The war on women has gotten really real in the past month with Planned Parenthood (PP) finding itself in the middle of s**tstorm due to the Right’s utter shenanigans.
Most recently, anti-abortion zealots released edited and deceptive videos claiming that PP was selling fetal parts and tissue from past abortion procedures for research. Planned Parenthood was adamant that was untrue and that any discussions about payments was not about trying to make a profit off of abortions, but was solely about covering the cost of storing and transporting the specimens — an act that is not against the law and is common practice. But that didn’t stop the GOP from using these videos as a means of making their conservative wet dreams come true: Stripping the women's health organization of $500 million in federal funding to render it non-existent.
Just last month, they proposed a bill and thankfully this past Monday, Democrats voted it all the way down. But surviving this fiasco doesn’t mean that women are out of harm’s way. This unhealthy obsession with our vaginas has and will continue to have disastrous consequences for all women. But Black women please stay woke, because when Planned Parenthood is under attack, we are under attack, too.
According to Planned Parenthood, of the 2.1 million people PP served in 2013, more than 370,000 of them were African-American and between the years 2003-2013, Black female participation rose 12 percent and a whopping 126 percent among Black men.
Now, it’s not a secret that Black folks are accessing abortion services at PP clinics around the country. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Black women and teens are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy and four times more likely to have an abortion than our white counterparts. And while Black women account for only 13 percent of the U.S. female population, we account for around 30 percent all abortions performed each year.
But let me be clear: there is no shame in that. These rates speak not to our promiscuity, but to a dire need to better educate folks on safer sex and condom use, a health care system that makes accessing these services affordable and close to home and much-needed conversations about how gender inequality plays a role in who controls condom use.
But I digress.
Black women and women of color definitely need to have strong, safe and legal access to abortion. We must have the right to decide on our own terms when we will become mothers — and PP allows us to make that choice safely.
But PP is more than “just an abortion clinic.”
Abortion services account for a mere 3 percent of the services PP offers (which by the way are not funded by tax dollars). For many Black women, regardless of socioeconomic and/or insurance status, these clinics have been a gateway to receiving quality and culturally competent health care. Each year, PP provides more than 280,000 African-Americans with family planning counseling and birth control services. It’s a place for us to get tested for HIV and linked into care if we test positive. A place to receive health education, life-saving breast exams, Pap smears, HPV screenings and vaccinations, STD testing and treatment and emergency contraception (which I have gotten from PP in the past).
For some women, PP is the place we choose to go, and for many, it’s the only place we can go. And if that is being threatened, what happens to our collective health, a health that is already vulnerable and on the margins?
Now, I understand the reservations that some of you may have given our tumultuous past with the medical community (Think: Henrietta Lacks and Tuskegee); questionable and racist comments made by PP’s founder Margaret Sanger during her life; and the Pro-Life Movement’s strong, yet false rhetoric playing off our fears that our wombs are in danger. And while none of that is easy to navigate or reconcile, somehow, some way, we have to make a decision about where we stand on this issue.
And standing with Planned Parenthood doesn’t mean we cannot be critical of the organization. As a strong supporter and women’s health advocate, I have been very vocal that while important, their strong emphasis on birth control among Black women has ignored HIV/AIDS and other consequences to unprotected sex outside of unwanted pregnancy. And I hope as the organization turns 100 next year, they will update their message around that issue, make the needs of Black women and men a higher priority and further ramp up existing outreach efforts in our community by helping amplify more African-American voices.
But even with that being said, I, along with thousands of other women of color such as Laverne Cox, Aisha Tyler, America Ferrera and Selenis Leyva, continue to stand proud and tall with Planned Parenthood and other reproductive justice organizations around the U.S. in order to fight for better women's health and stronger autonomy over our bodies.
But we need more of you to stand with us, because the war on Black women is far from over.
Follow Kellee on Twitter @kelleent
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