My Ode to Planned Parenthood

I've spoken here before about my abortion experience with Planned Parenthood.  But I don't recall having talked about the other times and ways PP has helped me.  Right now, it seems we need all the stories we can get about what Planned Parenthood really does.  You know.  Aside from the all-important abortion services which comprise a whole 2% of their operations.

Let's start in high school.  At 16, I was sexually active, as were several of my friends.  Most of us, for varying reasons, weren't comfortable with our parents knowing that, but we all knew (thanks to a couple of us having gotten actual good educational materials in one place or another - thanks, Mom! - and passing them around) about things like STDs and condoms.  But in the eternal dilemma of semi-privileged teens, affluent enough not to have to work but not so rich that we had much money of our own, most of us couldn't afford condoms, at least not in the quantities we needed.  So one friend went to Planned Parenthood and asked if she could get some condoms.  They gave her a big paper bag full of an assortment of sizes, colors, types.  For free.  She kept them stashed in her car or in her backpack, and everyone knew that if we needed a condom and couldn't afford any, we could ask Sam.  PP kept our broke asses safe with condoms all through high school.

After high school, I moved away to college, where I was living when I got pregnant and decided I needed an abortion.  Planned Parenthood was my first call when I got that pregnancy test, because I knew that even if they didn't do abortions - not all centers do - they would refer me to someplace that did, without giving me hassle over it.  As part of the pre-abortion exams, I was tested for STDs as well.

After my abortion, I talked to the doctors at PP about my birth control options.  The doctor recommended an IUD, since I wasn't planning on having children in the next 5 years.  But IUDs are expensive, so a nurse helped me to get enrolled in California's sexual health public assistance program, which allowed me to get the IUD for absolutely free.

Just this past year, I had some weird girl-bits symptoms.  At this point, I'm uninsured and at the time, was unemployed, too.  So who did I call?  Planned Parenthood.  I went in, got an exam, got a prescription for antibiotics, and was offered STD testing as well - all for about $10.  Again, PP helped me re-enroll in the public assistance program, so I would be covered for any other exams I might need.  And during the intake portion, when the nurse asked if I had any other conditions mental or physical, and I said I had unmedicated depression and couldn't afford to get therapy for it, either, she gave me the phone number for the counselor who works with their clinic, and told me I could probably get a few free or low-cost sessions with her if I needed it.

This year is the last year of my IUD's 5-year lifespan.  I'll need to replace it this summer.  Take a guess where my still-uninsured self is going to go for help with that?  

So over the course of a decade, I've received services via Planned Parenthood for two types of contraceptives, STD testing, enrolling in public assistance, an exam and a prescription, and was offered a referral for counseling.  And that's really light usage, since I have the privilege of being fairly healthy and not needing services very often, plus I just don't go to doctors unless I absolutely have to.  Otherwise, I could probably add on yearly well-woman exams and Pap smears when necessary.  Yes, PP provided my abortion as well.  But that's one abortion to six other services I've used.  Without PP's help, I could not have afforded my IUD.  Without PP's help, I have no idea what I would have done when I had that infection last year.  They were able to offer me free and low-cost help because, in large part, of the funding they receive from the government to provide those services.  As I said, my usage of those services has been light; just imagine the impact it will have on millions of people, primarily women, primarily low income, which given the demographics and institutional racism endemic in this country means primarily people of color, who need and use these services even more than I do.  

Now.  With that in mind, go forth and cosign the open letter to Congress on this travesty.  This, as so many other things in this new Congress' brief time in power, is nothing less than class warfare.  Right now, I'm genuinely unsure how helpful any action we can take will be...but teaspoons ahoy, nonetheless.


I Am So Very, Very...Tired.

The U.S. House of Old White Men Who Will Make Your Decisions For You Representatives has just this morning voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

I knew the vote was coming up.  I'm on the email list for NARAL, for Planned Parenthood, for NOW, and several others.  The emails piled up in my inbox this past few days, warning me, offering letters to cosign and phone numbers for my representatives.  And the emails piled up in my inbox this morning, letting me know it had happened exactly as we feared.  (Twitter told me first, mind you; it usually does.  As I told a friend of mine the other day, follow the right people on Twitter and you'll never have to watch the news again.  But I digress.)

I watched videos this morning, in my Google Reader, of various Democrat Representatives speaking out, vehemently, forcefully, eloquently against this travesty.  I watched Rep. Speier's moving admission that she herself had needed an abortion.  And I knew that this issue wouldn't be one that I could open in a separate tab and promise myself I'd get to it later, tomorrow or the next day or whenever, as I so often do.  I had to write about it, now, today.

I was angry, at first.  This post was going to be a scathing diatribe on the stultifying level of fuckery contained in this latest round of "How Can We Screw Women This Time?".  But now, as I'm sitting down to write this, I'm just...tired.  

I am tired of living in a world that does not value my personhood, but values my uterus and what it can do for others.  

