Judy Blume has taken a lot of crap lately from certain quarters of the "pro-life" camp for a Mothers' Day letter that she wrote soliciting donations for Planned Parenthood. As usual, the crazies are demonizing Planned Parenthood as Abortion Central and therefore are they up in arms against Judy Blume.
Down with the crazies.
Planned Parenthood is a reproductive health organization devoted to helping men and women choose parenthood when they are ready to be loving parents, not when parenthood will destroy them and their kids. This generally has nothing to do with abortion.
In my community, Planned Parenthood of South Texas has no staff who perform abortions at all, though they certainly provide women who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies with information about every choice that is available to them under the law - out of the belief that a pregnant woman is the person most concerned with her pregnancy who will take the decisions to be made most seriously. Not some outside party who knows nothing about her circumstances at all. Let's be clear about that.
In my community, Planned Parenthood provides basic gynecologic exams to women and reproductive health screenings for men as well as information on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, breast and testicular cancer, etc. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
They perform education programs in the community - at schools, colleges, churches, scout meetings and other venues - about a very wide variety of topics that could prevent a person from growing up to be the sort of parent they want to be. Not just sex and contraception. The importance of education. Health. Self respect. Respecting others.
They also operate a Baby-Think-It-Over community service program so that kids in trouble who must complete court-ordered community service can complete their requirements by checking out those impossible and infuriating dolls that must be cared for like a horribly unsatisfying and un-cuddly infant with colic. The dolls, if you are not familiar, contain microchips that register if you don't adequately support their heads, if you abuse them, if you fail to feed and change them as needed and if you fail to respond to their cries of any sort quickly enough. You don't get credit if you don't take good care of the doll.
They also run groups for teen boys called Young Men United and groups for teen girls called It's A She Thing in which they discuss not just sex but a whole host of issues that young people face - being a man of your word, avoiding dangerous substances, cutting, dating violence, depression. The kids learn so much. Need the groups so much.
Every year, Planned Parenthood of South Texas hosts an event called Independent City. Adults from the community volunteer and middle schoolers are bused in to participate. The middle schoolers get a packet with information about their education level, job and how much they do (or don't) have saved. Some of them find a little pink or blue beaded baby bracelet in there and they have additional responsibilities. The kids must then visit different stations finding and renting an apartment they can afford, getting signed up for electricity, drivers' licenses, water, gas, (sometimes daycare), and they must pay for groceries and other necessities. Some get fired. Daycares close suddenly. Some get sick. It is an awesome simulation.
Planned Parenthood understands the link between poverty rates and rates of unwanted pregnancies and they are key players in the coalitions of public and non-profit agencies that work to support the families of our community. They rock.
No one ever knows what they would do in a crisis they have never faced, but I feel pretty sure that I could never have an abortion. Even in situations, severe situations, in which continuing a pregnancy would mean little more than the difference between a quick moment of death or several agonizing hours or days or weeks of suffering for my baby before death, I would probably be too much of a selfish coward to do it, even to spare them. I suck that way. I am not truly pro-choice the way that some people are - the ones who feel that abortion is no tragedy. To me, it is tragedy. That's just how I feel. I do not believe in judging other women for seeing it differently. If the government can make that choice for us one way, they could make it another way, folks - the reason this choice has to belong to mothers is because only mothers care enough. We may choose wrong, but we will not choose lightly. The same cannot be said of politicians.
The "pro-life"/pro-choice drama is a silly divide in my opinion. Arguing about something that no one really ever wants to be in a position to feel they need - how useful can that ever be? What is useful is to support people in having the resources they need to never be in such an awful position. More than anything else, that is what Planned Parenthood does.
Happy Mothers' Day to Judy Blume and Planned Parenthood. Thanks to you both for all that you have done for young people. You have my gratitude and my respect.