By Melissa Reed

How reproductive health care is dealt with in national health care reform is no small matter; and who provides this care is still to be determined.

For communities like ours, local health centers are where many people turn for trusted health care. In North Carolina, more than 504,160 low-income women need family planning services. Community health providers, like Planned Parenthood, often serve as an entry point for essential health care needs. And Planned Parenthood isn’t the only health center women rely on for preventive care.

Today, one in four women who receives contraceptive care does so at a women’s health center. One in six who obtains a Pap test or a pelvic exam does so at a women’s health center, as do one-third of women who receive counseling, testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This basic health care is essential, particularly during difficult economic times, to give women the tools they need to protect and support their families. This is particularly true when you consider that women of childbearing age spend a remarkable 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, in part because of reproductive health-related needs.