Sunday, July 8, 2007

Planned Parenthood Protesters

Yesterday I attended an orientation at Planned Parenthood, as I will embark on my volunteer journey at the downtown Pittsburgh office this upcoming Tuesday.

I arrived at the intersection of Smithfield and Liberty Avenue about 10 in the morning, dressed casually, head high, and ready to meet my fellow advocates. Then I saw it.

The poster was massive – I would say six by six in size. I could barely see its holder, but that did not matter. Its message was clear: choose life. A fetuses’ head squinched between a pair of metal tongs; blood everywhere. It is a scare tactic. A way to get passerbys to hate those patronizing the building directly behind the protesters; and a way to get those who are arriving for an abortion procedure to carry the baby to full term.

As I walked closer to the entrance of the building, I realized that the religious shouting, and comments about being a murderer, came from three men. They stood there, eyes pleading, telling women who walked near the Planned Parenthood building to forgo their choice, and instead, follow the word of god (who they also believe is a man). Um. Who in the world do they think they are? These men have no idea what these women are going through. They don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, a mother, pregnant, or on the verge of emotional breakdown. They don’t have estrogen running through their bodies; they pretend they have never made a life decision, and most importantly perhaps, they believe that their word as men is far more commanding than that of the woman herself.

It pains me to think that women could be turned away from their choice to abort because a trio of men told them what to do with their bodies. And no doubt this happens. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster one must face as she wakes up on the morning of her procedure (in Pittsburgh, the law states that a woman must wait a full 24-hours from the initial counseling appointment to have the procedure done). This, of course, is compounded by the underlying reasons for the necessity of the abortion: rape, incest, age, economics and so on. Trying to balance out all of these factors must be incredibly intense. And while Planned Parenthood assured us volunteers that the organization lauds itself on double and triple checking ambivalence of its patients, women coming to the clinic should not have to be faced with such gruesome photos – blown up WAY beyond actual size.

You see, the Supreme Court allowed for legislation that includes a ban on second (or third) trimester procedures. Thus, the aborted fetus is tiny. It is not full term; it is not capable of living on its own. It is not a child. These blown up posters tell a different, often misleading, story. I find it incredible, especially because a man stood behind this pro-life propaganda. Luckily, the City of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance that creates a 200-foot neutral buffer zone in front of the clinic. No one can cross the line and scream about the injustices, or advocate for rights. I like that. However, 200-feet is still a bit close for comfort…

I imagine that I will run in to these folks quite a bit during my summer tenure here in my hometown. My mission in life is not simply to argue my point, and therefore cut out all opposes. In fact, I enjoy the varied opinions of our world. However, I do not enjoy seeing the rights of ones own body overruled. Our choice to take part reproductive battles is exactly that: OURS. I hope to one day engage in discussion with the protesters – reminding them that just as they have the democratic right to hold signs and scream, women have the right to hold their own reigns on life.