Standing with Planned Parenthood: A coming out story


I’m going to do a very rare thing, and turn my blog over to another writer.  Jennifer Davis is a dear friend, former Visalia resident, and a force of nature.  During her time in Visalia, she was the sparkplug for many ‘chosen family’ activities, including her own wedding. Recent events have spurred her to ‘come out’.

I feel like I am “coming out” all over again! Guess what everyone – I not only STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD, I HAVE USED PLANNED PARENTHOOD!!! OMG, I know… the stigma and shaming associated with this proven effective national healthcare organization is astounding to me. So many people stand with PP “on principle,” but so few are willing to talk about how they (and/or someone they know and love) have benefited from PP’s services. To add to that, I do not consider myself Pro-Choice, I am Pro-Abortion.
Over the years, I have benefited from Planned Parenthood & other reproductive health organizations in a number of ways, but let’s cut to the quick, the elephant in the room, the subject everyone wants to minimize, or not talk about at all, or worse, sensationalize it with lies. I WENT TO PP FOR THEIR ABORTION SERVICES (and other things, but we’ll talk about that in a minute). I am not embarrassed, nor ashamed, and I have no regrets, none. And I am grateful beyond words that PP was there for me, and I am willing to fight to insure abortion services are there again if wanted or needed for myself and others. These assaults on reproductive health care accessibility are not limited to PP, but encompass any organizations or clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services.
Now, let’s get past the sometimes well-meaning but still-offensive questions… It doesn’t matter how old I was or whether or not carrying a pregnancy to term would have “ruined” my life. It is irrelevant whether or not I was raped or molested, whether or not I had 1, 3, 10 or 100 abortions or how “far along” I was. It is irrelevant whether or not there were “other” health concerns. It is irrelevant what my education level is or was at the time. It is irrelevant whether or not I was using drugs. It is irrelevant whether or not I did or did not tell my sexual partner (or partners) at the time. It is irrelevant whether I had the means and the support, financially or otherwise, to have a child. It is irrelevant if I knew about or was using other forms of contraceptive. And it is irrelevant whether or not I knew about or considered other options.
It was not the “hardest decision” of my life; in fact, it wasn’t hard at all; it was one of the easiest. I do not feel the need to justify having a safe and legal medical procedure, no more than I would need to justify a biopsy, drawing blood, getting a cast, or having an x-ray. If you really want to know the details of my medical history, you can ask. I am open to talk about my personal medical experiences with people I choose to discuss such matters. Beyond that, really, it is none of your damn business. Now that is out of the way, phew, let’s move on.
I am a mother. I have the smartest, most beautiful, amazingly creative, intensely funny, interesting daughter, ever (no bias in this statement)! Being a mother to an adult daughter has not diminished my support of abortion providers, if anything it has strengthened it. I am a lesbian, married to the most amazing woman in the world (again, no bias in this statement). For myself, and more importantly, for my daughter and my wife, I stand with Planned Parenthood, and all legal abortion providers, for the fundamental right to reproductive justice; for the freedom of choice in medical decisions; for the ever increasing need for affirming care; for the call to action of intersectionality of progressive causes; for the understanding that the assault on abortion rights is part of a growing and dangerous war on women and self-determination.
I have used Planned Parenthood, and other organizations, for among other things: contraceptives, HIV & STD testing, exams, etc. Most importantly, I have used PP and other reproductive health organizations as a resource. PP has always been a resource to share for accurate, up-to-date information and education on reproductive health, affordable health care, safer-sex education and resources, and affirming care for transgender health services. I cannot adequately express my gratitude and the life-changing, and yes, life-saving information and care PP has provided to me and to so many others I know.
Planned Parenthood has been a consistent ally in the fight for LGBTQ equality – I cannot think of a Pride event I have attended that PP, and other reproductive health services, were not active participants, providing services, resources and education to the LGBTQ community. If ever there was a time for intersectionality, for the LGBTQ community to stand up with a consistent ally, it is now, it is with Planned Parenthood and legal abortion providers.
Regardless of your personal choice regarding abortion, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the exhaustive barrage of legislation to limit access to abortion services, really, has nothing to do with abortion, and I think everyone knows that. Federal funds are NOT used for abortion services, though I personally think that is a grievous tragedy. Abortion services make up a tiny percentage of the services offered by PP, though that is irrelevant, even if 99.9% of their operations were abortion services, they should still be supported. And has been proven so many times, the healthcare services PP and other organizations provide actually decreases the demand for abortion services. Arguing these points, in many ways, defeats the purpose. Abortion is not a crime, it is not wrong, it is not bad, and those of us committed to reproductive rights and justice need to stop apologizing for abortions – there is nothing to apologize for!
The assaults on abortion services are about self-determination. Once again, right wing, religious zealots have the audacity to say, to imply, and to pass legislation based on their belief that I, and millions of women, are not smart enough, are not strong enough, are not moral enough, are not capable of making our own decisions. They do this through blatant lies, through manipulation, through misinformation, through shaming. I refuse to be a part of this, and I challenge anyone and everyone to join me in refuting these critics and to stand up.
The assaults on abortion services are about sex shaming. We live in a society that over-sexualizes, under-sexualizes, de-sexualizes and mis-sexualizes women in so many ways, and then we add the religious bigotry of sex-shaming. Instead of arguing that federal funds aren’t used for abortions or that only a tiny percentage of PP’s operations are abortion related, we should be clarifying the conversion. Who cares? Bottom line, women are sexual, always have been, always will be. Oh, and so are men. Sex is not bad. I can’t believe I even have to say that. Accurate sex education, access to reproductive health services, and safe, affirming care – this is what these organizations provide, and why all of us need to stand with them.
The assaults on abortion services are about limiting access to health care, especially for disenfranchised women. Defunding and legislation limiting access to women’s health care services disproportionately harms poor women, women who live in rural areas, women with accessibility and ability issues, women in abusive relationships, undocumented women, young women. On the same note, given the range of services these organizations provide, it also disproportionately hurts our most vulnerable LGBTQ communities: poor, rural, young, transgender, undocumented, etc. In many places, cosmetic surgery is more accessible than reproductive health services. The absurdity of that makes me laugh, and cry. Even if I do not need their services right now, even if you have never needed these services, standing with Planned Parenthood and legal abortion providers means you are standing with our communities, with all members of our communities. It is important, it is vital that reproductive health services and education be expanded NOT limited.
The more women, the more people share their experiences of utilizing abortion service providers, regardless for what kinds of services, the less the extremist right can use the lies and the manipulation and the misinformation to advance their agenda. There is power in our stories, and in our experiences, but only in the telling of them, only in the sharing of them, only in the debunking of those lies and manipulations and misinformation – only in the truth. So, yes, I stand with Planned Parenthood and all legal abortion providers, and I encourage others to as well, and to share their stories and their truths so that others can use and have access to this important and vital resource. I refuse to be bullied and shamed, and I hope my “coming out” encourages others to do so as well.

