Sabra Khatoon, my great grandmother, (pictured in the center of this photo) was truly the matriarch of our family. She championed women’s rights and ensured that all of her granddaughters pursued education at a time when not many women in Pakistan were encouraged to do so. And now her descendants are studying and practicing law, medicine, engineering, business, the arts and more all over the world. She truly embodies the sentiment that empowering women betters society overall. Thank you, Amma, for giving me so much of what I have today. Thank you for my mother who somehow, in a single lifetime, managed to get her MBBS, a masters’ in public health and a doctorate in epidemiology while being a partner to her husband, raising two children and now providing a loving home for many other nieces and nephews. Thank you for my father who always pushed me to be better and work harder because I am a brown woman and society already expects so little of me. And finally, thank you for my feminist identity.
On Friday, the House voted to freeze federal funding to Planned Parenthood. There’s been a lot of controversy as of late regarding Planned Parenthood after some videos that showed Planned Parenthood employees allegedly ‘harvesting’ fetal organs. Those proposing and supporting the bill claim that Planned Parenthood should not receive federal funding while an investigation can be done to decide whether these accusations hold any ground. It’s expected that the bill will be vetoed in the Senate by Democrats and is considered ‘symbolic’ of their beliefs by congressmen voting in support of it. And I fully hope that the bill is vetoed but, regardless, I am inherently uncomfortable with what this vote is supposed to be symbolic of. Here are some of the many, many reasons why:
- Planned Parenthood does much more than provide abortions: STD screenings, contraceptives, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, sexual education, etc. Additionally, the funding received from the government cannot be used to perform abortion services. The contraceptives provided actually reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and, therefore, reducing the numbers of abortions performed each year – it’s almost as if they’re helping people PLAN when they become PARENTS. Planned Parenthood provides care to all genders, so while this bill is an attack on women’s health it’ll also be detrimental to men’s health. It is often the only place low income patients can get care and is one of the few organizations educated on the LGBTQI health. In my very limited experience as a health care provider, I’ve already guided patients to seek care follow up care from our free clinic at Planned Parenthood knowing they have no other options. As a future health care provider in an extremely medically underserved area, I know how essential the services provided by Planned Parenthood are to communities like this one.
- Abortions are legal. Abortions are often life saving procedures, like in the cases of ectopic pregnancies. Abortions are often life saving procedures because they allow women to continue to work towards a future when they will be able to provide a loving and safe home for her future family. They save her life from misery and they save a potential child from a miserable life. They save the lives of women who never wanted to be mothers and have every right to decide what happens to their bodies. Abortions are legal and they save lives. If for religious reasons you believe abortions to be immoral, it is your right to hold such a belief. It is, however, not your right to force that belief upon anyone else. While there have been lapses with this in the past, we are supposed to have a separation of church and state in this country. So you do not get to withhold live saving, legal procedures from other women because of your religious beliefs. Additionally, passing and enforcing laws that make safe abortions inaccessible will not reduce the necessity or frequency of abortions but simply make them less safe and we’ll be back to the days of women getting abortions in back alleys with hangers instead of by licensed physicians.
- There are already examples of what happens when Planned Parenthood defunded in Louisiana. Governor Bobby Jindal is simply using this as a base to get ahead in the Republican primary elections and has no concern for the fact that his state has the highest rates of syphilis and gonorrhea, second highest rate of chlamydia, fifth in HIV infections and, as per the CDC, likely the state with the highest number of HIV positive patients who are unaware of their status (and thus, are unknowingly spreading the infection). Now thanks to this cut in funding, 5,200 low income patients will have nowhere to seek reproductive healthcare and these numbers will only go up. Apparently Governor Jindal believes that 30 physicians, some of who are not currently taking new patients, who will be continued to be funded through Medicare will be able to absorb the care of thousands of patients.
- The videos put out by anti-abortion groups are extremely unreliable and contain a plethora of false and misleading information and this has been admitted by those who put out the videos themselves. As of late August, five states conducted investigations of these allegations Planned Parenthood and concluded that there have been no wrongdoings.
- Say, for the sake of argument, that the allegations against Planned Parenthood could be true – why are there no charges against them? And given that there are no charges despite months of investigation, how is it responsible to defund an organization that helps millions of your citizens while you conduct an investigation to find out if any of this is actually true? Why are you withholding funding from hundreds of clinics when, if any of the allegations are actually true, no more than a handful of offices (and likely very few personnel within those clinics) could be involved? Do you take away medical licenses of all physicians in a practice when one commits a crime ‘just in case’? Are you going to defund every single Kaiser clinic and hospital if one physician is accused of violating HIPAA laws?
- The opposite of pro-choice is not pro-life, it’s anti-choice. Calling the stance against abortions ‘pro-life’ makes it sound like the other side is ‘anti-life’ when nothing can be further than the truth. NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE who identifies as pro-choice is proposing that every pregnant woman go out and ‘kill’ her baby. Those who identify as pro-choice are pro the lives of women and their right to decide what happens to their lives. They are pro children being brought into homes that are ready to receive them, so they may live fulfilling lives. And they believe that the women giving birth to said children have the right to decide if they’re ready to provide such a home and life. So many times on various articles and forums, I’ve seen people say that they personally are against abortion (and personally would never get an abortion) and therefore identify as pro-life, but have no issue with other women seeking abortions if that’s what’s right for them. That literally is the definition of pro-choice. You believe that women are entitled to make decisions about what happens to their body and you are entitled to make your own, even if they differ. You are not pro-life, you are inherently pro-choice.
- The same people who are against Planned Parenthood and the services they provide are also against reforming our very broken health care system that would help reduce the need for Title X clinics because patients would have access to the same services through their primary care providers. Title X clinics have, and always will be, an effort to fill the gaps in the health care system. Our issue with it should never be that they perform certain services that may be against your beliefs but rather that these clinics are even needed in the first place in what is so easily coined the ‘greatest nation in the free world.’
- And lastly, what is the state of our government? How have all the fear mongering and theatrics gotten this bad? I’m constantly so angered and disappointed. Can we get any more partisan? The Tea Party, with all its funding and glory, has turned the Republican party into a complete joke. No one can run on that platform without prescribing to the ridiculously conservative (and absurd) views the extreme right holds. So now, instead of having actual debates to select who is voted into the primaries, Republican candidates are competing with clowns like Donald Trump. And honestly, I think those who participated in the Boston Tea Party would be devastated to find the state of our nation and ashamed that such a group is associating themselves with their actions in the revolution. Ben Carson, for example, recently caught onto people’s radars for claiming that Muslims should never be a US president. I honestly can’t wrap my mind around how a highly educated/accomplished neurosurgeon and person of color can be that blatantly ignorant. While I in no shape or form support his campaign or beliefs, the man probably has some real ideas on how to make this country better and he knows that participating in this dog and pony show is the only way to make it to the primaries. It’s truly amazing how little politicians think of their voters. They believe we’re incapable of thinking for ourselves so they ‘think’ for us and present lopsided views of everything. I watch shows like The West Wing and The Newsroom and wish and wish for that flawed reality. One where people recognize that they can be wrong and have conversations about what they believe. One where we demand politicians actually represent the interests of their people (instead of those funding their campaigns) and be held accountable to campaign promises.
I wish we could’ve met, Amma. I wish we could’ve had long philosophical conversations about the state of the world. I wish you were around to push me to work harder when it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I wish you were here Amma, to see how far women have come. I wish you could see the legacy you left behind and how hard we all work to make you proud. But part of me is happy that you’re not here to witness that the world takes so many steps back after every microscopic step forward.