Standing with Planned Parenthood

I first learned about sex in seventh grade, in a soundproof practice room during choir rehearsal. A friend sat me down and explained it all — or, at least, a version of it all. That rudimentary, questionably accurate 13-year-old perception of sex was the only sex education I got from my abstinence-only Texas public school.

Until I was 16, my knowledge of my own body was cobbled together by a preteen with internet access. Then I joined Teenage Communication Theater, an educational theater program run through Planned Parenthood of North Texas. Finally, someone lifted the shame-based curtain shrouding sex education in Texas and made it all make sense.

Every week for two years, my fellow TACT members and I learned about issues facing our peers, including underage pregnancy, dating violence, sexuality and gender identity and drug and alcohol abuse. Then we performed open-ended skits about these topics anywhere there were teens, from inner city Dallas cafeterias to church youth groups. TACT opened my eyes and helped me open the eyes of others. To this day, it is the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in.

A great way to prevent unwanted pregnancy — and therefore, lower abortion rates — is through comprehensive sexual education. And yet, just 4% of Texas public schools teach about the proper use of contraception — and because Texas does not receive federal funding, the sex education they teach does not legally have to be accurate or “evidence based.” Exclusively abstinence-based sex education doesn’t stop teens from having sex, but it does make it shameful and confusing and unsafe.

My home state of Texas has 19 abortion clinics. Of course, these clinics provide more than just abortion services — they provide education, contraception, well-women’s exams and even general healthcare services. These 19 clinics are mostly in major cities, leaving the majority of women in the second most populous state without life-saving care.

In 2007, the World Health Organization found that abortion rates in countries with legal abortion services were nearly equal to abortion rates in countries where abortion is illegal. Banning abortion does not stop abortion. Instead, banning abortion puts poor women that cannot afford safe medical treatment in danger. Every year, 21.6 million women worldwide undergo unsafe abortion. 47,000 women die from these abortions. That makes illegal, unsafe abortion responsible for 13% of maternal deaths.

More than 1 in 6 women was without any form of healthcare in 2013 in the United States. That means that if a woman becomes pregnant with a child she does not want and decides to carry it to term anyway, she has two options. 1: incur the costs associated with a healthy pregnancy and place the child up for adoption. Of course, that child will then join the 397,122 children living without permanent homes in the American foster care system, and wait an average of 3 years before maybe being adopted. If they are not one of the 7,000 children adopted through the American Foster Care system each year, they might age out of the system and receive little to no emotional support.

Or 2: she can raise the child in a home with limited resources. Of course, limited resources does not mean limited love, and many, many women bring children up in poverty stricken households and live happy lives. But this is not ideal.

None of these options are ideal. Our support for women is broken.

Today, I am 23. I am middle class, and white and privileged beyond most. I was raised in a family of strong, smart and independent women. I was able to obtain the contraception of my choice at almost no cost because I am lucky enough to have excellent healthcare. In the unlikely event that I become pregnant, I’m not sure what I’d do. But I know that I am privileged to have both resources and options. Because many, many, many women have neither.

No one is pro-abortion. I cannot state that enough. Not one single person is pro-abortion. Abortion is a sad, difficult decision that is not made lightly. But before we can lower abortion rates, we have some serious work to do, tackling sex education, wealth disparity, and a seriously flawed foster care and adoption system. Being anti-choice is to ignore those problems. Being anti-choice is a luxury of the privileged.

I am not expecting this to change anyone’s idea about abortion. But I think we can all agree that there’s work we can do together, and spreading hate is only impeding that work.

I stand with Planned Parenthood because 97% of their work focuses on contraception and general women’s health. The remaining 3% is privately funded, meaning that exactly zero government dollars fund abortion. I stand with Planned Parenthood because they are saving lives. I stand with Planned Parenthood because, to quote Cameron Esposito, I am not an incubator. I stand with Planned Parenthood because without it, I might still believe that you can get pregnant from oral sex and a variety of other misconceptions I learned all those years ago.

I stand with Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood stands for me.