Jennifer Davis, Lakewood, Washington

War on Women? Nunes votes YES

My congressional representative, Devin Nunes, joined with all but three of his fellow Republicans in the House, and voted on Friday to defund Planned Parenthood.  The attempt to cut funding will fail, as Republican Senators do not have enough votes to block a Democratic filibuster, and fall well short of the votes needed to override a Presidential veto.  This was mere political posturing, and if Nunes thinks voting to defund essential medical services for poor women across the country is a good idea, his judgement as a leader must be questioned.

The Congressional Budget Office projects access to medical care would be cut off for 600,000 patients, and result in thousands of unplanned births, if funding for Planned Parenthood were ended.  Federal law already prohibits the use of tax dollars for most abortions, permitting it only “in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury,(ACLU)” so talk of reducing abortions funded by Federal tax dollars is an attempt at deflection.  The real reason for the vote is political pandering to the extreme right-wing base of the GOP.

It was disappointing to see Representative Nunes vote to deny funding, especially when it is so desperately needed in his district.  With the high rates of teen pregnancies and unwed mothers in Tulare County, you’d think he’d show the leadership required to tackle these problems head on.  Instead, he votes like a “good soldier”, and supports a false idea (destroying Planned Parenthood will reduce abortions), a useless vote (it will not pass in the Senate, or survive a Presidential veto, or manage a veto override), and takes part in what is merely a crass political move ahead of elections.

That’s not leadership, it’s just another salvo in the right-wing’s war on women.  Nunes seems content to be a soldier in that war, damage to his district be damned.

Planned Parenthood in Visalia can be found at 211 N. Stevenson Street. Their phone number is 877-855-7526.

Image: Congressman Devin Nunes official portrait