Black Women Speak Up! Tell Congress To Stay Out Of Our Wombs

Make no mistake about it: Planned Parenthood is under attack. With not even two months under its belt, the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that would eliminate federal funding, including Medicaid, for the organization, cutting off 48 percent of Planned Parenthood patients approximately 1.4 million people, mostly women, mostly poor from basic primary and preventative health care. You read that right: BASIC HEALTH CARE SERVICES. For sure, more than 90 percent of the services Planned Parenthood offers are preventive in nature, including contraception, family planning visits, annual medical exams,  lifesaving  screenings for cervical and breast cancer,  testing and treatment for STIs and HIV, and in some health centers prenatal care. Only 3% of its services are abortions (which, the last time I checked, was still a LEGAL medical procedure).

Equally disgusting: Not even a week after the measure was passed, an anti-abortion/anti-Planned Parenthood group paid for and raised in New York’s SoHo a billboard proclaiming the most dangerous place for African Americans is “inside a womb.” Similar billboards were put up here in Georgia and LA not too long ago. Because, you know, that’s what we need: A bunch of conservatives legislating and passing judgment on OUR black wombs, even as they go out of their way to dismantle programs designed to HELP our brown babies.

I must say, I’ve been quite proud of the African American women and mothers who have taken to the internet to tell the truth about Planned Parenthood and especially to tell white male Republicans to stay out of black women’s wombs. Over on Colorlines, the ever brilliant Akiba Solomon, who pens the site’s Gender Matters blog, ran a video and transcription of Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), a black woman who put a human face on what it means to be young, pregnant, broke as hell and struggling to feed your baby after you fail to PLAN your PARENTHOOD. And over on DefendersOnline, Stacey Patton broke it all the way down when she surmised that the legislative and marketing attacks against Planned Parenthood are direct attacks against black women. “Why,” she said, “do they want to deny women the right to choose when they don’t give a genuine hoot about their children once they are born?”

Runteldat!

The piece that touched my soul, though, was one I ran across on one of my favorite blogs, Black Girl In Maine. The author, who writes masterfully about the intersection of race, class, privilege, feminism and motherhood in the way only an intelligent African American woman can, shared her personal experience with Planned Parenthood to make a passionate case for protecting an institution that is so very important to so many women women who look like you and me and Shay and our brown babies. She graciously agreed to share her essay here at MyBrownBaby. Show her and Planned Parenthood some love in the comments section.

 

 

By Shay Stewart-Bouley

My relationship to access to health care has always been tenuous at best. I got married and pregnant at 18; as you can imagine, I didn't exactly have health insurance so I had to avail myself to Medicaid, which was interesting to say the least. Frankly, having Medicaid in my experiences has always been seen as a sign that you deserve lousy medical care; after all, you are poor and, well, poor bodies especially poor brown bodies apparently don't deserve adequate and respectful care when it comes to their bodies. At least that is how most providers treat Medicaid recipients in my experience.

Yet since coming of age there has always been one place I can count on to get my annual exams, birth control, etc., where I know I will be treated well. That place is Planned Parenthood. I have used Planned Parenthood in different states and have always been treated well. Back in my 20s when I needed birth control yet lacked insurance, I could get birth control. When I thought I had a lump in my breast, I was seen in a timely fashion and treated with dignity.

I always find it interesting how many folks seem to only equate Planned Parenthood with abortions, which, yes they do provide and somehow only see them as providers of abortions, which is patently false. Yet even if that was all they provided, abortion is still a legal procedure and the reasons that women choose abortion are varied. Perhaps some women have been irresponsible, yet we also live in a time that demonizes women who have babies and then need assistance in the form of social services. Well hot damn, women are damned if they do and damned if they don't. On the other hand, do we not believe in this country that people have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? If that is the case, then don't worry what others are doing with their bodies and specifically their wombs. It's none of your business.

That said, until all women have access to good, affordable and respectful services, then we will continue to need places like Planned Parenthood. Call me a fool, but with states axing services that might mean even the meager services offered via Medicaid will no longer be available, we have all the more reason that women need access to places like Planned Parenthood. Then there are women who, for whatever reason, may not be completely broke but simply don't have a health care provider for their gynecological needs. That pretty much sums up my current situation. I had a lovely midwife who delivered my daughter who decided to retire not long after I gave birth, so for the past several years I have been trying to find a health care provider I like and trust who I can also afford, since I am paying out of pocket. That pretty much means Planned Parenthood since it's actually down the street from my office, affordable and I actually like them, which is more than I can say of a few providers I have had in recent years.

