Today, I seriously wanted to hit a woman.
I was walking toward the Independence Center, a clubhouse run by persons with severe mental illness, to meet with the adjunct instructor for whom I am a teaching assistant this semester. The Center happens to be located next door to Planned Parenthood’s headquarters in St. Louis. This is where, twice a month, anti-choice protesters gather in advance of a doctor’s arrival, seeking to harass and intimidate women who exercise their (shrinking) constitutional right to surgically terminate a pregnancy.
As I passed the parking lot entrance to Planned Parenthood, I noticed two women holding fliers standing out front, buffeted against the cold by scarves and hoods. For some reason–maybe because my brain has been scrambled due to a fever and head cold–I thought upon first glance, “Oh, they’re clinic escorts.” These are brave people who volunteer their time to escort women through the throngs of assholes who are screaming at her that she’s a baby killer on her way to what may just be a Pap smear appointment. They literally act as a buffer between the asshole herd and the safety* of the clinic.
This was not so. As I got closer, one of the women noticed me and said, reaching out with a hand full of brochures (I noticed the word “pregnancy” and “truth”), “How are you? Are you going to an appointment with Planned Parenthood today?” She said it so sweetly that I responded, more politely than I would have cared, “No, I’m going next door, why?”
“Oh! Well, OK,” she responded, “we’re just out here hoping to offer young women like yourself an alternative to the lies and misinformation that Planned Parenthood spreads.” And she offered the brochure.
I gave her a look that said, “I hope you rot and die, cuntbox.” But I didn’t smack the brochures out of her hands and I did not say “Fuck you” or anything. For one, this was an older woman who was speaking to me, and I was raised–for better or worse–to respect my elders in spite of whatever vile thing they say or do. (This has led me to accept, without comment, this kind of statement from older men a whole lot: “Why’d you put all them tattoos on yourself? You’re so pretty otherwise.” It’s also kept me going to family Christmases, despite the fact that one of my grandfathers has refused to directly acknowledge me for going on eight years.) Secondly, I thought, “I don’t want these bitches to think that all women who support Planned Parenthood are foul-mouthed, angry sluts.” So what if I AM a foul-mouthed slut who happened to be very angry at that moment? I kept walking.
This past weekend was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion at the federal level. My friend and I volunteered for a celebratory event co-sponsored by NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Faith Aloud. Somehow, even in the icy drizzle, even among the nondescript downtown loft where the event took place, a determined crowd of ten anti-choice protesters managed to find us and stood on the street throughout the party, taunting and harassing and shouting in the cold. Their main beef on this particular occasion? The “Obamacare” mandate that emergency rooms make available and provide emergency contraception (NOT an abortion pill–EC will not stop a pregnancy if the sperm is already implanted) to women and girls who have been sexually assaulted.
The stubbornness of the anti-choice movement to politicize women’s health, down to normal biological processes, never fails to floor me every time I am confronted by it. After I walked away from the brochure-wavers outside of PP today, I thought, “What would it take to make me NOT dread going to the doctor for a routine exam? What if going to the doctor was something normal and banal, something that no one cared about one way or the other, something that never made the news, and somewhere that wasn’t at risk of being fire-bombed?”
Well, that would make me a man.
It’s appalling that the oppression of women via their fucking healthcare access, decisions and information is not more of a national issue than it is. Why do a group of male, mostly white, rich men who have never and will never sit on an exam table with their feet in stirrups get to cast aspersions on the morality of the rest of the population? I do not follow them into their yearly prostate exam or colonoscopy waving graphic signs about the probing their anus is about to receive. Yet the reverse is somehow acceptable. Somehow it’s OK to call the herd of anti-choice assholes outside a Planned Parenthood clinic “protesters” and not “terrorists”. Somehow the healthcare decisions a man makes regarding his sexual and reproductive health are (rightfully) deemed a private, personal matter by Congress and the Catholic church.
If you have ever doubted the need for feminism or more women in political decision-making roles, one glance at the field of reproductive justice should set you straight. Nowhere is the stark delineation between a man’s rights and a woman’s so fundamentally clear. Sexual and reproductive health by its very nature affects us all, whether we’re queer or straight or intersex or trans. So if you like girls even just a little, you should be a pro-choice feminist and speak out for your (or her) right to visit the doctor without harassment and abuse.
*But as we all know from recent history, case in point Dr. Tiller’s murder in Kansas, the safety of any clinic providing healthcare to women is relative at best.