In light of the most recent Congressional vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood, I would like my response to reflect the same approach I’ve had to this issue for most of my life. Some folks know that about ten years ago I embarked on a project called The Faces of Choice where I endeavored to provide a forum for women to tell their stories regarding difficult or unwanted pregnancies. I wanted to elevate the conversation to include women that chose termination as well as those who didn’t, but nonetheless struggled with the decision (because it is NEVER an easy one). I had hoped to publish these stories as a book and that didn’t work out. I then moved on to creating a website where a community could be established for women who wanted to share their stories and support each other. For a whole host of reasons, that didn’t take off, either. But the website still exists and I write here about why I was so passionate about the work. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but if anyone is on the fence about whether or not it is important to fund the work that organizations like Planned Parenthood does and to stay the hell out of a woman’s private medical decisions, I encourage you to go read it.
Another day, another abortion ban struck down. I am happy to see it happen, but frustrated at the vast sums of money and energy and time that are spent in the effort to keep women from having reproductive freedom in this country. I know it’s been said before, but it is so absurd to me that these resources aren’t directed toward things that would educate and support women and girls instead of punishing them.
I heard a story yesterday about a clinic in Montana that was so severely vandalized a year ago that it had to be shut down. And since the woman who has run the clinic for over thirty years can’t really afford to revive it, women in the Flathead region of that state are forced to drive 120 miles each way to receive care. Not just abortions, but any kind of reproductive health care, because the clinic provided a huge range of services to women in that rural area, like most clinics that are targeted by anti-choice lawmakers and protestors alike.
Toward the end of the story, the reporter noted that the man who destroyed the clinic was sentenced to 20 years in prison – fifteen of them deferred – and forced to pay restitution. I won’t get into the sentence that was handed down for a variety of reasons, but the notion of restitution was what piqued my interest. So many questions flitted through my head:
- like squeezing blood from a turnip. I wonder how much money he has, anyway, to pay restitution. Do you suppose it will ever be fully repaid?
- restitution to whom? To the clinic owner? To the staff that lost their jobs? To the scores of women whose lives are affected by his act? Does he have to give them gas money to get to Missoula? Does he have to pay child support for all of the babies that were born to mothers who now have no option but to raise them?
- how do you calculate the proper amount of restitution to compensate for the trauma someone suffers when their life’s work is brutally destroyed?
And I am, frankly, getting pretty tired of Chicken Little. I have what I am calling “donor fatigue,” and I worry that it has much bigger implications than we might think.
Two days ago, the US House of Representatives passed an ban on abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy. While the measure didn’t pass with flying colors (228-196), and while it afforded very minor exceptions, it had seismic ripple effects that resulted in a cascade of frantic emails begging me to donate money to every pro-choice organization I’ve ever (and some I’ve never) heard of.
Starting with the last Presidential election, I have been inundated with communications from the Democratic National Committee, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc., etc. They all have one thing in common: FEAR-MONGERING. I am sick of it. These emails tout our loss of freedoms, an ever-restrictive, woman-hating opposition coming to power, and aim to drain the color from my face and set my heart to pounding. Other organizations such as Women’s Rights News post fantastical, sensational headlines on their Facebook pages designed to incite anger and raise my blood pressure. Many of these posts are downright man-bashing, stereotypical nastiness that embody everything these organizations hate about the way women are treated and I am left wondering where our momentum has taken us.
The fact is, we live in a pretty damn good time. While I most definitely do not agree with President Obama on every point, he has proven to be supportive of women’s rights for the most part (good thing he backed down on the Plan B availability to all women and girls) and had the most recent abortion ban passed in the Senate (which is a big What-if, because it seems highly unlikely), he would most definitely have vetoed the bill. Women and girls are making strides in elected office, education, and our fight for equality in the United States and around the world. We are by no means enjoying absolute equality and justice, but our voices are being heard more than they ever have, thanks in major part to organizations like Moms Rising and Miss Representation who direct their efforts toward educating others and amplifying the voices and stories of individual women and girls who are suffering injustices due to the way our system is designed. I am not constantly flooded with pleas to DONATE NOW by either of these groups and yet they seem to be effective in getting their message across.
I worry that groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List risk nickel-and-diming (and annoying) their constituent base by making weekly requests for money every single time a Republican lawmaker (or group of them) does something stupid. The truth is, these occurrences are all too frequent and we need to be able to distinguish between the times when a response is required and the times when these politicians are better left to twist in the wind. Simply reiterating that House Republicans would rather spend their energy voting on legislation that is entirely useless (repealing Obamacare, restricting abortion) than addressing the fundamental challenges most Americans face right now is probably more powerful a message than asking for money. In these cases, I am less and less sure of where my donation dollars are actually going and I am more and more likely to hit “delete” when I see any email from the offending organizations because I can’t stand one more screeching cry that “The sky is falling!” By the time it actually is, I won’t have any money left to give.
Yup, that’s right. And I’m hopping mad. This past week, all but two of the Planned Parenthood offices in Arizona were forced to stop providing abortion services. The two that remain are in the biggest urban areas in the state, leaving the majority of women in Arizona out of possibilities that are safe and convenient.
Thank goodness for email! Two days ago I saw an email in my inbox from Planned Parenthood asking me to participate in their blog carnival. They have teamed up with the National Women’s Law Center to increase momentum for passage of a healthcare bill that would allow American women free birth control as part of a comprehensive package of preventative healthcare. Count me in.