The woman presenting at Planned Parenthood training tonight, Caroline, was funny and informative, though she spoke so much and so fast about local politics (duh, that’s her job) and I ended up feeling pretty dumb about how uninformed I was. This always happens to me––I am passionate about the things that I find important, but then when I don’t know everything there is to know about the subject, I clam up because I feel like a fraud. It’s a good wake up call that there is always more learning to be done, and that I have a long way to go before I’m an expert on anything, but it’s also important to relax and realize that I’ll never know everything, and I’m allowed to have strong opinions anyway. If someone challenges me, or asks a question I can’t answer, it doesn’t make me wrong or stupid. It just means I need to grab my Blackberry and do some Googling, because hey, what are Smartphones for if not to help me win political debates? No but seriously, it was a great training session and I left with a lot more knowledge than I came in with, and a determination to educate myself further.
Anyway, the thing that made me giggle most (in a very entertaining presentation which included things like Powerpoint slides titled “Nelson: Hey, At Least It’s Not Stupak” and condom wrappers that read “PROTECT YOURSELF: From John McCain”) was a quick story Caroline told. It was said in passing, almost as a non-story––it’s funny the things that stick with us.
She was explaining how detrimental it will be to pass a health care bill with limited or no abortion care, and she mentioned a conversation she’d had with some male friends. Some of my guy friends were saying, you need to get over this, we need to pass health care reform. Can’t you just start a fund when you start having sex? You know. Keep some change in a fucking plastic jar, to save up for that rainy day abortion you might need later in life! Those are my words, not hers, FYI. She was very funny about it, saying, Well excuse me why don’t you start a fund?!
So, ya know, it was a funny moment in the midst of a positive evening, and it made me laugh and it stood out. But there’s a deeper message, one that we shouldn’t gloss over: why do we (they?) insist on making abortion a woman’s problem? Why does reproductive health care have to mean “for women”? Seriously, why the fuck shouldn’t all people be contributing to this hypothetical fund that might be necessary if insurance companies are unable to cover abortions? Because it happens to a woman’s body? Because the man can walk away and ignore the consequences of her and his actions? Because women who have sex are dirty sluts who should’ve known to keep their legs shut, because if you really don’t want a baby you shouldn’t ever have sex? This drives me crazy. I guess the image of my little brother contributing to some imaginary abortion fund is a little ridiculous, seeing as one’s not exactly planning/hoping to have to utilize that option in the future, but isn’t it equally ridiculous to imagine me contributing to that same imaginary fund? Gender shouldn’t have anything to do with the inherent absurdity of the suggestion. No one plans for an abortion. Not men, not women. Yet when one is necessary, it’s because two people made a decision. It’s really unfair that for some reason, women are the only ones held accountable.
So yeah, Caroline’s friends were being silly when they made the suggestion, but it is frustrating that some people seem to really think we should “get over it” in terms of integrating abortion into the bill. A dude who knows a LOT more about politics than I probably ever will phrased it as such, way back in November when I was scared the Stupak amendment actually had a chance of making its way into the final version of the bill: “Refusing to take a compromise–no matter how terrible–when we have the opportunity to extend coverage to even ONE more person is…morally indefensible.” This is one of those “agree to disagree” points, I think. The fact is, Nelson is a compromise, one that we can probably live with. Stupak was never any such thing. It was just another example of America, and yes, unfortunately, the Democratic party, throwing women under the bus. And the fact that crazy people like Stupak are populating America and holding important positions in DC, and that rational and logical people still seem to think of women as a group that needs to compromise frequently for the “greater good,” is the reason why Planned Parenthood is so important, both for the health care it provides and the political agenda it supports.
Which is all to say: Thank you, Caroline. I left training tonight very proud that I am working towards becoming a volunteer for an organization that is so important and does so much good. I may reject the idea of putting aside money into some idiotic abortion fund, but The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is one I definitely will be giving to, both in time and money. I am grateful it exists. So one more time, just to be clear: Thank you, Caroline. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. Thank you, thank you, thank you.