By Ashley Berry
Around noon last Tuesday, September 29th, Monument Square in downtown Portland quickly flooded with enthusiastic supporters of Planned Parenthood. The attendees stood together, chanted and shared stories on how Planned Parenthood had changed their lives. The rally drew a pink-clad crowd of about 350 people that were, for the most part, there to support the health organization that has recently come under scrutiny. The organization has been slated to lose funding because of a mostly Republican-backed bill that, strangely enough, was also designed to avoid a government shutdown.
The rally featured speakers that included patients of Planned Parenthood, volunteers, State Representatives, and even a Unitarian Universalist minister. Many of these speakers had personal experiences with Planned Parenthood and talked about their experiences in times of need. One woman spoke of how she had turned to Planned Parenthood when she was young and found herself pregnant. Later on in life she became a volunteer and a member of their board of directors.
Another woman spoke about how at a young age, and without health insurance she became violently sick with an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies can be fatal if not caught soon enough. She turned to Planned Parenthood and they were able to save her life. Another speaker who is a prominent member of the Maine Legislature, Sara Gideon, is a State Representative from Freeport. She also serves as the Assistant Democratic House Leader. During her speech she said, “A person’s health is not for sale, it’s not for trade and it’s certainly not available for blackmail.” Gideon touched on a point that is often missed in the Planned Parenthood debate. The arguments surrounding Planned Parenthood are most often focused on abortion. This argument is incredibly uninformed to the point that it may actually be erroneous.
Of all the services that Planned Parenthood offers, abortion comprises only 3% of services performed. The other 97% are services, including lifesaving tests and screenings that detect cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood also offers pap smears, a pretty essential procedure for women, and free condoms – which is a big service on its own, as they’re incredibly expensive, especially for someone on a budget. Have you ever had an accidental condom break during sex? Planned Parenthood has got your back with emergency contraception kits. Need long term birth control but don’t have insurance? You can turn to Planned Parenthood to prevent those disastrous, unintended pregnancies.
Whatever the problem, Planned Parenthood has got your back – no judgment, just loving care at a time when people need it most. One of the last speakers at the rally was Senator Cathy Breen who said, “When I needed help Planned Parenthood was there. If it weren’t for Planned Parenthood I don’t know if that bachelor’s degree or master’s degree or election to Senate would have ever happened. I will fight for Planned Parenthood and I will stand with them on the streets and on the floor. I will always stand with Planned Parenthood.” This quote embodies the effect that Planned Parenthood has on people’s lives.
Before decisions based on assumptions are made about funding this invaluable health organization, remember that they have saved lives. They have made it possible for people to continue their education and become productive citizens in society. Those people who benefited so much from Planned Parenthood have returned to help them in their fight to continue helping millions of people. The feeling of support at this rally was emotionally overwhelming because at that moment, in the middle of Monument Square, we stood in solidarity to help the organization that has helped us countless times.