The City of El Paso Department of Public Health has a new healthcare program and when I first heard about it, I wasn't sure I was happy about it. There are a number of services offered that had me wondering, should the City be using public money on this?

Some of the services include STD/HIV screening, physical exams, birth control including condoms and IUDs, pregnancy testing and counseling, and referral services to primary care and other medical and social services. You can click here for a complete list of services and more information on the program.

When I saw that pregnancy testing and counseling was on the list, I immediately wondered what kind of counseling they would be offering. There are only three options when you're pregnant - keep the baby, give the baby up for adoption, or terminate the pregnancy. I spoke to an official with the Public Health Department and she said the department would offer pre-natal care and adoption counseling, but not abortion counseling. The department would, however, refer patients to a private OB and if that doctor made abortion counseling available, that would be between the patient and the doctor.

As a Catholic, I'm supposed to be anti-abortion, but I do believe that women should have the access to one if they so choose. I just wasn't sure I wanted the City to be a party to that kind of counseling. I asked the Department official if they would be offering Plan B, which can prevent a pregnancy from occurring but will not induce an abortion, and she said yes, Plan B is available, but the abortion pill is not.

I struggled with writing this article because of the abortion question, but I also have a friend who was a CPS agent for years and knowing the horrific conditions that so many children live in and through, I've come to the conclusion that I'm glad the City is stepping up to help people "family plan." Not everyone should be a parent, not everyone is ready to be one, and if having services like this prevent a child from being neglected or abused, I'm glad they are available.

I'm sure there will be people who aren't happy with this, but think about kids who suffer because their parents aren't in the position to handle the responsibility of parenthood. If that person had the opportunity to make sure they got the point in their lives when they wanted a child, isn't that a better situation? I think so. I'm glad these services are available. I hope El Pasoans take advantage of them.

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