Pro-choice, pro-life, abortion, Planned Parenthood - all of these words are incorporated in the political lexicon of most Americans. As election time rolls around, fervent religious followers, women's right activists and advocates of the poor engage candidates with their stances on Planned Parenthood and abortion.
We should engage in this conversation in a way that addresses the entire scope of abortion and Planned Parenthood. We must discuss the needed services it provides to the public and the harm banning abortion would do to women everywhere. So many want to accuse people who are pro-choice of being "baby-killers." Pro-life people should actually be calling themselves "anti-choice." Most of them probably aren't educated of the pre-Roe v. Wade realities of abortion or birth control; they simply resort to publicity stunts hinging upon the power of guilt.
Scare tactics seem to work well for the pro-life bandwagon. During my undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee, pro-lifers frequented the campus with giant posters of aborted fetuses painted across them, displaying the by-product of abortions. Each poster had pieces of baby fetuses lying across the face of dimes, pennies and nickels.
What disturbed me the most about the pictures was the thought of the pro-life photographer who was manipulating theses tiny fetuses, contorting them across the coin faces.
What was going through his/her mind as he/she was doing that? Disgusting and uncouth as these photos may have been, they were successful in starting a dialogue. These tactics, however, are by no means new to the controversy of abortion.
In 1964, before the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, Gerri Santoro was the face of the pro-choice movement. Gerri Santoro bled to death lying naked in the floor of a hotel after a self-induced abortion. At that time abortion was not legal so her boyfriend, Clyde Dixon, sought the help of a doctor whom he and Gerri worked with. As you can imagine, the intricacies of this type of procedure should never be attempted by an untrained person.
Gerri and Clyde checked into a Connecticut hotel under false names, carrying only surgical tools, and a textbook in hopes of successfully performing the abortion. Withou medical knowledge or training, Gerri was mortally wounded in the process and Clyde fled the hotel - leaving Gerri to die alone on the carpet. Some time later the police found Gerri's body with her chest hunched over her knees, face down on the carpet with a bloody towel between her legs. The picture that was taken by the police was published in an April 1973 issue of Ms. Magazine and has become an iconic image of the pro-choice movement for access to legal and safe abortions. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, this photo was found on the protest signs of women's rights activists nation wide. Though powerful then, our generation has seen very little of this from the pro-choice movement.
In era where women have safe and legal access to abortion, the idea of the undercover abortion seems archaic. The tragedy of Gerri Santoro and many other women lacks the saliency it once held. As foreign as it may seem, so many women have died over the years from self-induced abortions. In the decades leading up to Roe v. Wade, women had to rely on wives' tales and hearsay to find solutions for unwanted pregnancies. If the United States were to defund Planned Parenthood or ban abortions, there would most certainly be an unfortunate resurgence of killed and maimed women from botched abortions.
Though abortions represent only 3 percent of the services obtained through Planned Parenthood, a specific population makes up a big portion of that usage. Women from low socio-economic status and women of color would be most dramatically impacted by the loss of Planned Parenthood's services, as they cannot afford the procedures or the birth control any other way.
You may has have seen the insulting pro-life campaigns claiming that abortion and Planned Parenthood are "black genocide" as they cite black women have the highest percentages of abortions at Planned Parenthood. Being black is not the causing factor; it is the fact that they have a low SES that leads them to obtain abortions through Planned Parenthood.
These statistics that the pro-life organizations are reporting are solely from Planned Parenthood and don't incorporate statistics from other private health care providers. Because Planned Parenthood offers their services with fees that operate on a sliding scale fee basis, it's no wonder why more low SES women of color use their services. Conservatives want to talk about the "class warfare" being waged against them in taxation, but it seems that their agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion is "class warfare" itself.
Planned Parenthood actually prevents more abortions than it provides by giving women affordable birth control. Those services are, however, only a small portion of what they offer. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Those services benefit everyone. So if we defund Planned Parenthood, the majority of SES women who use Planned Parenthood to obtain birth control would loose it, and perhaps get pregnant. Then if we ban abortion they will have more children, all while living in poverty.
But wait... if they live in poverty and have no access to birth control or abortion then they will only add more people who receive government benefits. There could also be an increase in the spread of STIs. I smell irony, don't you? This social conservatism would prevent abortions, of which conservatives approve, but then increase government spending on socialized programs that conservatives disapprove of. One in five women will have visiting Planned Parenthood during their lifetime and 83 percent of them will use their services before pregnancy is even an issue. It appears that Planned Parenthood serves a vast percentages of Americans and cutting its funds would be disastrous.
The pro-life rhetoric from the right presents itself with quite the conundrum, does it not? Think holistically about Planned Parenthood and abortion, and how drastically banning them would impact women across the United States. There is so much more to consider. These issues are so much deeper than what most would think. We must look at the systemic issues that are intertwined.
Think past the fetus and consider the systemic issues of children living in poverty, think of the women who died unnecessary, bloody and painful deaths. Pro-choice is not an immoral stance, it is a stance, which holistically considers multiple layers of moral decisions and the impact they have on others. People will find a way to have abortions whether or not you ban them, but that does not mean they will be safe. Please keep these things in mind in your future conversations.