Enough Infighting: Planned Parenthood Saves Lives and Must Be Supported

20 Sep

In 2010, the midterm elections sent a deluge of freshman politicians deemed part of the “tea party,” who immediately targeted Planned Parenthood funding under the pretense that somehow the health care organization was the main contributing factor to the United States debt. Yes, the tax debate happened and more pretend-issues were hotly debated on cable news shows. But really, nothing has dominated the headlines more than those  that would restrict women’s right to have an abortion.  The main target of course the most visible health organization: Planned Parenthood.

To those that do not want women to have access to reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is the easiest group to attack and (in their wildest dreams) totally destroy. The sad part about all of this is many pro-choice activists and Planned Parenthood itself are helping the anti-choicers do just that.

I know many activists are frustrated with Planned Parenthood’s sometimes tone-deaf approach to reproductive concerns today. Some argue the organization has trouble adapting to contemporary activism. That Planned Parenthood has been slow to accept the new wave of young pro-choice activists that are likely to use contemporary avenues (like social media)  to stand firm against the anti-choice bills, laws and rhetoric sweeping the nation.  Others argue that  Planned Parenthood has too many awful bureaucratic problems making the organization  less able to quickly  refute false attacks and launch necessary counter-protests and truth-telling campaigns. Some activists feel Planned Parenthood has capitulated one too many times to the increasingly right wing Federal government’s demands.

With that in mind, consider this story in which Gloria Steinem’s recent speech in support of Planned Parenthood garnered a fiery response from anti-choice protestors and even some pro-choice supporters as well. With women in the audience over 80 years old stating they are counting on the new generation of women to keep the fight for women’s rights just as they did 50 years ago, is it conducive to the pro-choice cause as a whole to criticize Gloria Steinem for supporting Planned Parenthood? I think you know the answer.

And on the other hand, Seattle Weekly reports that Planned Parenthood Seattle spokeswoman, Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, wants a group of clinic defense protestors (that picket and protest in front of anti-choice protestors at clinics) to stop, because she says, it’s “confusing.” While Planned Parenthood certainly has a point in wanting the distraction of protestors to simmer down so patients feel safe entering and exiting the clinics, is asking pro-choice activists to stop protesting doing the overall cause any good? Again, I think you know the answer.

While I was in  high school, Planned Parenthood provided me with birth control, condoms, and sex information I would not have had  access to otherwise. I received services for free  and took just a short bus ride to the nearest clinic. That was almost 8 years ago, for many women today, the nearest reproductive health clinic and/or Planned Parenthood is hours away, the fees no longer affordable for people that earn little to no income.  When I suspected I was pregnant, Planned Parenthood administered my pregnancy test, confirmed my pregnancy, and offered me counseling  and brochures on every option (parenting, adoption, or abortion) available to me. The nurse gave me her card and said, “call me any time you need me.”  Afterward, she gave me a big hug.   In many places in this country,  in this political and social climate, how many women can tell that same story? Not as many as 8 years ago, that’s for certain.

I accept readily that Planned Parenthood is not perfect, but still, the health organization offers services to so many people that desperately need them. Without Planned Parenthood, I know this country would be much worse off, and not just for women. Because when women suffer, we all suffer. When one person’s rights are stripped away, we all lose something. And if we all sit around and become angry at organizations that we should be working in solidarity with, the in-fighting just makes the anti-choice groups and politicians feel that what they are doing is working.


8 Responses to “Enough Infighting: Planned Parenthood Saves Lives and Must Be Supported”

  1. Odile September 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    When does credibility become a problem? Women are smart enough to know that reproductive health services are available at low/no cost in countless non-abortion providing clinics, health departments, and physician’s offices, that are more numerous, and just as easy to access as planned parenthood, and they utilize these facilities. To say that the evaportaion of PP would mean women could no longer access reproductive health services is disengenuous…..no, it’s simply not true. In terms of all services minus abortion, accessability would scarcely be impacted. I don’t understand why pro choice is afraid to say “we want planned parenthood to survive so that they can provide abortions” and quit trying to convince women who already know different that they will lose access to all other reproductive health services – would that be ideologically inconsistent? Maybe we should quit using hyperbolic scare tactics, and trust women with the truth.

  2. Sophia September 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Unfortunately, having the knowledge of reproductive services (whether planned parenthood or other clinics and providers) is a privilege– information is not readily available to every person with the only barrier to that information being themselves. There are many many factors that contribute to lack of access to abortion care, with information or “smart” as you put it, being one of them. Let me be clear, it’s not that women or men seeking services aren’t smart, it’s that they don’t always have access to information. Consider religious barriers or school programs that don’t educate about abortion as a legitimate choice; lack of Internet or rural living situation with less reliable communication services that urban areas have; the list goes on.

    As an activist, my social networks concerning abortion rights, clinics, funding, etc. are going to be larger than that of a person that isn’t an abortion rights activist. My point is: as clinics (planned parenthood or otherwise) are defunded or shut down for whatever reason, that’s one less place a woman can go to obtain reproductive health care- something we all should care about.

  3. freewomyn September 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    You make a lot of good points. Planned Parenthood may not be the only provider, but it has the greatest name recognition. People know they can trust Planned Parenthood. So while it may, in fact, be a corporate entity, at least it stands for women’s health.