Maybe it’s because I am a Black woman and maybe it’s because my Mom died relatively early and started having health issues at approximately the same age I am now, but I take addressing my health needs very seriously. After all, the stats don't exactly suggest that Black women in my age demographic are as healthy as they can be. Yet in order to be healthy, there has to be access to services services that are culturally sensitive, which is another piece that I have always liked about Planned Parenthood.

Anyway this current issue hit close to home and I really felt the need to add my voice to chorus of voices rising up over this issue.

Shay Stewart-Bouley, M.Ed, is a Chicago native who's lived in Maine for eight years. She created her blog, BlackGirlInMaine, to share what life is like in a rural, predominately-white state and connect with Black folks there. When Shay is not blogging or tweeting, she writes a monthly column on diversity for the Portland Phoenix and is the Executive Director of a faith-based community center that serves low-income families. Shay is the mom of a 5-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son and has a beloved life partner known as the Spousal Unit.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

16 Comments

  1. This was a very interesting story. However Being a Child of God I am very much so against ANY org that supports Abortions. Also working in a professions where I seemany of minorites end up pregnant I can honestly see why someone would say something like that about African Americans BUT it is not just African Americans. Abortions are higher at the poverty level then any other level because Young people are making it a practice to lay down with each other and then decide they dont want the results from there actions. The first thing they do is run to planned parenthood. ANy org that supports and performs abortions should not be supported by federal tax dollars (basically my taxes). Planned parenthood has assisted in the murder of millions of babies and that needs to stop. It is good that they do all of these other services but when they do not work why give them the option of backing out on their responsibilities? They can do all of their services without offering abortions. We all talk about it is the womans choice but we do not even consider the baby that is being born. Just think if our mothers decided on abortions none of us would be here. So yeah they do a lot of “good” things but it is that small percentage that makes planned parenthood in my opinion an uneeded org.

  2. Should I be surprised that the first comment is from a man who doesn’t think abortion should be legal? Look, we already tried that in this country and it doesn’t work. One need only look at other countries that have completely outlawed abortion to see what happens (spoiler alert: lots of women, most of them mothers already, end up dead). Planned Parenthood is ALREADY prohibited from using federal funding for abortion. Why do we hate women so much? Why would we deny basic health care to them? Why would we try to take their bodily autonomy? None of this makes any sense. At the end of the day, if you are against abortion, then please don’t have one. Let the rest of us make our health care decisions for ourselves.

  3. As the author of this piece I have to say Planned Parenthood is about far more than just providing abortions. Elita states quite eloquently “Why do we deny them basic healthcare?” The reason I wrote my piece which was featured originally on my own blog is that for years Planned Parenthood has been the one place no matter where I lived where I could access preventative health care no matter if I had insurance or not.

    Since this isn’t my blog I am not even going to start talking about abortions, etc but I will say that this talk of abortions in my opinion is just a smoke screen to cover the fact that once again we (government) are trying to deny access to preventative services to women.

  4. As a black woman, I do not stand with Planned Parenthood. I applaud Ms. Stewart-Bouley for sharing her experiences but I have to ask, is Planned Parenthood really the only option for women or is it the most convenient? It’s not a popular thought, but I fully believe that we are called to be temperate with all of our urges. Just as we do not gorge ourselves with food and drink, neither should we with our lusts. If the possibility of having and raising a child is too much to bear, abstain. As far as medical screening goes, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t other clinics that offer these services without supporting abortion, and perhaps by stripping Planned Parenthood of their federal funds, the smaller clinics may get a foothold. Black babies are in danger in the womb, and we are sitting by and watching it happen. I guess in short, no matter how much good may come from PP, it cannot make up for the bad and I would rather my tax monies not support a non-profit that posts profits of over $60 million (in 2008) but doesn’t have to pay a dime to the government. Women deserve better than what we are being given.

    • Planned Parenthood also provides prenatal care as well. In many regions of the country (and I spent 30yrs of my life in Chicago) there are no smaller clinics for women to go to. Health care options for low income or uninsured or underinsured women is greatly limited in this country and that is an area where Planned Parenthood feels a great void. Maybe if the media and powers to be spent more time talking about that fact, perhaps people would understand that Planned Parenthood stands for more than abortions.

      In my current state while there are multiple Planned Parenthood clinics they do not all perform abortions, they are health care centers. I must admit this is an issue that I feel passionately about, that all women deserve access to health care.

