Just ten days ago, I received a call from Molly McLain, the PPFA affiliate staff member in my state, inviting me to Washington,D.C. to participate in Planned Parenthood’s first ever national Pink Out Day. Today, I’m on my third of five flights in forty hours, reflecting on a truly inspiring whirlwind of an experience.
As most of the United States,and even the world, knows by now, Planned Parenthood has faced an unprecedented attack in the most recent months. Outright lies have been spread by anti-choice organizations and propagated by the swift current of social media into nearly every household. These lies have somehow forced the United States federal government into facing yet another shutdown over the inclusion of Planned Parenthood funding in the federal budget. (To reiterate, $0 of federal money is spent on abortion funding with the exclusion of the most dire circumstances. Research the Hyde Amendment). What federal funding does do for Planned Parenthood patients is provide accessible healthcare which they may not otherwise be privy to. Ties to the Medicaid program and Planned Parenthood now also are at risk in the looming House decision.
I came to the national Pink Out Day as a volunteer and supporter from one of five states( North Dakota) whom PPFA sent to the event. We joined hundreds of other supporters in rallying at PPFA’s office, ready for a full day of action. As part of a group canvassing near the Supreme Court building and then outside of the Russel, Dirksen, and Hart congressional office buildings, my objective was to draw attention to the need for vocal support of Planned Parenthood , while collecting signatures and encouraging a positive dialogue. Our pleas were met with much more positive responses than we as North Dakotans have become accustomed to. As supporters of Planned Parenthood in a largely hostile, anti-choice local environment, we and others in similar situations are often met with hate speech and vitriol. We cannot publicly state our opinion on an issue as controversial in 2015 as accessible Pap smears, for fear of disdain by teachers, employers, colleagues and neighbors, and even family members.
As fearless leader PPFA President Cecile Richards responded to five hours of baseless attacks with composure, grace and factual information in a hearing before the House oversight committee, supporters gathered outside of the United States Capitol for a press conference. Inspiring congressional leaders such as Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stood alongside Planned Parenthood patients and activist leaders to express the importance of the organization’s services in this nation. Later in the day, visits to Senators in thanks or in pleading were made, followed by a session of supporter reflection and a national call in of supporters nationwide(with Cecile!)This time provided me with wonderful insight into challenges others have faced in activist work, as well as a sense of community support. As I listened to the experiences and reflections of my fellow supporters, I was overwhelmed by the passion and hope in the room. I leave Washington,D.C. with a renewed sense of hope and confide in the work of those across the U.S. The community I joined on Pink Out Day is inclusive, beautiful, energized and full of love.
Also present on this national Pink Out day was a call for responsible governance by our elected officials. Even those opposed to some of the organization’s services are surely also opposed to a government willing to shut itself down.
Democracy in the United States has been exhibited and practiced by countless actions throughout history. The organization of the people most passionate about pending legislation, labor rights and other issues has driven this country forward. I certainly come from a place of relative privilege as a white, U.S. born, cis gendered and heterosexual person, but I do strongly believe in the accessibility and transparency of government at all levels. It is your right to contact county auditors, Secretaries of State, state legislators, city council members, school board members and members of Congress. Hold legal protests and marches,start or join an organization on campus. Research public voting records and make educated votes. A lack of civic engagement and an apathetic generation are simply unacceptable. By engaging every person living in this country, we may even one day live in a country which scoffs at the thought of a government shutdown over the funding of Planned Parenthood. I certainly hope to.