(Author’s note: I wrote this in December and published it on BlogHer, and wrongly assumed I’d also placed it here. My intent today was to update the post based on recent developments, but decided I’d leave this in the same contextual environment of December, and write a new post over the weekend covering the crazy recent political doings.)
During 2011, politicians, commentators, and others have spent considerable time throwing disparaging remarks at Planned Parenthood, usually including wild claims distorting the proportional mix of the services it provides.
As both disclaimer and commentary element, I volunteer once a week for a Planned Parenthood, serving as a greeter, the first PP person one sees on arrival. For three hours, I stand on the cusp of a demarcation line between those who render service and those who abhor those services. Since I am unabashedly pro-choice, this post defends, but it defends more than just PP and its affiliates, it advocates for an idea that elevates our collective human condition.
When standing there waiting on arrivals, off to my left are picketers carrying whatever message they deem important. Some are religious or religious imagery placards; one says ‘babies killed here’; another ‘the pill kills’. Usually four to six protesters straddle the line between public and private property, kept on the right side by a police officer working detail.
The picketers shout out to new arrivals, trying to persuade them to reconsider. They shouted at me the first day, ‘Don’t do it, you will regret doing this, there’s a clinic down the road.’ Since I am fifty-seven and a trannie, if I found myself preggers, if the protesters knew those two facts, I have a hunch it would be double time on prayers, and I probably would offer up a few as well.
A few weeks back, on the way to sign in, one shouted, “Why the hell do you volunteer for them? And on the day before Thanksgiving!” None has said anything since, although I wonder if the Thursday before Christmas will spur another challenge. Those arriving, perhaps 40%, shout back.
Planned Parenthood offers a wide array of reproductive health services. Stationed in the lobby where one picks up prescriptions, people just challenged by shouts pick up their order and leave, subjected to challenge on the way in by false assumptions.
Assumptions can get people in a world of trouble. The protesters, like the politicians and the commentators, itch to shut down a vital service in this community, one representative of services in many other communities, and a model for those without.
Three percent of PP revenue comes from abortive services, which means over 32 times that number comes from providing a myriad of health services too numerous to outline in this post, and they do it at reduced cost for those with limited or no income. In fact, for some with zero income, birth control can be without charge.
Need I outline why protecting health and preventing unwanted pregnancy are valuable endeavours and assets to any community? When people denounce PP, they denounce more than an organisation, they trash the idea of open and honest discussion about human sexuality, including intercourse and all its subsets, same sex relationships and existence, sexual health, prevention, education, access to medical care, contraception, and the right to decide within each what best suits our life. The goal isn’t to just shut down sources of government funding for some family planning services, it is to roll back time to when sex was a deep dark secret. In my lifetime, we lived in a societal framework where we presumed everyone to be heterosexual and if not, marginalised the suspected one in unkind and even destructive ways. I lived it. Things like rape, incest, and paedophilia were something only whispered in conversations held in deep shadows, not meant to be overheard.
Eliminate services that help overcome these things, and where are we, and more importantly, where are our young? Do we really wish our children to be ignorant of the power of their bodies, and forego giving them the ability to harness this power in the way they choose? Do we really wish to return to days where others whispered about single women who were pregnant and unmarried? Do we really wish to see people counting back months from a birth to date of marriage? Does it make a shred of sense to discourage use of birth control or access to health screens? Have we learned no lessons from the tragedy of the 1980s, when millions died because we combined lack of information and misinformation with a Puritanical awkwardness, and were okay with it so long as it only rooted out…them?
Protesters don’t stir my stew so much; I get their passion. What does annoy me beyond silly is misinformation. When misinformation becomes propagandistic, as we have seen through 2011, then I lose myself to some funky fear for the future.
My volunteerism serves two purposes. As an unemployed felon who is about to return to school, it gives me added purpose beyond my writing, an outlet for what matters to me, as well as provides evidence of good works to prospective employers. If there is one thing I am, disagree or agree with my outlook, it is sincere.
Each time I stand in the lobby, I see how PP staffers care, see them go about their work with purpose, and see them trying to make a difference. Don’t let your community be without such a service or services. Don’t allow politicians and commentators to twist the record on what reproductive health clinics provide.
We need to set the tone and not always be back on our heels, on the defensive. Stand up and be counted, because this subject should be in front of everyone.