  5. I am a woman and though I feel EXTREMELY strong against abortions I do not believe that I should also dictate who can receive one. For the same reasons as Karianna stated we need to be “temperate with our urges” and begin to take personal responsibility for our actions. I work in a high school setting and it saddens me when I hear young woman use abortions as their birth control!!! I believe we need to be just as passionate about teaching our young woman the importance of abstinence and birth control. In one instance a young woman barely 18 had already had 2 abortions and was very lacked about getting another one- she was allergic to the birth control she had been prescribed but she had not talked to her doctor about other forms.
    That being said, I believe that a women who want to get abortions should have to pay for it themselves and my hard earned tax dollars should not be used to fund abortions. I don’t mind PP receiving funds to assist low-income woman as a health care center needs but abortions- HECK NO!
    I understand abortions are listed as medical procedure but lets be real here! Abortion is terminating the birth of a child and when we will, as human beings, begin to see that I have yet to see the day.

  6. Denene@MyBrownBaby

    Okay, let’s stop all this right here: FEDERAL FUNDING DOES NOT PAY FOR ABORTIONS. It hasn’t since, like, before the Reagan administration. Planned Parenthood is PROHIBITED FROM USING FEDERAL FUNDS FOR ABORTIONS, so NONE OF YOUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS ARE PAYING FOR THEM. The federal dollars received by Planned Parenthood fund services such as birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings—critical healthcare for low-income women.

    Please don’t let the rhetoric fool you or get the best of your judgement here: Women’s healthcare is being used as a pawn in the conservative agenda and, quite frankly, I think it’s disgusting.

    And this is coming, by the way, from someone who is patently anti-abortion. I don’t think abortions are right FOR ME—and that is MY CHOICE for MY BODY. I do not have the right to enforce that choice on other women who may think differently from me, and I sure as hell don’t have the right to cut off swaths of fellow women from quality reproductive health care because I think the women seeking it should think just like me.

  7. Gregory Keels

    The simple fact is my tax dollars should not be going to ANY Org. that supports abortion. It is not because I am a male but it is because of my religious convictions that say abortion is wrong. You cannot say that just because someone do all these good things we should over look the bad. In columbus Ohio a church has opened its own clinic that has FREE health care for woman anlong with support for mothers to be who do not feel fit to be a mother (such as adoption etc). Planned Parenthood is not the savior of woman health care. There are plenty of community health care places that can offer the same stuff plann parenthood offer.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      And again: We have a HUGE difference of opinion here. I am a woman. I have reproductive organs. It is NOT easy to find doctors who can provide affordable healthcare services that tend to MY body in a way that no man has ever had to worry about. And guess what? I HAVE MONEY. AND INSURANCE. I’m thankful for the church in Ohio, but that is ONE community. The network for quality reproductive healthcare is quite frayed, and organizations like Planned Parenthood help pick up the slack where others fail. And again, neither your taxpayer dollars nor mine go toward abortions. That is the law. So is the right to an abortion. And if every taxpayer was allowed to strip public funding from programs they feel do not support their personal beliefs/missions, hell, black taxpayers upset with the treatment of African American men by some police officers would withhold money from the police department, Latinos would withhold money from INS, Middle Eastern-Americans would keep their taxes in their pockets rather than let it go to Homeland Security, I would call for the government to withhold ALL my taxpayer dollars from Arizona and its backwardness… need I go on? We all have our beliefs. And yours was respected fully when Congress voted to make sure that no federal dollars are spent on abortion. But I’ll be damned if I ever support the notion that low-income women should be denied quality reproductive healthcare because a man thinks it’s more important to tell them what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

  8. Monica Roberts

    Please, I beg you, read carefully the latest amendments and laws and reforms being put in place. Our federal dollars ARE being used to fund abortions. Please look for every article you can on this issue. In several states, women will be able to get abortions, and federal dollars will be paying for it. I am a member of a committee called the Community Impact Team, and our job is to give facts concerning our government (federal, local, and otherwise) to our community, so that they can have factual information to pray about, vote on, and discuss with their family and community. We want people armed with truth that we have DUG for and made sure came from sources that have come from government documents themselves (yes, we’ve even poured over the several hundred page healthcare reform bill) or from sources that we can compare with others and verify that it is true.

