If last year’s election and subsequent results have taught me anything, it’s to speak up and speak out. When you’re looking into the Twitter feed of an atrocity or when, in your third eye, you can see the future of girls that are coming after you, it’s important to make sure they will hear their cause celebrated.
Last night, I unleashed a series of tweets due to the news that the GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood. In response, a group of strong women stood outside Paul Ryan’s office to serve him a petition with over 87k signatures of people (not just women) who think defunding Planned Parenthood would be a disastrous act. He sent security which prompted the hashtag #PaulRyansoscared.
I didn’t really realize it until I was tweet storming my feelings that I have a deep connection to Planned Parenthood. When I was in fifth grade, the Girl Scout group that I was a part of (Troop #388 if I’m not mistaken) took a trip to Planned Parenthood to learn about our bodies. This trip was before any notion in my mind of abortion and I went thinking this would be like Charlotte’s Discovery Place Museum. I don’t remember much except snapshot images, that’s the way my memory works, but I do remember this wall of interactive body organisms. There were intestines that we could pull out to see how long they would be in certain body sizes. There were pumping hearts with beats that we could count. Thanks, Planned Parenthood, for helping teach me a little bit of math to save me the utter humiliation of counting my heartbeat wrong in high school gym class.
But most importantly for me, a Catholic girl raised in the South, they taught us about parts of our bodies that schools and parents had left dark. In this trip, I was allowed to feel the sand bags of what would become breasts for me. They even had a sandbag with what breast cancer might feel like, lumps and all. Now, every time I’m in the shower and I lift my arm monthly to feel for lumps, I am taken back to that moment at Planned Parenthood, a moment that could protect me for the rest of my life. Finally, they taught us about our uterus, what a period was like, how to use a tampon or a pad. My Mom was a good one, she had taught me all of this with deep instruction, but for girls who were limited by modesty, religion, or had parents who were uncomfortable or unwilling to talk about these things, this moment might have taught them all they learned outside of the fiction circulating in middle and high school hallways.
Planned Parenthood was my first education into my own body. was the only organization (or just people) in my young world to openly discuss who I was on a basic biological level. In a State that sits directly in the buckle of the Bible Belt that believes firmly in abstinence only education, I needed Planned Parenthood. I don’t think we’ve come far enough to disregard this education I received at age eleven.
Reading You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays On Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent, Nugent discusses how she came to feminism and the real feelings of being a woman in today’s world. My favorite essay so far is called “Girl in Control” and it’s about the fragility of feelings women face on any decision about their body, but even more any decision they make about childbirth. While Nugent turns out not to be pregnant in this chapter, she goes through the phases almost every sexually active girl goes through when she discovers her period is late. She says, “… a part of me worried that if I went through with the procedure, I would carry guilt with me for the rest of my life. I know because I already felt guilty just thinking about it. I feel a great pain for women who have to through this.” She talks about making the decision to have a child as a giant “Would You Rather?” Where men almost never have to weigh this decision because they can choose to just walk away (which is a decision in itself), this is a fundamental, biological and life changing decision for all women, of all ages, genders, races, upbringings, and beliefs.
At the end of this chapter, Nugent says, “In all the shame a woman experiences, in all the matters in which her body is supposed to be controlled, in all the ways society tries to tell her what she is doing wrong, she will always have feelings about it. But the important thing to remember is that no matter what the feeling is, it is your feeling and it is your decision.” Regardless of what men, political parties, or religions think, women will always have feelings. They may be shame, humiliation, regret, or they may very well be the opposite. None of these feelings should ever be seen as wrong.
This is what Planned Parenthood gives women. Not only a place to learn and make decisions about OUR bodies, but a place to be exactly what we are, women. Doesn’t matter what we’re made of there, what we believe to be true about the world there, what can or can’t happen to our body there, or the feelings associated with those happenings.
I’m Catholic as I said above and I’ve been taught from jump that a baby is formed at conception. My church has NEVER been one to deny anyone, treat anyone maliciously, or destroy anyone’s character, I’ve been lucky for that. As I’ve studied, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is completely and utterly a woman’s right to choose. This goes against my religious doctrine, but I would never tell another woman how to act with her own body (unless I felt like she was abusing the system and there was a better way). I don’t think I could have ever have an abortion, but I’ve never been in a situation to make that sort of decision. I can’t fathom women who judge other women for the decisions they make.
If you’re deeply religious, I get that, but does your religion really tell you to judge? Does your religion tell you to stand outside of Planned Parenthood and smear and humiliate the women who walk in to have a discussion with their personal doctrine? For Christianity, I’m pretty sure Jesus says over and over again, “love one another.” He says this regardless of choices, circumstances, decisions, moments of stupidity or heinousness. For instance, “Romans 12:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” This is how the families of the Charleston shooting can say and live forgiveness for Dylan Roof’s action in court. If those people, who lost loved ones and pieces of their heart can forgive, why is it that you feel supported in shaming others?
In my tweet storm I also discussed the availability for birth control at Planned Parenthood. At the top of her class, acing math classes like a original gangsta, my Mom had my brother at fifteen. She had had one boyfriend ever (and that’s all it really takes, right?) When she tells the story of how it happened, she talks about her lack of education about sex. This isn’t because of my grandmother’s failures, but because my Mom grew up in a society where no one talked about that stuff. On the back end, my Mother moved into a house with my brother, walked back and forth to work all year in Buffalo, NY (yep, that’s the blizzard capital of the US) and relied for a year or two on Food Stamps. She did not “abuse the system,” and continued to work her ass off so that she didn’t. My Mom is one of the girls who made it. I’m a little bias because she’s my Mom, but she’s the STRONGEST woman I’ve ever met in my life and I think my friends in high school could see that and anyone who meets my Mom or is lucky enough to learn her story would agree as well. When the boyfriend who knocked my Mom up left, my Mom took care of my brother until she married my Dad.
I don’t think my Mom would have ever made the decision to have an abortion. When she talks about going back she says she wouldn’t have me or my brother if she made that decision. My brother is a lawyer now, with his own child and for the record, he’s also the best Dad I know. While I never saw that struggle that my Mom faced because it was before my time, I’ve seen the looks on the faces of my former students who in confidence ask me what to do about a missing period, or how to get birth control so they’re not pregnant, or other really serious conversations that they only feel comfortable asking a teacher they’ve had for just a semester. Their option is a year of a birth control without consent from the guardians in their life. For girls who’s parents won’t understand, won’t accept, or just can’t see their little girl has become sexually active (maybe because of their own parenting shame), Planned Parenthood is there.
If the GOP wants to support all the babies born of women who didn’t have options, or chose an option that they weren’t financially ready for, but want to stand up for, then they can’t defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is the organization that supports these girls on the front end. They aren’t lying about the knowledge they also give for free to women, the education, the help. This isn’t an abortion machine. This is a safety net for women everywhere.
If you’ve watched a bias video that shows Planned Parenthood is just a baby killing machine then you are ill informed because this girl, writing this blog, learned what her body was capable of through Planned Parenthood when very few other people would.