This post is part of the I Stand With Planned Parenthood Feminist Carnival
The other day while I was folding laundry, the song “Brick” by Ben Folds Five came on. It was the same day that the US House of Representative had voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood, in what I can only comprehend as an utterly misguided and viciously cruel act.
I have been a Planned Parenthood employee, patient, volunteer, and donor since I was a teenager. Fighting for women’s rights is on my agenda – in some way, shape, or form – every day. Needless to say, I was seriously depressed that day.
If you’ve ever heard the song “Brick,” you know it was the right song for my mood. It’s kind of super depressing. The tune is melancholic and the content is grave. When Folds was in high school, he and his girlfriend got pregnant and had an abortion. The song is personal, sad, and pretty much apolitical.
Folds has never clarified his own political views on abortion, but it doesn’t matter. He achieves a rarity with his song, portraying a deeply personal issue as intimate, complicated, sometimes sad, and then just leaving it at that. And that’s how it should be. I wish the GOP would take a page out of his book.
Even the most adamant abortion rights activists would tell you that the issue is grey and complex – a can of worms that no simple answer will fix. And with breakthroughs in medical technology, the complexity just continues to grow. As noted women’s rights firecracker Frances Kissling wrote in a recent op-ed, pro-choice activists can no longer “ignore the fetus.” It is perhaps time for a pro-choice renaissance.
I work in the global reproductive health field, so I often think about abortion in that context. I realize that many of our policymakers and elected officials don’t know the first thing about global maternal and reproductive health, and that’s too bad.
If they did, they’d know that still almost half a million women die each year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes. Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of these deaths. Why? Well, for many reasons, including because safe abortion costs are too high, shame or intimidation drives women to quacks and “back alleys,” and oppressive laws restrict access all together.
These may seem like the reality of women in faraway places, with autocratic regimes and unsympathetic despots who don’t care about women. But if Planned Parenthood is de-funded, well…check, check, check, and check. If one needs a further glimpse into what a future without Planned Parenthood could mean, the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a grim crystal ball into what further restrictions on abortion access could mean for women in the US.
As it stands, the US already has a pitiful maternal health ranking compared to other industrialized nations. Undermining the crucial women’s health services that Planned Parenthood provides – like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, and birth control, in addition to abortions – will surely cause our ranking to tumble even lower.
And policy-wise, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood has global implications. The domestic policy decisions of the US inform our foreign policies on the same issues, and also set an example for other countries. If we are devaluing women’s rights and health, we are tacitly allowing others to do the same and undermining our ability to pressure governments to treat their women better.
It blows my mind that, as our nation looks forward into the 21st century and beyond, and as we consider progress, economic growth, the victory of democracy, women’s rights are not integral to these plans. There is no way – no friggin’ way – that the US is going to remain a prosperous and stable global force if it continues to undermine the health, and the very rights, of half its population.
That’s where Planned Parenthood comes in. I can’t think of a more enlightened organization that is really and truly in the trenches. There is a lot in our country that is broken, and Planned Parenthood is one group at the helm of those actually trying to fix it. Wherever you live in the world – if you are a woman, if you care about women, if you care about health, if you care about human rights – join us in standing with Planned Parenthood.
And if you live in the US, use this nifty tool to find out how your Rep voted…and let them know what you think!