I’ll say it here publicly, even if it costs me some of my 30-odd readers. Sunday night I went to Planned Parenthood Austin’s annual dinner, thanks to my divine neighbor Lisa. Texas State Senator Kirk Watson was the MC for the night, and the keynote speaker was author Anna Quindlen. Lots of other area politicians were there too, like Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who read a proclamation declaring November 6 to be “Planned Parenthood Day,” which is pretty remarkable. Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade was sitting two tables away from us. When Senator Watson called out her name, she got a very long, very loud standing ovation.
I left the event simultaneously fired up and concerned for the future. Fired up because it was the call to arms I needed to get involved; I’ve already registered in their system as a volunteer. Worried because the current political and societal trend right now is to deny women rights to health care and fertility services. if things continue on this path, what options will be available to my daughters when they’re of age?
Let’s get the elephant out in the open right away. Yes, Planned Parenthood provides ab*rtions, but they represent a tiny fraction of the services offered. Their primary goal is to help women take control of whether they have kids and when.
The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, a nurse in New York City in the 1920s, saw the effects of lack of information and birth control on women and their families. Women died as a result of back-alley ab*rtions, leaving children without their mothers. She saw women die in while giving birth to their fifth, sixth, seventh child, leaving the remaining children without a mother. She saw babies die at birth and their mothers not mourn because they weren’t able to feed the kids they already had, let alone another one. Her motto became “Every child a wanted child.”
And some days, while watching the news, it feels like we’re heading back that direction. States are cutting Planned Parenthood funding even though not a dime of federal or state money goes to providing ab*rtions. Clinics in rural areas are being shuttered because of a lack of money, leaving women in low-income, outlying areas without access to health care of any kind.
Planned Parenthood primarily provides health care services, to both men and women. Women go there not only for birth control, but also for annual exams, cancer screenings and prenatal counseling. They also provide health services for men, including treatment for STDs. For many, many clients, Planned Parenthood is their sole source of health care.
And it’s getting harder for women to access it.
Our country seems to be bogged down in this puritanical idea that having s*x is bad and that if women don’t want children then they shouldn’t have s*x. Schools are more and more limited to teaching abstinence only, which has been shown to not work at all.
Studies of kids who have received education on s*x and birth control and AIDS and STDs and pregnancy show that the kids are either going to make damn sure they’re protected if they choose to have s*x or wait longer to start. Providing an education is never a bad thing.
Republican politicians preach about putting children first, yet they have no interest in actually providing them with things like shelter, health care or education. It’s like they like the idea of babies, but not the reality of them. And they seem to like women as long as we stay at home, cook, clean and make babies. And before you argue with me, think about this – until recently, insurance companies would pay for Vi*gra prescriptions but not birth control. Even today, pharmacists who object to the “morning after” pill, which does not terminate pregnancy, only prevent it, on religious or moral grounds are allowed to not fill prescriptions – women are told to come back another time when another pharmacist is on duty. I’m guessing a pharmacist who refused to fill a Vi*gra scrip would be unemployed within the hour.
At one point during the evening, a speaker asked everyone who had used Planned Parenthood for basic health care services in their high school and college years to raise their hands. More than half of the women in the room put their hands up. That spoke volumes.
Even though I never had to use Planned Parenthood for health care services, I always knew it was there and available to me – judgment free. I want my daughters, and my son for that matter, to have the same access if they need it.
So, I’ll be volunteering and donating time and money and writing politicians to tell them I support Planned Parenthood. I hope you will, too.