Why We Need Planned Parenthood: My Post for the “My Planned Parenthood” Blog Carnival

My Planned Parenthood: raise your voice. tell your story. July 7.Imagine you needed medical treatment.  Let’s say you needed insulin or heart surgery.  But no one in your state offered either medical service.  You’d be horrified, right?  Well now let’s imagine that same scenario only it’s for an abortion, or birth control or cervical cancer screenings.  Still horrified?  You should be because this is exactly what’s happening at the state level when it comes to reproductive health.  Anti-choice legislators are doing their damndest trying to fuck up your healthcare.   And that includes their attacks to defund Planned Parenthood.

Tami and Melissa from the fabulous blogs What Tami Said and Shakesville teamed up to create a blog carnival to support Planned Parenthood in their home state of Indiana (and elsewhere), which is facing defunding, and to encourage people to share their personal stories.

I’ve written before about how Planned Parenthood helped me.  I worked full-time (and part-time) putting myself through college.  Living paycheck to paycheck, I often went without health insurance so I could pay for rent and groceries.  I just simply couldn’t afford it.  I often worried…what if I had an accident?  What if I needed surgery?  Luckily, I was able to turn to Planned Parenthood for my exams and birth control.

If you’ve never had to ration your food throughout the week, stretching your dollars as far as they’ll go, or worry if your electricity would be turned off, you might not understand why people go without insurance or why someone would go to a clinic over the hospital.  Any time I ever visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, I felt at ease and never judged.  And I know I’m not alone; many women and men have turned to the non-profit for their health care.

Planned Parenthood covers a broad range of healthcare for women and men.  Some in the LGBTQ community feel more comfortable going to Planned Parenthood than a hospital as they’re often more sensitive to sexual orientation.  With abortion costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars (depending on how far along your pregnancy is) and increasing exponentially each week, abortions in a clinic cost less than if going to a hospital.  Planned Parenthood provides essential services, particularly to low-income women, including those in college.

As Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood expressed,

“These aren’t niche services that supplement to people’s regular health care. More than six out every ten women who receive care in a Title X family-planning health center say it’s their main source of health care –not a supplement, but a lifeline. That’s because 85 percent of them live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and two thirds lack health insurance.”

In my own state of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood serves over 34,000 patients, providing cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, breast exams and abortions.  Luckily, I live in a state that often supports pro-choice legislation.  Although trust me, it’s not quite as liberal as you might think.  But we’re not facing an uphill battle like they are in many other states.

It’s appalling how the federal government and state legislatures have been attacking funding and services for abortion, sex education, and reproductive health.  Federal bills H.R. 3, which restricts abortion coverage, passed the House and the Pence Amendment tried to eliminate Title X funding.  At the state level, reproductive rights face a barrage of attacks.  Just last week, Kansas almost became the first state with absolutely no abortion providers.  The Ohio House passed the heartbeat bill which would ban abortion at the first sound of a heartbeat, before most people would know they’re even pregnant.  South Dakota has mandatory waiting legislation (UPDATE: Thankfully, this has been struck down).  Kansas, Idaho, Nebraska and Oklahoma have 20-week abortion bans.  Legislation for mandatory ultrasounds occurred in Florida and Texas.  Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia banned or restricted private and/or public insurance coverage of abortion and many other states are considering doing the same.  Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin face attacks on Planned Parenthood funding.  It makes my head spin to think about all of the anti-choice bills…there’s almost too many of them to keep track.

When discussing the war on reproductive rights, supporters often downplay the number of abortions Planned Parenthood provides, comprising only 3% of their services.  With anti-choice legislators seeking to eliminate all funding, it seems like a valid point to raise (and one I’ve raised myself) when Planned Parenthood doesn’t even receive federal funding for abortion services.  But as kick-ass reproductive justice activist Steph Herold astutely points out at RH Reality Check, we as pro-choice advocates and supporters shouldn’t be making those statements.  Abortion is a normal and vital part of healthcare; we shouldn’t diminish or stigmatize it.  Herold writes:

“We need to honestly address the good abortion/bad abortion dichotomy that we’re all guilty of perpetuating. All abortions are created equal. When we’re talking to the press or to our legislators about abortion, the message is often, “the majority of women abort in the first trimester!” Or, “it wasn’t her fault! She was raped!” This enforces the damning idea that abortions are ok for some women, those few “good” women who didn’t mean to get pregnant, who had an “acceptable” reason for an abortion. When we say that every woman deserves to have access to abortion care, we need our messaging to match. A woman who was raped deserves the same access to an abortion as a woman who is 28 weeks pregnant. Unless the pro-choice movement is fighting for the rights of ALL women to have abortions, we’re settling for less than women deserve, not to mention sending mixed messages to our supporters and to the women for whom we advocate.”

It’s clear that anti-choicers want to eradicate abortion.  But they won’t stop there.  They want to attack all healthcare for women and stigmatize their sexuality.  With funding cuts affecting low-income individuals and the racist, anti-choice billboards that sprung up in Los Angeles, Chicago and NYC, it’s clear that the anti-choice agenda is an assault on gender, race and class.  Planned Parenthood provides a beacon of hope for many women and men.  By stripping away funding and essentially services, people need to remember that many people won’t have anywhere else to turn for their healthcare.

Earlier this year, I marched in Boston’s Walk for Choice and Planned Parenthood rally to protest the offensive and misogynistic legislation seeking to strip people of their reproductive rights and essentially their bodily autonomy.  Medical decisions belong between a patient and their doctor, not the government.  Period.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll who spoke at the Planned Parenthood rally declared:

“I want my two daughters and my young son to grow up in a world that’s blind to gender and that supports essential services for women…we ask you to support Title X funding. Our health and that of our daughters depends on it.”

It was empowering to be surrounded by almost a thousand people protesting, chanting and standing up for our rights.  But I was taken aback that in this day and age, 38 years after Roe v. Wade passed, I’d have to take to the streets to fight for my reproductive rights.  It felt strange though…isn’t this what the women in my mother’s generation fought for?  Hadn’t this battle already been won?

Read all the posts participating in the My Planned Parenthood blog carnival and follow the #MyPP tweets!

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