I am tired of living in a world where my right to choose whether or not I bear children, and when and how to do so or not do so, is not supported.  Is, in fact, a hotly contested issue as to whether I should have that right at all.

I am tired of living in a world where, should I become pregnant, the fetus inside me is considered, by a very angry, loud minority, to have more rights to my body than I, myself, do.  I, who have lived in this flesh for 25 years.  Who have used this body's hands to create, to write, to connect, to work.  Who have used this body's voice to speak out, to help persuade, change minds, change lives.  I, who have 25 years of feelings, memories, pain, love, life in this body...can be, may be, and to far too many people, should be considered subordinate to the fetus who happens to take root inside me.

I don't cry.  I'm not a crier.  (I have years of negative association between crying and femininity and femininity and weakness, therefore crying and weakness, that taught me how to tightly control my emotions in order to be taken seriously, so that it can actually be impossible for me to let myself cry when I need to and want to, but that's a topic for another time.  I share this now, only to give you a context for what I am saying.)

But as I am sitting here, feeling this latest salvo in the Republican's War on Women hit me like a physical blow, there are tears quietly slipping down my face, and my throat hurts from choking back sobs so I can keep writing.

I don't understand them.  I have never really understood them.  Intellectually, I can rationalize it.  Either with benefit of the doubt - they genuinely believe that abortion is murder, and given that belief, are doing the best they can to combat a terrible evil - or without - they do not like women having the freedom to be sexual without consequences, they believe that women who get abortions are irresponsible sluts, and they are using rhetoric of "teh baybeez!" to cloak their virulent misogyny.  But it still floors me sometimes, how much they truly must hate us.  Us, of course, being women/pregnancy-having people*.  It cannot be anything less than searing hatred.  Or perhaps, searing indifference.  Which is almost worse; hate is at least something you feel for people.  Indifference is what you feel for things.  And gods help me, but I'm fairly sure the viciously anti-choice forces in this country see us more as the latter than the former.

I am just so, so, so tired of fighting.  It never stops.  It never ends.  We suffered the Bush regime (I start with that because it was the start of my paying-attention-to-politics era; there was plenty of suffering and fighting before that, to be sure).  And then we threw it into gear and got a Democrat elected for President, swept away both houses of Congress in the bargain.  Obama was the Promised One, come riding from Heaven itself on a shining unicorn to bring peace to the land, and he had a veto-proof majority in Congress to help him do it.  

But even then, the struggle didn't end!  It dropped into a lower gear, but progress was still achingly slow and we had to fight tooth and nail for every inch.  Our dear leader compromised us away, piece by piece, as the so-called "Tea Party" rose, and their childish tantrums took over the news.  

And now, having gained their power by beating a constant drum of Jobs! and the Economy! and Businesses! and Low Taxes!, they show their true colors by immediately turning a laser focus toward declaring their war on, well...everyone.  Everyone who isn't a rich, thin, straight, Christian, able-bodied, cis, neurotypical white man, anyway.  They want to cut funding for pretty much every program which serves anyone who genuinely needs the help, while pitching a fit anytime someone suggests cutting corporate welfare down a tiny bit.  

But it's specifically their War on Women that is getting the focus right now.  H.R. 3.  H.R. 358.  Defunding Planned Parenthood, defunding Title X entirely, reinstating the Global Gag Rule, expanding so-called "conscience rights" for providers to pick and choose what healthcare they'll provide to whom.  And where I know I should be angry - and make no mistake, under everything, I am angry - instead I just feel the crushing despair of a lifetime spent swimming upstream against this tide of hate and/or indifference.**  How do we even begin to fight this?  The people who hate us are the ones in power.  How do you make a difference against that?  Against the flow of money that keeps them in power?  Against the obvious profitability of declaring war against the less-privileged, in hundred thousand ways subtle and not?  We are only individuals struggling to move against this overwhelming force, and where they can walk away at any time, we can never leave our posts for an instant, lest we be overrun and pushed back just a little bit further.  To quote a favorite novel, about an unwanted royal daughter facing multiple assassination attempts: "The odds were against me.  To stay alive, I had to succeed every single time, where they only had to succeed once."  Like her, our success simply keeps the status quo.  Their successes, on the other hand, change things.  

How can we ever make headway, given this?  When our definition of "success" is "We stopped them from implementing [some horrible, anti-woman, autonomy-eroding law]!"...how can we ever regain the ground we've lost?  We are so thoroughly on the defensive that there isn't time, money, or energy to try to retake lost ground.  We have our hands full just trying not to lose more.  I don't know how to fix it.  I just know I am incredibly tired and demoralized from this struggle right now.

So I'm sorry.  I have no caustic commentary today, no righteous rant to offer.  Maybe another day.  Today, I'm just too tired.

*I do not want to conflate the two, as they are largely but not entirely overlapping groups.  However, the kinds of people I'm talking about certainly do consider the two synonymous, so I use the slash to indicate both their conflation and my unwillingness to perpetuate it.