  4. Tenya September 21, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    I don’t think it is true that women and men would have no problem accessing reproductive health care if PP were to disappear. Health departments and other low/no-cost places just don’t have the name recognition nor as extensive an operating presence as PP (and as for regular physician’s offices? Finding one willing to take clients without insurance or on Medicaid is not as easy). For example, I remember in the small city I used to live in the health department did STD testing one day a week – that was it for reproductive care. There was another place that did birth control services low-cost but not on a sliding scale, and I didn’t even know they existed until I’d lived there 5 years (they also did abortions – guess what kind of clinics will be targeted after PP?). Physician’s offices wanted insurance to see me or charged way beyond what I could afford without insurance, even at a reduced rate for self-pay. You’d find Crisis Pregnancy Centers and similar that are happy to test for pregnancy and counsel you out of an abortion, but little in the way of other care. Luckily, there was a Planned Parenthood very close that did all my annual GYN care as well as birth control and STD testing and even checked out my anemia.
    It isn’t lying to say that should PP go under, reproductive care will be hindered, and that hindrance will cost some their lives.

    And further, if all PP did was abortion I’d be happy to rally behind them for only providing abortions. But they don’t, 97% of PP is not abortion care, and waving away that as a redundant service when there are health departments and other clinics (not to mention ignoring that activists will not stop at destroying PP, PP is getting the majority of the fire because of being the biggest name, but small clinics will be next) is not going to further a cause of ensuring accessible reproductive care for all.

  5. Divine Oubliette September 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I can understand how pro-choicers protesting the anti-choicers in front of clinics would be confusing and why some people want them to stop. BUT the answer isn’t protesting their protest, it’s making the anti-choicers protest backfire!
    My local Planned Parenthood made a ground breaking counterstrike against ‘The Pill Kills’ Campaign that came to Dallas, Texas a while ago – we pro-choicers pledged money for for every anti-choicer protestor who showed up, effectively raising $6,710 which got 600 women free contraception!
    We need to make them stop protesting by making their protest backfire hugely in their faces. Once they realize that women are getting free contraception (or free abortions) because they showed up they will have to stop protesting because it won’t be doing them any good to be there. We need to make their protests self-defeating!

    Odile – ‘Smart enough’? Yes women are smart enough but some women lack the knowledge ie are ignorant about their choices. Abstinence only education and parental tight-lipness about their teens budding sexuality all contribute to keeping young women ignorant (through no fault of their own) about their options!

    Also I would argue hat Planned Parenthood does need to get their sh!t together on a nation-wide scale to be effective. They also need to partner with other clinics so that Americans understand that that’s it’s not just Planned Parenthood that preforms abortions and needs defending.

  6. Odile September 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm #


    The point I am making, is that the primary (or at least the most vocal) argument of planned parenthood supporters is “don’t defund, or women will die from lack of services” and they bolster that argument with “abortion is the smallest part of what they do” rather apologetically. I am merely asserting that all of the ‘other’ services PP offers, except for abortion, are available at countless health departments, private clinics, and private physicians offices at low cost, sliding scale, or free. In my county alone there is the health department, and no less that six other clinics that offer every service that PP offers EXCEPT abortion. Therefore, if the local PP disappeared tomorrow, there would be at least five clinics left, all easily accessable, for women to get health care at low/no cost. And if women are in need of that help, then they will find it, regardless of barriers (which I think that you overstate). For the sake of argument, I’m not advocating any provider of services in particular – and I’m speaking neither for nor against PP – I’m just saying is, to keep it honest – and for an argument that taxpayer money should help PP keep it’s doors open to be intellectually honest, it can only be an argument for PP’s abortion services – because everything else can be obtained somewhere else. Even Amanda Marcotte is honest enough to say that abortion services are the most important service that PP offers. I’m just saying that it’s not ideologically inconsistent to pare down the argument to the subject of abortion services only, and I don’t understand why pro choice does not.

  7. Sophia September 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Odile: I feel you misinterpret the article, for I am not arguing that without Planned Parenthood there would be no care, that somehow Planned Parenthood is the only place for women to go for a variety of services including abortion.

    My point is, the attacks on planned parenthood remove resources and in turn, access to abortion, low cost health care and reproductive care/family planning services. Removal of any clinic, especially a group as large as Planned Parenthood, removes access, period. And removing access is a problem; removing access is dangerous for women.

    In terms of your attempts to catch myself or any pro-choice proponent in a bind , insisting that if all planned parenthood does is provide *just* 3% abortions amongst many other necessary services, then how are pro-choice advocates saying at the same moment that we must keep planned parenthood for without it, as my article says, women will suffer. Might I remind you that the 3% stat is one that was mentioned in response to the attacks by the antichoice media and House of Representatives, who tried to assert that *all* Planned Parenthood does is Abortion. No, that is not the case. As stated 101 times, reproductive care clinics such as planned parenthood, offer a variety of services including abortion .

    The point is, once again, that removing planned parenthood doesn’t “remove all access to abortion” as you seem to believe based upon your last comment, it simply means ACCESS decreases and resources becomes more difficult to obtain for patients that need services. One less clinic=less access. Period.

  8. Sophia September 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    By the way Odile and any other readers that may not be informed: you say tax payer funds given to planned parenthood “could” be used to fund abortions, that is simply not true. From factcheck.org – a nonpartisan fact checking group- abortions at planned parenthood account for 3% of their total services, and by federal law, no federal funding is allowed to be used on abortion services. Period. (You can twist that all you want, but then you’ll be wading into tax fraud and conspiracy theory territory… ) So, your tax payer argument is based upon false information.


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