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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Planned Parenthood Controversy in Aurora, Illinois

Controversy and protest have accompanied Planned Parenthood's efforts to open a large new clinic in the far Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. Again, I have impertinent questions and reflections that will likely make no "side" happy (and I am recuperated enough from six weeks of multiple disability flareup hell to offer them here, for whatever it is/isn't worth).

  • Why did Planned Parenthood (apparently) try to "sneak" this clinic past a community it undoubtedly knew would, on a substantial scale, not be pleased at least with the abortion part of its offerings? Why couldn't it have instead gone with only its sex education, voluntary family planning, and other nonabortion/abortion-reducing services here--services which enjoy a far broader base of support? Especially since this move evidently compounds the perception in some quarters of Planned Parenthood and its abortion rights advocacy as racist, classist, "do-gooder" impositions...The Aurora area in recent years has grown increasingly less Caucasian, and now this attempt to bring an abortion-performing facility into the community against the wishes of many community members...
  • Now, for decades I have personally known, and keep discovering, avowed prolifers--even those who engage in (nonviolent) protest against clinics, and even those who define themselves as politically and/or theologically conservative--who adopt "hard-to-place" children, take pregnant women into their own homes, and engage in many other actions that show they really mean it when they say they're prolife. But I happen to know that at least some of the antiabortion individuals and groups involved in the Aurora protests are not only protesting the clinic's attempt to offer abortions. They are lumping in the abortions with the genuine reproductive health services--same mistake as Planned Parenthood itself! And they are going beyond their right to their own personal religious beliefs, say, against contraception or nonmarital sex to denying the freedom of conscience and nonviolent action of anyone who happens to disagree with the convictions on these matters...and in the process, I think, they are undercutting their aspiration towards abortion abolition, especially in a pluralistic society.
  • So far the protests have been described as peaceful. Wonderful if that means no homicides of clinic workers, supporters, patients. May that continue to be the case, whatever turns the fate of this clinic and the uproar about it take in the future. As necessary as this nonkilling is...nonviolence must also extend to the speech and intentions of all protestors towards women seeking abortions. It is decidedly NOT "prolife" to scream at women in tough situations that they are "harlots," "babykillers," et al while brandishing gorey fetus photos at them.... It is eminently prolife, I believe, to stand there calmly, nonjudgmentally, quietly but powerfully offering alternatives...offering to pay rent, give free child care or shelter or legal help with winning child support, even to adopt the very child endangered by abortion if it comes to that...whatever women may need.

Another thought: Although Planned Parenthood offers sliding scale contraception, and is certainly to be commended for that...low-income people in the US and elsewhere often do have other options for affordable family planning access, options that do not confuse a general "right" to abortion with genuine reproductive health care.

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