Over the past several weeks, I’ve watched with growing horror and outrage as the health care provider I have relied on for more than five years has been viciously attacked by politicians and extreme groups intent on shutting them down.

It seems unusual for a provider of necessary health care such as cancer screenings to come under attack. Unfortunately, that’s the case because my health care provider is Planned Parenthood, and some politicians are hell-bent on stopping it from providing me and other Mainers with basic health care.

After I finished graduate school at Boston University, I was unable to afford health insurance for more than three years. Many people in my situation would have had to go without basic health care.

Thankfully, I knew I could always count on the Planned Parenthood health center in Portland for wellness exams, birth control and other preventive care. Its staff was warm and helpful, and I could always afford the high-quality health care it offered, thanks to its sliding-scale fees based on my income.

Last winter, Planned Parenthood helped me enroll in a health plan through the Affordable Care Act that was right for me. I still go to Planned Parenthood for my basic preventive care, because I trust it to provide accurate information in a judgment-free and professional clinical environment. Planned Parenthood accepts insurance options that some primary care providers in our area do not accept.

Planned Parenthood health centers are welcoming and give excellent care to more than 10,000 people across our state. Each year, they provide contraception to more than 8,200 patients, administer more than 10,700 sexually transmitted infection tests and provide more than 2,300 breast exams.

Without the health centers, I would not have been able to afford regular checkups to keep me healthy or birth control to ensure that I can start a family when I’m financially ready to support children. I recommend their services to friends and family who need a safe place to go for information and health care.

I can’t imagine what I would have done for health care if Planned Parenthood hadn’t been there for me when I couldn’t afford health insurance. But this unknown is exactly what many people will face if some politicians get their way.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that would have cut off people from basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine and across the country. Thankfully, it was rejected, even though Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted in favor of it.

The rationale that some politicians are using to defund Planned Parenthood is focused primarily on investigations into alleged illegal for-profit fetal tissue sales by Planned Parenthood in some states. But that excuse rings hollow, as mounting evidence in state after state confirms that these politically motivated accusations are baseless.

When Congress returns to Washington in a few weeks, however, I have no doubt that these extreme attacks on Planned Parenthood will resume, this time with the added threat of a government shutdown.

Our elected officials in both the House and Senate once again will have an opportunity to show us who they stand for — the people of Maine who need Planned Parenthood’s health care services, or the extreme politicians who are attacking Planned Parenthood to drive a dangerous anti-abortion agenda.

That is why I felt the need to share my story — to remind Collins, along with Sen. Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, that their votes will have a real impact on me and other people across the state of Maine.

I also wanted to remind Maine voters that we all need to pay attention to our elected officials after the campaign ads are off the air. The voices of the few who oppose Planned Parenthood are sometimes louder than the voices of the majority who support access to reproductive health care and are thankful for the health centers that provide these valuable services in our communities.

Planned Parenthood has been there for me each and every time I’ve needed it, and I am grateful. More importantly, I am proud to be here for Planned Parenthood right now. And I will continue to stand with Planned Parenthood as these out-of-touch politicians continue their crusade to cut hundreds of thousands of people off from basic preventive health care.

Maria Woodbury is a resident of Portland.

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