The recent article “Abortion Protests Resume as Battle Brews in D.C.” (Oct. 15 Phoenix) got me thinking, and I wanted to write a bit on the subject. I have strong feelings about abortion, and truly do believe it is legal for good reasons and needs to remain so, but regardless of the abortion debate, I find myself concerned daily for the folks who are likely suffering the most for these weekly protests.
I’d like to go to Planned Parenthood in Portland and tell the protesters a story, but I remain one of the low-income people that PPNNE caters to, which consequently means I work far more than I physically should at an hourly job where I am not paid Maine’s “livable wage” and I spend all of my free time building my education (and racking up student loans) with the hope that one day I’ll be in a different socio-economic class. (Over a decade into adulthood, this hope gets slimmer every day.)
Since I can’t afford the time off on Friday mornings to go tell them myself, I'd like to share my story with the Phoenix, instead.
When I was eighteen years old, I ended up in a relationship with a person who abused me verbally, physically and sexually. I had no say in our sexual relationship, and was raped many times over the course of the relationship. I had no way of knowing if my partner had diseases and I learned months into the relationship that they had a history of drug use, including intravenous drugs. What I did know, however, was that there was a low cost women’s health clinic in my neighborhood where I could find free safe sex kits full of condoms and dental dams. Those kits very likely saved my life.
When I decided I was ready to leave this relationship a friend offered me a hand. It took a bit of planning, but one night I packed a duffel bag with my most precious belongings (my journal, a few items of clothing, my high school diploma), I tucked my pet rabbit under my arm and I left. I walked to my friend’s place after dark, down empty streets, and I collapsed in tears in her arms.
Though I didn’t look back at the relationship, I did look back to that women’s health clinic. I needed STD testing. When I went to the clinic, there was no one standing outside with a protest sign, and the whole experience was as easy as such a thing could be. It was final closure on an incredibly dark period in my life.
I managed to leave that relationship with relatively few lifelong effects, because I had a support system willing to lend a hug, a job interview, and a place to stay. If I had been faced with walking up to those clinic doors to request that testing alone, and I had been greeted by a screaming line of protesters, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to continue. Protesters who naively believe that abortions are the only reason to go to PPNNE would have prevented me from other extremely important health care procedures.
A protest against Planned Parenthood is not a protest against abortion, it’s a protest against health care for low-income women and men.
For someone who braved going out of the house without telling the man or woman who controls their every move, these protesters may be the final straw. Perhaps, after all of the other hurdles they’ve crossed that day, one intimidating protester will be what trips them up, preventing them from getting screened for cancer, or finding a medical professional that they can confide in about the abuse they are experiencing?
I have to wonder, when one of these protesters wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Today I’ll protest against that clinic,” do they continue thinking long enough to realize they may accidentally frighten abuse victims and low-income people away from crucial health care? Do they realize that for some, this means they may unknowingly live with a disease for years, passing that disease on to their future children? Is the potential sacrifice of all of their lives worth it because a small handful of people coming to this clinic are there to request a completely legal procedure and just one may not do so? Are they justifying the lives of a few to perhaps save the life of one? Are they doing God’s work by targeting only the clinics that provide abortions for the lower-income members of society, while not even glancing at the many doctors providing these same services to higher-income patients?
I seem to remember Jesus refusing to cast the first stone, washing the feet of a sex worker and saying, “Blessed are the poor,” but perhaps I was reading a different Bible?