Sex and sexism: the politics of Planned Parenthood

BY APRILL EMIG | Managing Editor | I’ve never had an abortion, but one in three women of childbearing age have -- and it’s entirely possible I’ll end up in that 33 percent.

Not because I’m careless, not because I’m a slut (though if I’m basing the definition of “slut” on Limbaugh’s terms, I suppose I’ve been one since I started taking birth control) and not because I want the supposed feminist badge of honor so many seem to think comes with the procedure.

No, I might end up in that 33 percent because the very place I go to get birth control is being defunded: Planned Parenthood. While I sincerely doubt this will ever happen in Minnesota, it has hit painfully close to home with Wisconsin announcing a cut of $47 million from this essential family planning center.

It all started with the sting video by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. This video “revealed” that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal body parts. In fact, Planned Parenthood does donate fetal body tissue for scientific research. It’s only done with the patient’s consent, which means it doesn’t happen with all (or even most) abortions, 80 percent of which occur within the first trimester.

The video didn’t just “expose” Planned Parenthood and give anti-choicers more fuel for their fire, it also ignited a domestic terrorist attack in Colorado Springs. Robert Lear entered a Planned Parenthood clinic, killed three and injured nine. He allegedly told police “no more baby parts” afterward. He was arrested, and now the makers behind the original video have been indicted on fraud charges.

But the video is only part of the story. Women’s reproductive choices have been a hotly contested issue since (roughly) the dawn of time, and reproduction has been one of the most effective ways of controlling not just women’s bodies but also their lives. It’s no secret that women bear the brunt of childrearing, something that keeps them within the private domain of home (where they make no money and, therefore, have no economic freedom -- the only real freedom in a capitalist country) and out of public life. Women aren’t a threat if they aren’t even full participants in society; that’s why feminism has caused such a stir.

It was feminism that gave us the freedom to choose what to do with our bodies -- to have children or not, to celebrate the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy or to terminate one that isn’t wanted. There are endless legitimate reasons for doing the latter, but few people are comfortable with the honest answer of “I just don’t want a kid right now, and I’m not upset about it.” Instead, we have to soften our message with excuses, with “yes, it’s a hard decision, but…” That is, if we even decide to share our stories.

So I say screw that. With the vocal minority making significant dents in reproductive justice, it’s time for the majority, especially women, to say what we really think about abortion. And not just abortion, but birth control, STI screenings, pap smears, HPV shots and everything else we use Planned Parenthood for (97 percent of which is non-abortion related). There will probably always be lonely old men standing outside Duluth’s Planned Parenthood, either oblivious to the fact that this PP doesn’t even do abortions or too stubborn to care, but for every one of them there is at least one woman entering the doors to get her first pack of birth control - her first taste of control in a world where men still insist that condoms make sex worse (as bad as pregnancy, I wonder?). Maybe she’ll have a child someday, or maybe she won’t. She needs the freedom now to make the choice later.

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