of such memorable Montana “leaders” as Stan Stephens, Judy “lapdog” Martz, and the honorable Conrad Burns [selected by Time as one of America’s Five Worst Senators]. Rehberg’s positions on Women’s health issues, and humanist issues as a whole, has run the gamut of ignorance to outright disdain and ridicule. having never had to deal with what life is really like for the average Montanan, he has constantly voted as an Obstructionist against legislation designed to help not just Montana, but the whole Country….especially if the proposals were originated by anyone left of his extremist conservative backers or would not benefit the PACs and Lobbyists he has catered to for the last 30 years.

    while Jon Tester might have his problems, trying to be effective in his position as Junior Senator from Montana, anything i have heard him being accused of is inconsequential compared to what Dennis Rehberg has already been a part of. i can only imagine what damage Denny would cause if he gets to be a Senator.

    • Save for the arduous task of getting elected, it is sadly ironic that Rehberg has been no more active as a “representative” than he has been as a “rancher”.

  • I know Dennis Rehberg from my days in Billings in the 1980s. He does not deserve your vote. The only hung he is loyal to Is the Republican play book.

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