    Women DO need access to healthcare. Why are we assuming or believing that abortion has anything to do with healthcare? Abortion is often used as birth control and preventive healthcare. Being pregnant doesn’t cause you to have “bad health” unless it’s a difficult pregnancy for whatever reason. Killing babies (and that’s what abortion is) should not be considered birth control and we shouldn’t teach people that it’s a viable alternative for birth control. We should spend more time and money teaching women that while abstinence until you’re ready to take care of a child is the way to go, there are other options when you find yourself pregnant that are good and healthy choices versus killing your baby. Why not spend money teaching about adoption if you get pregnant and can’t afford to or are not equipped to take care of your baby? Why not counsel girls who are ready for an abortion on how they can first seek out family members (if they have any that care), church members, friends, or communities that will help them raise and take care of their children so that they’re not alone? Why don’t we tell girls the truth about how abortion affects most girls emotionally for years? Why don’t we show girls and women in our society that we value God’s highest and most prized creation (human life) so much, that we don’t think that they’re babies are disposable, and that there have to be better answers because God’s Word says that He knew that baby when it was being knitted together in his/her mother’s womb, that that baby is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He knew about the coming of this little one’s birth before the parent’s even conceived it? Why are we not putting such a high value on babies that not many will even consider abortions anymore? I’m sitting here staring at my 8 day old granddaughter, and I can’t imagine her parents deciding to abort her because she was an unplanned mistake, and my son and daughter in law don’t have much of anything. They are considered poor. They didn’t even consider abortion. That wasn’t an option, but having the baby and getting help with her was.

    While lots of women won’t or don’t have help raising their babies, so they feel pressure to have abortions, there are many many other solutions. Some women aren’t even afraid or don’t have the issue of not having help. They were simply just “playing around”, enjoying themselves sexually, and this inconvenient thing (conceiving) happens. Well, no big deal they think. Just abort it. After all, it’s just a fetus, and it’s life doesn’t matter until nearer the second trimester. What a lie and a mistake. We should tell people the truth. The heart starts beating in a fetus way before the second trimester. That being the case, if you terminate the pregnancy, you have just done something to cause this baby to stop literally functioning and thriving. You killed it!! Plain and simple. If you were to inject something in my body to stop my heart from beating, suck my brains out, snip my spinal cord, or tear me to shreds (these are real and true methods of abortion among many), then you are causing me to cease living where I was truly living, pumping blood throughout my body, THRIVING! What’s the difference between me and a “fetus?” I’m bigger and may be able to defend myself and fight back. That’s it!

    We will always have differences of opinion on the right to abortion, but you have to always go home and line this up with your beliefs and values and where you get those from. Once that is done, if things don’t line up, you shouldn’t support anything that goes against that. When you vote, you vote your conscious, convictions, and beliefs don’t you? While no candidate is perfect, it’s common sense to only want in office that person that will, for the most part carry out what you believe to be beneficial, right, and true. You don’t pump your time, energy, or money into things that directly go against what you feel strongly about. That would be senseless and hypocritical. You can’t excuse that, thinking that you’re just thinking about the rights of other women. There are too many alternatives, viable ones, for women’s healthcare, even for poor women. If you don’t like abortion, YOU WILL FIND SOMEWHERE ELSE besides an abortion clinic (and yes, an overwhelming percent of PP programs and funding go to abortion. It is their number one funder–ask one of the former director’s (Abby Johnson) of a PP clinic who left the organization when she realized what was going on and knew the numbers and statistics better than anyone. She also exposed some horrific stories of abuse of women and their bodies by PP)

    Planned Parenthood is THE organization by a large margin that aids in genocide on blacks and minorities. They don’t care that we kill thousands of viable, important black lives year after year. This IS a money-making operation, and many people, including some of PP’s employees have been deceived and fooled into thinking that PP exists for the betterment of women’s health. Even Abby Johnson thought this for many years and was one of PP’S biggest advocates. When she was asked to assist in an abortion and saw what was really going on, then dug further to see what her beloved organization was really all about, the blinders came off and she blew the whistle. She knows what PP was making and how it was thriving financially, and it was HUGELY related to its abortion services. Don’t be deceived and get as many facts on PP as you can. You may change your mind, and you may suggest to someone seeking an abortion that while it is their body, the baby didn’t have a chance or a choice, but there are options where that can happen.

  9. Being a Christian, I’m against abortion from a moral standpoint….but also from a scientific standpoint. Abortion stops a beating heart. Period. Unless you’ve been raped, a victim of incest, or your life is in danger from carrying full term, you should have thought before you hoisted your legs behind your head. It’s not the kid’s fault it was created. You don’t want to risk procreating? Keep your legs shut. Simple as that. It’s irresponsible and selfish to end a life because you got hot and heavy using fallible contraception– or none at all. Responsibility is key.

    That said, I’m against planned parenthood’s funds being cut. I was all for it initially, until I found out what kind of other services they offer….PP might have blood on their hands, but they’re also a very helpful source for women. And the feds don’t even fund the abortions anyway, so tightening the leash will do nothing but harm people.

    I wish the moderate party had greater pull in the political sphere. People with common sense need to take the reins. ><

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