In April of 2004, at the age of 18, I got on a bus in Flint, Michigan with one of my good friends, an outspoken, proudly-liberal ally at our somewhat-sheltered Catholic school. We stayed on said bus with a bunch of strangers for a day and a half until we ended up in Washington, D.C., where we proceeded to take part in the March for Women’s Lives, a protest for reproductive rights. Though it was put on by NOW, I had heard about it through Planned Parenthood.
Once in DC, we marched with men and women from all over the country. We saw Hillary Clinton speak and saw Ashley Judd rocking her “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt. The whole event was incredibly exciting and inspiring and I was so proud to be a part of it. It was just amazing to see what women could do when they believed in a cause.
Despite the recent news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had announced it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood — a move the organization claims has nothing to do with politics or pressure from pro-life groups — I’m actually feeling incredibly inspired right now like I was back in 2004. And proud of women. Because the backlash? Has been fast and loud and ultimately effective — according to the Washington Post, “Donors reacting to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding, Planned Parenthood executives said Wednesday.”
I made a donation. (You can donate here.) It’s not just to show that I support Planned Parenthood; it’s because I just was thinking today how much I’ve benefited from Planned Parenthood and I want to make sure other people are able to do so going forward.
I don’t know when exactly I decided that everything my school wasn’t teaching me about sex was absurd, but I do remember torturing my poor history of Catholicism teacher with extremely loud tales of visiting Planned Parenthood my sophomore year at the beginning of class, and I wrote a couple passionate essays about it in health class senior year (which were, unsurprisingly, not well-received). I had my first pap smear at Planned Parenthood and went there for several years for annual exams, birth control, and STD tests. (Including the time I was 100 percent sure I had syphilis and nearly failed my summer math class because I was so worked up about it. I called all the Planned Parenthoods in the city frantically until they opened — I think this happened on their late-start day — and then demanded an appointment that afternoon, before my big exam. After a day too hysterical to study, the whole thing eventually culminated in them saying, “So…this is what an ingrown hair looks like…” Can I submit that to Planned Parenthood Saved Me? I mean, they saved me from another second of my own crazy.)
Every time I moved to a new city (which has been fairly frequent in the past seven-ish years) and needed to find a new doctor for my annual exam or for my birth control prescription, I Googled a Planned Parenthood. Finding a new doctor when you’re in a new city sucks, and I have always been able to count on Planned Parenthood. But really, I love Planned Parenthood because they make myself and other women feel just a little more secure in those moments when we have a problem far worse than not having a doctor in a new hometown: they are there for women when we are not only wondering what the hell is going on with our bodies, but when we know we cannot afford to find out or get treatment. (A position I’m basically in right now with my insurance transition and wayward egg chute, BTW.)
So I love Planned Parenthood and I’m thrilled to see that many other young women do too. But the most inspiring part of all of this was not, for me, the myrid angry Facebook status updates and tweets from young women, though that was pretty nice to see. It was actually reading about Mollie Williams, a top SGK official who resigned over this whole thing. I really want to know more about her. I mean, that must have been scary. I would have been scared; having a job is pretty nice. But damn, that sends a message. Damn, I’d love to know what was said in the meetings leading up to it. She’s released a statement on her resignation, but I’d really like for her to release a statement on how she got to be so badass.
And as for SGK…well, I’m a little disappointed, but I don’t feel all that surprised, which is actually quite sad. I mean, I’m surprised from a PR standpoint because OMG YOU MADE PINK RIBBONS UBIQUITOUS SO YOU CLEARLY HAVE A GOOD MARKETING TEAM AND I KNOW THEY MUST HAVE SEEN THIS SHIT STORM COMING but I’m not really surprised. I don’t know, there’s just something kind of disingenuous about all that pink. I wrote a couple Octobers ago about the issues I have with Breast Cancer Awareness month; it just gives me this sort of queasy feeling I can’t put my finger on. I don’t doubt that they have helped many women; I just wonder how many businesses they’ve helped in the process, and how many more women could have been helped if “going pink” had played out differently. I mean, this is the organization that partnered up with KFC for “Buckets for the Cure.” Come the fuck on.
I’ve always supported Planned Parenthood, but not as vocally as I could have in the past couple years. So my thanks to you, Susan G. Komen foundation, for reminding me to use my voice — and my wallet — for women’s health. I know that was your mission and despite your questionable way of getting there, well, here I am. So…nice work.