It is Unacceptable to Allow Government to Play Politics with the Lives of Women
I have been trying to write this post all weekend, although it seems so much longer than that. It feels as if I have been sitting here in front of this computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to unleash my disgust and sadness over the House passing the Pence Amendment for no less than a week. Perhaps because it’s all I can really think about and because regardless of the amount of time I let my thoughts simmer and tell myself that if I get a good night’s rest I’ll be able to come back to this computer and suddenly all of my thoughts will make sense and come out in perfectly eloquent paragraphs that I was unable to string together the night before or the night before, I’m still just as scatterbrained, still just as upset and still just as enraged as I was on Friday afternoon when news of the amendment passing in the House flooded Twitter and the blogosphere.
I have been known to get disheartened and downright angry over a number of political moves that have been made in the name of the American people. I have been told for far too long that I take politics too seriously and that I feel too much. I have never been able to understand that line of thinking. How is it possible for someone to take the state of their country and the rights being given and taken away from the people of that country too seriously? Apathy for politics, for the rights of the people and for what state representatives are saying in Washington in the names of their constituents scares me. Frankly, apathy is what makes representatives who author, sponsor, cosponsor and vote “yes” on highly offensive, discriminatory and dehumanizing bills announce that they are truly representing the people whom they have been elected to work for. If your representatives do not hear your objecting voice, they believe they have free reign to trample all over your rights. That is exactly what the majority of the new, Republican-led Congress is doing with the introductions of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, H.R. 358, the “Protect Life Act”, and the House passing of the Pence Amendment.
The Pence Amendment is a direct attack on Planned Parenthood and subsequently, on the health and lives of American women, the vast majority of them low-income. Passing in the House with a vote of 240 to 185, this amendment not only aims to completely defund Planned Parenthood, but would also eliminate the entire Title X program; the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health services.
This is not about abortion, regardless of how much the majority of the House would like you to believe it is. No funds from Title X are ever used for abortion services; none. So why the elaborate stories of the sanctity of human life from the supposed “pro-life” politicians of the house? Deception, clear and simple. Hiding amendments under “hot button issues” such as abortion is sadly, politics as usual. The Pence Amendment is not about defunding abortion and it is by no means a victory for the “sanctity of human life”; it is quite literally just the opposite. Title X funds are used for cancer screenings, STI tests, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, sex education, contraception, and pregnancy screening and counseling. Last year, approximately 5 million people benefited from the services funded by Title X. Without Title X, millions of American people would lose affordable access to these health care services.
I have read a lot of blogs, websites and comments about the passing of the Pence Amendment and a lot of people’s thoughts resonated with me. One comment on Feministe’s post, in particular, really stood out to me: “240 people — 240 national elected officials — have just demonstrated that they hate me (and others who’ve depended on PP) and don’t think we’re deserving of sexual and reproductive health care.” That is essentially what the passing of this bill and the future votes on other discriminatory, anti-womens-lives bills that will continue to be put to a public vote boils down to. The majority of the House has spoken loudly and clearly that they hate those 5 million people who have depended on the care and services that they received at Planned Parenthood. Myself included.
I first walked into my local Planned Parenthood seeking reproductive health care services when I was 15. Unlike many teens in the same position I was in at the time, I was not alone. I had a great pillar of support in my decision to take control over my sexual health; my aunt. Beginning in my adolescence, I was raised by a single father with the help and unwavering support of my grandmother and aunt. I knew I had three people in my life who loved me unconditionally, but when it came to the topic of sex, which I was consensually having, and my interest in obtaining additional information and tools to protect my health, I knew that my aunt was the person in my family who I could go to with this request without feeling as if she was going to reprimand me. I wasn’t interested in the “you shouldn’t be having sex” talk; that talk hardly ever works with teens and it wouldn’t have worked with me, either. Instead, my aunt could relate to me on this level and helped me make the responsible decision to take control over my sexual health and presented me with the steps in order to put that decision into action. For that reason, and so many others, I will always be thankful to my aunt for her willingness to see me as a responsible teenager who was in need of her guidance as I took this monumental step in treating my sexual health with respect. More teens in exactly that same position should be so lucky.
The fact of the matter, however, is that a lot of teens do not have that adult in their lives who are capable of putting aside any judgment, ideology, or reprimanding tone of voice and just be there for the teens in their lives who need them. It is judgment and ideology that teens see throughout their upbringing that leads them to not reach out to those adults in their lives when they need guidance, support and tools, especially when it comes to their sex lives.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood is there for those teens and for the women and men who also walk into their health care clinics every day looking for knowledge, support, tools and guidance. If the Pence Amendment were to pass, Planned Parenthood would be unable to help most of those same people who walk into their clinics and that is completely and utterly devastating.
I have always gone to Planned Parenthood for all of my reproductive health care needs. There are several different reasons for this, but the most prominent of the reasons is that I have never been able to afford to go anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that if I were able to afford to go somewhere else that I would stop going to Planned Parenthood. I wouldn’t. I would instead feel fantastic about being able to fully pay for the services that I have received, but even though I cannot, I have not once ever been judged or turned away by Planned Parenthood because of my inability to fully pay for the services that I have needed.
It is easy for people who have never needed Planned Parenthood to not only oppose them, but hate them. The people who voted “yes” on the Pence Amendment and those who support the passing of this amendment, do not just hate Planned Parenthood; they are telling every single person who has ever needed health care services that they couldn’t afford that they don’t deserve to be healthy because they are poor. They are telling these people–they are telling me–that I do not matter and that they want me dead. That is not “pro-life” by any stretch of the imagination.
That is what really must be understood about this entire amendment and its passing. The passing of the Pence Amendment is the people in government–people who were elected to represent their constituents–using life-saving health care services as talking points and playing politics with real human lives. Lives that matter. Lives that mean something. Lives that deserve to be lived.
Speak out about this amendment. Just because it passed in the House does not mean it is destined to pass in the Senate. Call and write your Representatives and urge them to reconsider their stance on the Pence Amendment if they support it or thank them for standing up for the reproductive health and rights of women if they voted “no”. If you’re on Twitter, tweet with the hashtag #SaveTitleX and stand with Planned Parenthood.