Sen. Martha McSally Women's Health|Stock Photo

The Arizona Senator’s support to strip funding for Title X, as well as her continual failure to protect women’s health, is under scrutiny for 2020.

In an effort to address attacks on affordable reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood launched “a seven-figure investment” in a multimedia ad campaign earlier this month that included television ads, radio ads, digital ads, and targeted mailers in Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina.

Their goal? To call out Republican senators like Arizona’s own Sen. Martha McSally for failing to protect access to affordable birth control.

The campaign launched with the intention of urging Republican senators who are battling to keep their seats in 2020—including McSally— to “protect their constituents” access to health care” by working to roll back recent changes to the Title X family planning program. The federal grant program ensures low-income Americans have access to reproductive health care.

Under the Trump administration’s so-called “domestic gag rule”—which was implemented earlier this year—providers who receive Title X funds are now barred from discussing abortion with their patients. Current law, however, already prohibits federal funding from covering abortion.

McSally, a vocal supporter of President Trump’s policies, has voted in the past to eliminate Title X funding, and continually faces backlash by reproductive health advocates and voters.

In 2018, she lost the female vote to Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) because of her more hard-lined stance on health care that alienated moderate Democrats and Independents. In May, McSally also came under fire for voting to confirm three federal court judges to lifetime appointments who support reproductive rights restrictions, including women’s access to contraception.

Why Title X Matters In Arizona

Title X became a major point of contention for Planned Parenthood earlier this year when the Trump administration stripped millions of federal dollars from the organization because of changes to the program, which included a gag rule on abortions: Title X providers are prohibited from even offering referrals for abortion services. 

Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program in August because it felt the new rules interfered with its ability to deliver quality care to patients.

As a result, thousands of Arizona women may find themselves unable to access affordable health care. Nearly 20% of Arizona women live in poverty. Additionally, most patients who rely on Title X services are people of color.

Planned Parenthood is, in fact, a key provider of critical health services for 90,000 Arizona patients, including family planning services, pelvic and breast exams, contraception coverage, and cancer screenings.

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Arizona women already have difficulty accessing health care overall without additional barriers spurred by changes to the only federal program dedicated to family planning. The state garnered a D- rating from CAP in the category of health.

Among the factors CAP used to make that assessment included the fact that “Arizona places unconstitutional restrictions on a woman’s access to reproductive health care.”

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state for its controversial Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, which the organization said make it difficult or impossible for women, especially those who live in rural areas, to access abortion. Those laws include physician-only rules for abortion services, a 24-hour waiting requirement following state-mandated physician counseling, and a ban on women receiving abortion-related care remotely through telemedicine, or physician video conference. 

“For more than a decade, Arizona women have suffered a sustained, multi-front attack on their constitutional right to reproductive health care, led by anti-choice activist groups and their allies in Arizona state government,” the lawsuit stated.

Despite such backlash over Title X and abortion restrictions, local Republicans are writing off campaigns like the one initiated by Planned Parenthood as nothing more than a liberal agenda.

“Senator McSally is focused on providing access to actual health care for women all across Arizona, while Planned Parenthood is only focused on protecting their business model,” Dylan Lefler, McSally’s campaign manager, told The Hill.

He added: “We expect every hysterical liberal special interest group in the country to invade Arizona with false, negative ads for the next year since they know it is a pivotal race to keep the Senate majority.”

The Challenge for McSally in 2020

According to a Hart Research Poll released in September, 54% of voters said if McSally upholds the Trump administration’s Title X restrictions, they would be less likely to support her in the next election; 30% said they are more likely to support her.

A majority of Independents also said they would be less inclined to vote for the senator in 2020 if she votes to support the Title X policy changes, while 20% said they were more likely to favor her. 

“By an overwhelming margin, Arizona voters favor the Title X family planning program, and a clear majority oppose the Trump administration’s newly imposed restrictions,” the poll states.

Those Arizona voters will most certainly be heading to the polls in 2020.