**I realize this probably comes off as so much privileged whining to many people, since although I am a woman, I am also white, cis, able-bodied, and queer-but-het-partnered, making "woman" my only major axis of oppression.  I'm sorry.  I do know there are others who have it worse than I do.  I do not, in any way, want to minimize or co-opt that.  I apologize if this comes off as so much "white women's tears".  This is the only truth I live, however, and I believe there is still value in speaking it.


On H.R.3 And Buffet-Style Taxpaying

I've been on an Internet sabbatical for a little while.  Before that, it was the holidays while working retail, and that shit takes it out of you.  But I'm back now.  Hi!

So.  H.R.3.  In a crashing economy, when the teabaggers ran on a platform of Jobs! and Businesses! and Small Government!, the "highest priority" according to the new Speaker of the House of Representatives is a bill about making it harder for poor women to access abortion funds and redefining rape more narrowly.  Small government, except for its control over the bodies of women!  Wait, what?

Look, people, I do not care what you think of abortion.  The fact remains that it is a legal, safe, and relatively common medical procedure accessed by 1 in 3 women at some point during their lives.  The fact also remains that poor women do not hand over their right to bodily sovereignty and self-determination to "the taxpayers" simply by virtue of being poor.  This sentiment that taxpayers have a "right" to deprive poor women of access to something they morally disapprove of via the control mechanism of financial pressure is bullshit, and it needs to fucking stop.  Period the end.  

Do not give me bullshit about how it's about "taxpayers and their say in how their money is spent" instead of being about controlling poor women.  That will not fly.  First of all, once your taxes go to the government, it's not your money anymore, and you have no right to say what's done with it.  If you don't like a government program, contact your elected representatives or elect different ones or take any of the routes this country gives its people to air their grievances about the governance under which we live.  But since this money is not yours anymore, to try to have such an intimate say in how it's spent that you want to go in and ban one specific medical procedure - not coincidentally, a procedure that is accessed by pregnancy-having people, who are for the most part women - is blatantly a grab for power over vulnerable bodies.  It's not about the money, and you're not fooling anyone by saying it is.  The money is just the mechanism you're using to assert your power over those bodies.

Just to make sure we're all aware of how much this is NOT about the money:  Statistics for 2001, the most recent year for which there are statistics available, show that between federal and state-level Medicaid programs there were funded a grand total of...wait for it...81 abortions.  81.  In all 50 states, over the course of a whole year.  And that figure includes not only abortions in case of rape, which are the cases this travesty of a bill is trying to limit, but also for health-of-the-woman and incest exemptions.  So if you assume they're divided out equally, one-third of 81 is 27.  27 abortions in a *year*.  Abortions cost, on average, about $500 - it varies depending on the kind of abortion and prices in a given local area, but $500 is a reasonable average.  $500 * 27 = $13,500.  In the grand scheme of government money-flow, that is a miniscule fraction of a percentage point.  It's peanuts.  It's chump change, when you're talking government expenditures.  It's not like banning those few abortions from being funded is going to save the government a lot of money or anything.  So no, this is in no way about the money or reducing government expenditures.  It's about finding and exploiting a vulnerability to try to make abortion inaccessible for just a few more women, because your vision of morality and forcing other people to live by that is more important than allowing people to live by their own morality and make their own decisions.

Thankfully, they've removed the "forcible rape" language from the bill, so this is less fucking-over-survivors than it was.  But it's still bullshit predicated on some imagined "right" of the taxpayer to decide which forms of medical care beneficiaries of government-subsidized insurance should be able to access.

Of course, we could just go to the kind of taxation style some anti-choicers in Massachusetts are trying to push.  They're pushing for a measure that would allow taxpayers to "opt out" and have whatever portion of their tax money currently goes to state-Medicaid-funded abortions, go to information outreach for the Baby Safe Haven Law instead.  You know - once you've forced those irresponsible sluts to have their baby, make sure they know they can leave it on a designated doorstep to languish in the system for 18 years be adopted by a Good Christian Home™.

But hey, I think this is a great idea.  I look forward to the new IRS forms, in which your yearly tax return must be supplemented by form WTF-AMIPAYINGFOR, a ten-page list of programs with checkboxes next to them for "Yes, my taxes may fund this" or "No, spend my taxes on something else".  So I can designate my tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood, comprehensive sex-ed programs, low-income clinics, and only the salaries of Democrat and Green party elected officials.  

Or perhaps a better way to illustrate the level of absurd entitlement going on with H.R.3 would be to have someone propose the No Taxpayer Funding for Dentistry Act.  If a person can push to defund one medical service for aid recipients based on their individual religious and moral beliefs, why not another?  I demand that no more of my hard-earned tax dollars go to fund the legal, widely-used medical procedure of dentistry, because I believe it is immoral and it's my right as a taxpayer to impose that belief on poor people!  ...right?



The second half of this post was much better before Blogger ate it.  My apologies!


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