It is that time of year again, when political rhetoric heats up with topics everyone wants to talk about. One recurring subject that is always emotional and fraught with controversy is abortion and Planned Parenthood's role in that debate.

What has been missing from this debate over the last few weeks is what Planned Parenthood is doing to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. Planned Parenthood believes that providing access to birth control is the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy. As an organization, we want people in Utah to pay attention to the fact that if communities focus on making women's health care a priority with policy provisions that promote family planning and ensure access to quality, affordable birth control, then we can reduce the need for abortions.

For nearly 40 years Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has been providing men and women throughout Utah with affordable medical services that include: all FDA-approved birth control methods, reproductive health exams, infertility education and screening, cancer screening including PAP smears and breast health exams, recommended vaccines, sexually transmitted infection testing, treatment and education, HIV/AIDS testing and education, pregnancy testing, education, referral, vasectomies and midlife services (menopause).

According to Needra Johnson of Herriman (Readers' Forum, July 27), Planned Parenthood is the worst thing ever allowed in America. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of women's health-care services in Utah, providing sexual and reproductive health care and education to more than 45,000 clients per year. Last year alone those clients made more than 154,000 clinic visits.

Most of our clients live at or below the poverty level, and over 90 percent lack insurance. What Ms. Johnson and others who misunderstand who we are and what we stand for should be asking is, what are we all doing to prevent the need for abortions? What if leaders in our community trusted women to make their own health care decisions? What if we took a common-sense approach to preventing unintended pregnancies? What if we were to end failing abstinence-only programs and provide funding for comprehensive sex education programs to keep teens healthy and safe? What if...?

Melissa Bird, CSW, is the vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Council.