The escalation of anti-choice hostilities towards contraception funding in the past weeks---fueled by a bill by Rep. Mike Pence to defund contraception services and Lila Rose’s blatantly dishonest undercoverfaux “stings”---has demonstrated one thing, that the right wing imagination is startling lurid and gullible. Reasonable people watch these videos and see bizarrely-edited evidence that health care workers, when confronted with people behaving weirdly, try to act professional while also trying to keep the conversations short. But the anti-choice community is trying mightily to see evidence of what they believe Planned Parenthood to be, which is apparently a cross between an orgy from Marquis de Sade’s imagination and a Satanic ritual from a 60s-era horror film.
Projecting horrifying fantasies on a hated institution, and letting the mainstream media assume, incorrectly, that there must be something there for so many people to go crazy, has a history of effectiveness. In the 80s, people did go to jail after blatantly ludicrous accusations of human sacrifice and child abuse in Satanic rituals, after all. And ACORN did get shut down after heavily edited, dishonest videos from Rose’s comrades created a stink. The attempts against Planned Parenthood are harder to get off the ground, probably because one in four American women have used them for health care at some point, and so Americans largely have direct experience with what Planned Parenthood actually is, a series of clinics that resemble nothing so much as any other medical clinics we’ve experienced. The main difference is most doctors offices don’t have big buckets of condoms for cheap or free on sale, but really, they should.
Realizing sunlight is the best disinfectant, I put out a call on Twitter for folks to talk about their experiences with Planned Parenthood, under the hashtag #thanksPPFA. The best way to counter right wing lies is with the mundane, if heartening truth, which is that Planned Parenthood goes out there every day, doing the often thankless work of providing quality health care to women who often have no other access, because they don’t have the funds, insurance, or even a clinic they can get to. I particularly asked people to speak about how Planned Parenthood had helped them, with medical care, contraception, understanding, or education, and kicked it off by telling (in 140 characters) how Planned Parenthood had provided my care for five years, providing me with contraception, Pap smears, UTI interventions, and STD testing. And they were great! Moving into private health care was actually kind of sad, because I missed the friendly, feminist-minded ease of Planned Parenthood. I missed getting the pill prescription and the pills in the same place. I missed their fun pamphlets for perusing in the waiting room.
But even more interesting and heartening stories came out on Twitter, one 140 character bit at a time.
Both men and women told one story after another of Planned Parenthood being more pro-life than anti-choicers could fathom. People crediting Planned Parenthood with giving them their own lives, by giving them control. People credited the institution with allowing them to have college educations, good jobs, and happy marriages, all because they could avoid having kids until they secured all these things. Which, in turn, gave the children they did have better lives. One woman said this had all allowed her a chance to explain to her child how important regular access to contraception is for improving their own family’s quality of life.
Folks thanked Planned Parenthood not just for their quality of life, but for the fact that they have lives. More than one Twitter denizen thanked Planned Parenthood for catching their cervical cancer, thereby saving their lives. Which is a nice reminder of how much we take for granted how the preventive care offered by Planned Parenthood keeps many people alive who would die without it. Not just because Planned Parenthood was part of the massive effort to promote safe sex (and make affordable the condoms to use for it) that dramatically slowed the spread of HIV in the U.S. But also in all the smaller ways that Planned Parenthood improves people’s health, saving lives in the long run. Many Twitter-ees noted that Planned Parenthood provided STD testing without judgment, which means they were more likely to use the resources, meaning they were more likely to catch and treat STDs that, if not caught and treated, and degrade your health overall. Consider that a person with one untreated STD is far more likely to get HIV, and you can see how this works.
And, of course, by making it easy for people to catch and treat STDs, Planned Parenthood has saved many people’s fertility, so they can have children down the road if they wish. Doesn’t get more pro-baby than that!
Planned Parenthood was thanked, in fact, for the existence of relationships and even people that wouldn’t exist without it. One Tweep said that if Planned Parenthood hadn’t helped her mother in a crisis, then her mother wouldn’t have been able to have her down the road. Many people pointed to the children they do have as children they could have because of Planned Parenthood letting them wait to have kids. Relationships with current partners and spouses were frequently invoked as only existing because Planned Parenthood allowed people an opportunity to terminate bad relationships with a minimum of complications.
All of this was great, but I had a special fondness for tweets that zeroed in on the ways that Planned Parenthood’s humanist, feminist mission makes the quality of care superior to that they had received elsewhere. One woman noted that other doctors had written her off as a hypochondriac, but Planned Parenthood was able to correctly diagnosis her endometriosis. Many people cited how Planned Parenthood’s hours and location made it easier for them to work getting medical care into their busy work and childcare schedules. Many people cited Planned Parenthood as a welcoming environment, making it easier for their younger selves to get the medical care and advice they needed. One lady thanked them for putting those warm bootie covers on the stirrups, and another for the jokes written on the ceiling that made the uncomfortable pelvic exam that much easier. A couple of folks even noted that Planned Parenthood provided them early work experiences that gave them the skills and values necessary to go forward in their careers.
And, above all other things, Planned Parenthood was thanked over and over again for being the only medical care many people had when they couldn’t get health insurance. Whether they were just broke, between jobs, or denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, they could count on Planned Parenthood, at least, to offer them preventive care at an affordable cost. For many people, Planned Parenthood was their doctor, often for years at a time.