As a delegate for the state of Hawaii, I was plugged in to the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), which made history. The first virtual convention brought together people from far and wide and showed us how, amid some of the most trying times for our country, we have an ability to be united, to stand up for our rights, and push for the progress we need. And of course, Sen. Kamala Harris accepted the nomination for vice president of the United States!
It’s hard not to get swept away by the excitement and hope this election may bring for the country. But we have to remember that democracy doesn’t happen on a screen — it happens when we mail in our ballot. We have an opportunity to stand up for a democracy worth fighting for, and our voices will determine the future of our country.
Each of us has a role to play and a voice that should be heard. I was proud that so many people voted in our August primary election. In our first all mail-in election, a record number of ballots were cast. People sent a clear message: we need leaders and policies that reflect the priorities of the people.
Hawaii is facing innumerable budget losses as a result of COVID-19. Services to the neediest could be eliminated, and furloughs and program cuts are a real possibility.
As the state grapples with these tough decisions, we implore decision-makers to prioritize health care in this state. Publicly funded health care saves lives. We know there are tough decisions ahead, but cutting services or shortchanging the health care safety net, which is key to our economic recovery, is shortsighted.
As part of that safety net, the state must fully fund family planning services for the uninsured and people with low incomes. As many face unemployment, service providers without adequate funding may have to reduce services. Patients may be forced to forego getting birth control, putting them at risk of unintended pregnancy. They may not be able to access necessary cancer screenings and routine preventive screenings to catch potential health concerns before they become health problems.
Gov. David Ige, you must invest the $2.4 million needed to continue family planning programs in the state. Reproductive health care is critical to our economic recovery. Smart policy decisions that directly uplift women and families amid a public health crisis are the right thing to do.
New findings from the Guttmacher Institute show, “More than 40% of women reported that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they changed their plans about when to have children or how many children to have.” This number speaks volumes. The future is uncertain, and people want access to health care, including reproductive health care.
To channel the energy from the DNC, we should all be working together to create an environment where people feel valued and heard. We are facing some of the most challenging times as a nation, and Hawaii is facing many threats to health care.
We are counting on our elected leaders, and especially Gov. Ige, to have the foresight and courage to invest in a health care infrastructure that will sustain us for the long haul.