Planned Parenthood and the Privilege of Moral Outrage

And for my next trick – a discussion of lady parts!

Deal with it.

There’s been a lot of recent controversy regarding Planned Parenthood – namely, that carefully-edited video that paints the organization as some kind of Bond Villain whose end goal is to blow up the Moon. Today, Republicans in Congress failed to push forward a bill that would effectively end all Title X funding of Planned Parenthood.  I’d be celebrating more if they weren’t counting on a government shut-down to push their agenda forward anyway.  Never mind the fact that federal money cannot be used to fund any abortion procedure – PP gets 1/3rd of its funding from federal sources, and pretty much all of that goes to providing birth control.  Planned Parenthood does not now, nor has it ever, used federal funding to cover the cost of abortion services.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the real issue here: the attempts at morally justifying an attack on health services for women – overwhelmingly women of color and low-income women.

If you oppose abortion, you should be happy right now! Abortion rates are lower than they have ever been since Roe v. Wade. This trend didn’t start with 2014’s rash of anti-abortion measures, so the Republican leadership cannot claim that particular Merit Badge (it’s shaped like a uterus with a big X over it). Please look at the graphs. It’s been a gradual downward movement as birth control becomes more available.  With the rise of IUD use in America, I imagine that trend will start to veer ever-more-sharply downward in the coming years.

Here’s a little Truth Crouton for you all: women don’t want to have abortions. They don’t.  No woman thinks to herself, “Hey! A free Saturday – let’s squeeze in an abortion between yoga and brunch with the girls!”  It happens because – for one reason or another – a pregnancy is unsustainable.  And if there’s a surefire way to prevent abortions, it’s making sure that unsustainable pregnancies don’t happen.

I talk a lot about privilege, and in this case, I think it’s important that we recognize our own. I am a woman, which means my body is apparently the battlefield upon which the Hunger Games Tributes Republican Presidential hopefuls plan to win their battle. But let’s not kid ourselves here: women like me are more privileged than not. I’m white. I went to college. I have a professional job – and I have insurance. I get my choice of birth control at a very small cost to me. I never have to worry about my safety or my reputation because I live in an affluent suburban area where I have access to safe contraception. You know what else I can get? Pap smears. Gynecological exams. Vaccinations that keep my risk of cervical cancer at an all-time low. I have an OB-GYN, guys. More than that, if an unexpected pregnancy were to happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me. I would not be forced to choose between my livelihood and parenthood.

That’s privilege, everyone. Privilege is not having to worry about issues because they do not directly affect you. Too many women in this country lack what I consider to be basic rights: access to quality health care and reproductive health resources.  Do you know how expensive insurance is? I can tell you that the days of company-sponsored healthcare for workers and their families are fading into the dust of time. I pay for my plan out of pocket; I know that more women in my generation do than don’t, and a terrifyingly large percentage of women have no insurance at all.  How on Earth can women be held solely responsible for birth control and family planning when the odds are so incredibly stacked against them? Planned Parenthood steps in to help.  The program provides screenings, birth control, and, yes, abortions – I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that PP doesn’t. But here’s the thing: Planned Parenthood takes care of a large population in this country that nobody else is willing to take care of.  I don’t see anybody else going to bat for women the way that they do.  And they’re more effective than an entire Quarter Quell of Republican cannon-fodder nominees.  You want to see abortion rates go down? Really go down?  Make them unnecessary. Give women the knowledge and the resources to take care of themselves, and you’ll see healthier families.

And don’t be a dick, please: stop shouting at women who are already making the most difficult decision of their lives. They’re not doing it lightly.   When you condemn a woman for making this decision, when you shout and curse and spit, you are saying, “I cannot imagine what you are going through, but because I am not strong enough to offer empathy, I will take the coward’s road and pile on condemnation.”  Moral outrage is a privilege reserved for those who will never be forced to choose between survival and scruples.  If you want to actually make a difference, then stand with Planned Parenthood and help bring family planning to every woman in America.  If you want to do nothing and then gripe and moan about the “lack of family values” like a colossal pissbaby, then by all means, support the decision to defund.

Go for it.