There are so many choices to be made in a given day: skinny jeans or comfy boyfriend cut; a two percent, skim, or whole milk in my latte; go to the movies this weekend or try to get a few phone numbers while out at the bars. We get to choose everything! Who we love, where we live, how we will live, and what we spend our money on start out as mere thoughts that we get to execute. Even more important than being able to make choices, is the right to keep those choices private–especially when thinking about medical decisions that govern one’s own body.
The reproductive choices of women have been scrutinized since early colonialism. Back then, churning butter and churning out children to help work the farm were the only contributions that women were expected to make to their families and to the world. Later, through the women’s suffrage movement and the necessity for women to take on the responsibility of holding down the fort during World Wars I and II, the roles of women changed. Sadly, the M.O. of male lawmakers who governed reproductive choices did not. But, the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1965 was the most influential case in reproductive rights history. The court held that a woman’s right to an abortion was covered under the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy and equal protection under the law.
I sincerely appreciate the case law that came from this and cases like it, because I love having personal physical autonomy. Surely other women like having the freedom to choose what they do with their bodies as well. That said, we recently saw the debate around abortion (more specifically Planned Parenthood) resurface and it got a little ugly. Within the last couple of months, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, was interrogated on Capitol Hill. This sudden interest in Planned Parenthood came directly from a series of videos that surfaced this Summer (primarily) by way of the Center for Medical Progress. The videos of high ranking officials within the organization, speaking candidly about the sales and purchases of fetal organs and tissues, sparked another national conversation about abortions and federal funds that may be used for them.
The interesting thing about these videos is that they were obtained under deceiving circumstances. At least two of the videos were made secretly and by someone posing as a buyer of fetal tissue, when in fact the ‘buyers’ were anti-abortion activists. Are you still with me? Privileged, private, information was recorded by those posing as business people about products gathered from the private personal decisions of women.
The Planned Parenthood leadership had an expectation of privacy in their offices conducting the private business of the organization, just like women have an expectation of privacy within their own bodies.They also explained that the videos were edited in a misleading way. No one wants to hear or think about unborn fetus tissue going to the highest bidder. The average person does not want to think about the techniques in which procedures like abortions are performed.This information was not meant for the main stream. While none of this is pretty, it doesn’t seem as if Planned Parenthood did anything illegal.
This complete and total invasion occurred and then, the ill-gotten information was used to go on a witch hunt to support the rights of the unborn. I am among those who view cute, little, baby powder smelling, chubby cheeked, angels as nothing but blessings. However, given the right or wrong set of circumstances, a child can complicate an already tumultuous situation. It is a woman’s right to do what is best for her, and not to have to get permission from someone else to do it. These days you can barely use the bathroom in private, so it is important for me to decide when and whether or not I want to share my womb.
I hate to break it to you, but the on-going conversation around women’s reproductive rights has never really been about protecting the rights of the unborn; it’s entirely about the controlling women. Yes, it has been about men making decisions that women must abide by, and shaming them if they don’t.
There are larger issues of police brutality, homelessness, and the minimum wage debate and….of course Syria. However, the energy that some conservatives have put into making public (and very ignorant) comments about Planned Parenthood and abortion are as ridiculous as they are outrageous. Despite situations like incest, rape, and other health issues that are tied to pregnancy, some conservatives make it seem as though there really isn’t anything more important than the fact that women may be able to have an abortion. It is troubling to think that we can totally and completely ignore the lives of those who are already here (and have needs) as long as we protect the unborn–who aren’t even viable until incubated for over three months.
Planned Parenthood does more than provide services to women who were want to terminate their pregnancies. They provide body image counseling, they provide sex education, they also provide services to men. People who are extreme conservatives will have you thinking that defunding Planned Parenthood and other services like it, will somehow help everyone. The funny thing is that, the majority of people don’t want Planned Parenthood defunded. Why? I honestly think it all goes back to privacy. If an organization like Planned Parenthood is brought to its knees by videos that arguably should have never been allowed to see the light of day in the first place, then other areas within the scope of personal privacy may be the next to come under scrutiny. Where will it stop, what we eat and drink? Where we are allowed to work? What we wear?
I’m not saying that everything that Planned Parenthood has ever done is completely above board. But, I feel that we should all think about privacy within our bodies. Women (as well as families) should be able to choose to educate themselves, have children when they are ready, and make the decisions that will impact their lives. The right of a women to chose has seen considerable change and debate since Roe v. Wade, but the bottom line is quite clear, a woman’s body is a place that should be governed by her own choices. As Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President, Dawn Laguens so eloquently put it, “women should be trusted to make choices that are best for them.”
In a time when then there are cameras in the grocery stores, sharing on social media and the internet is our culture’s norm, and when your phone can tell other people where you are at any given time, I want to keep the last little bit of privacy I have. I want to be able to decide when, how, and in what ways I want to explore my private reproductive rights.Image Credits: M Sundstrom, Planned Parenthood