Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I like Planned Parenthood.  I need Planned Parenthood.  So do you.

If you just cringed at the sound of the name...Planned Parenthood.. and associated it solely with abortion provision, you really need to keep reading.

As a young woman in high school in the late 1980's, we didn't get much out of our sex-ed classes.  The boys and girls were separated in junior high school and shown videos.  I don't know what the boys saw but the girls saw a video about menstruation and anatomy hosted by the star of the latest bit movie- Annie.  In the video, which meant that the teachers didn't have to broach an uncomfortable subject, Annie talked about what happened when girls started to get their periods, how our breasts would hurt and hair would sprout from the weirdest places.  Then she showed us about maxi pads and tampons.  And that was it. "Any questions?" asked the gym teacher.  Nobody ever had questions at a time like that.

I should have been an old hand at this.  All of my sisters had gone through puberty with varying degrees of success.  The sister closest to me in age seemed to turn into a raging hormonal bitch every couple of weeks and was just a grumpy bitch the rest of the time. Frankly, I was terrified.  I did not sign up to grow up and have my body become all soft and painful and to bleed every month.  One of my sisters suffered horrible cramps, bad enough to have to take narcotics.  Apparently I lived through puberty anyhow but lost the ability to climb trees or to skin my knees up real good while catching frogs in Penny Creek.

In high school, Planned Parenthood came in to educate us about actual sex.  They talked about how it was ok to not have sex, played games with us to illustrate what the movement of a sexually transmitted disease through a population, and showed us how to use a condom.  That was when I was 15.  I ended up abstaining from sex until I was 17 even though I had a boyfriend for three years.  Never once did they say that we should or should not have sex. Never once did they give an opinion on abortion.  They did tell us where their offices were and told the girls that we would need yearly exams, what some of the health problems were for young women and they also told us we would not be turned away if we could not pay.

Planned Parenthood gave me my first pelvic exam.  It was not fun and the whole awkward sweaty experience should never be recorded.  It was not some magical kum-bay-a moment where a bunch of naked women held hands in a circle and celebrated our sexuality.  They told me facts and showed me what my cervix looked like.  It was...ugly.  Perhaps I should have thought it mysterious or amazing or beautiful but really I was significantly non-plussed.  I lived through the exam and learned to respect my body.  And they charged me less than half of what the regular rate was.

What might have happened to me if Planned Parenthood didn't exist? My mom never, ever, talked to me about my body. Ever. And she had four daughters.

Currently, Planned Parenthood offers abortion services and referral.  Yes, yes, they do.  It's part of what they do.  Safe, legal and necessary.

Yes, I am a pro-choice advocate too.  You know why? Not because I have a feeling one way or another about when life begins.  Not because I think that slutty women should just be able to waltz into a clinic and have any "mistake" erased or because someone just doesn't want their life to change.  But because if you take away legal, safe and sanitary abortions, you will not stop abortion. You will only make it more dangerous.

Planned Parenthood does so much more than just provide abortions.  They offer services that include physical exams, discussion of masturbation, birth control, and mens and women's  reproductive health.  They educate teens on other options if they do not want to have sex, frank discussions of what intercourse is and even a description of orgasm.  They talk about LGBT issues and how to plan your family and diagnosis and treatment of STD's, pregnancy tests and yes, even offer help with infertility.

Actually, if all funding to PP stops, you will stop some abortions.  Those women who are often statistically young, poor and uneducated will end up swept into the welfare system because of some misguided shame brought on by religious beliefs.  These women will then later be blamed for being bad mothers or accused of wearing furs and buying a basketload of steaks with food stamps or selling their food stamps at half price so they can just buy drugs.  More unwanted babies will be brought into the world and crime rates will go up.  Racism will also become more apparent as statistically, young women of color at most at risk.  I have seen this in action over my lifetime.  And I don't see many rich politicians fostering or adopting children of teen mothers.  I see them removing choices and blaming women (not the men) for the situations they find themselves in.  In the long run, not funding PP will cost the taxpayers more.

When I say the words "Planned Parenthood" in my classroom, blood pressure goes up and students expect the devil to appear.  Abortion in the U.S. is not just a religious issue, it is an issue of power and hegemony. I say this because of the polarizing political nature of a pro-choice or pro-not-choice stance.  If you limit a woman's right to make her own informed decisions about her body, you oppress her.

No such limitations are put on men, say like if they have four or more children they have to have a vasectomy.  In Denmark, abortions are free, whereas in the U.S. women pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the procedure.  If I had my say, we'd all limit ourselves to one child per household from here on out to assuage some of the damage we're doing to our environment.  But it would be the men who must make these sacrifices.  After all, we only need one virile man per ten women.  Perhaps they should all be screened and the top 10% cultivated for their sperm.  The others will be sterilized at the age of about 12 and all would be well.  Women could then just get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization when they're ready for the responsibility.

This is no more strange or cruel than the shit we put women through now.  In the U.S. women can use their vacations to have their children, or six weeks of UNPAID leave before going back to work.  If she's a single mom and sometimes in a two-income household, nobody can afford to stop working, so the child often goes to daycare.  It's quite fortunate when a grandparent or other family member can babysit for free. Try breastfeeding from an office.

Let me riddle you this: There are no unplanned children of same-sex couples and even fewer abortions.

I think about the life I have and wonder what might have happened if I had not had access to heavily reduced reproductive preventative health care.  I might not have made it to college or fulfilled my dreams. On the other hand, I might have- but the road would have been much different than it is now.  I like the idea that I can choose when or if to get pregnant and that if I am raped and become pregnant, I can legally make the choice to not carry to term.  I wonder if our next generation of women will be afforded this luxury.  Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana signed into law a bill that cuts $3 million from Planned Parenthood funding. I wonder why. Does he dislike women?

Please do not think that I am anti-child or that I cannot possibly know what I'm talking about because I do not have children of my own.  I have ten nieces and nephews and four great nieces/nephews.  I have tons of younger cousins. I have friends with children that I am around all of the time.  I'm good with kids. I love children.  I love my family and when I'm ready, I'll either have one of my own or adopt or foster children.  Possibly more than one of those options will happen.  Honestly, I'm pretty conservative in one aspect: that I'd like to be married or at least in a long-term relationship if I'm going to have a child.  It's a big responsibility and people need help. Children deserve the best we can give them. As a heterosexual woman, I like men for things like sex, heavy lifting, dealing with people I don't like and opening jars of stuff.  I just don't see how single moms and single dads do it alone.  They must be the hardest working and dedicated segment of the population. Hell, parenting in general is the most difficult job I could imagine.

As for me- for now- I'm going to forget all about this rot and go climb a tree and skin up my knees, hoping all the while for a better tomorrow.

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