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Planned Parenthood: One Eyed King

Planned Parenthood: One Eyed King

  • Our bodies are sacred, capable, & beautiful

 

  • The mind, body, & spirit connection deserves reverence & respect

 

  • We can experience embodied joy & personal power through sexual health & fertility

 

  • We have a right to informed consent through understanding the risks & benefits of a myriad of choices

 

  • No thing & no one should ever enter the vagina or womb without complete informed consent

 

>> “consent”:  from the Latin “con” meaning “with” & “sentire” meaning “feeling”.  To me this validates the notion that consent is at its roots an emotional agreement & resonance, not an intellectual understanding or passive permission given.

Image by Miss Led

These statements are the core of my philosophy & the care that I provide.

In my pursuit of living these ideals, I worked with Planned Parenthood for several years.  I volunteered as a youth lobbyist, peer mediator, fund-raiser, & pre-teen sex ed teaching assistant in my home town of Boise, Idaho. I did an administrative internship & was employed as a campus organizer in my late teens & early 20s in Eugene, Oregon. In my early years living in Portland, Oregon I served as a patient advocate at the Southeast clinic, providing basic abortion doula support during surgical procedures.

Over the years as I developed my philosophy & awareness, I came to understand that the institution & political machine of Planned Parenthood did not share or uphold my philosophy. I don’t know if institutions of its size can, but I dream of a world where they do.

Planned Parenthood’s mission statement & purpose are beyond reproach. The value of the vital services they offer is immense. There are many loving & competent individuals that work at Planned Parenthood. Despite these facts, many of the services the organization provides fail to fully embody its mission & do not honor the core statements of my philosophy.

The most consistent way I have experienced & witnessed Planned Parenthood fail to embody its mission is by not providing adequate education to support truly informed consensual decision making. The organization perpetuates systems of oppression by sustaining imbalanced power dynamics between practitioners & patients. Pill pushing & fear based decision making have been mainstays of my own experiences & the stories I have gathered of others receiving care there. These problems are not inherent throughout the organization, but they are common enough to deserve discussion. What they are inherent to is the dominant paradigm of our culture, which the bureaucratic & political mechanisms of Planned Parenthood operate within.

 


 

 

My father has used a lot of one liners & mantras over the years. Some of them were his original beatnik-confuscious-confections, & some of them were more colloquial. One of the more common phrases he used to describe oppressive dynamics within our society was,

“In the land of the blind,

the one eyed man is king.”

He used this saying to point out various aspects of mainstream culture’s dysfunction to me as a child. He would use it as a metaphor to illustrate how in a blind society somebody who has half of their vision (one eye) will have power & be revered as royalty.  The ability to function at half of human capacity is enthroned while the populous of blind consumer peasants remain subjects of the man who can see with one eye.

This is a phrase I have used to describe Planned Parenthood’s services over the past several years, & certainly one that rang true to me as I saw so many of my peers placing the organization on a pedestal in social media recently.

Planned Parenthood is our one eyed king in a land of blindness.

In recent weeks my facebook newsfeed has been flooded with with pink profile pictures,  articles & posts praising & down right proselytizing for Planned Parenthood. Folks are defending it passionately in light of the possibility of the organization losing federal funding. “I support Planned Parenthood with every fiber of my being!” says one friend. “I stand with women! I stand with Planned Parenthood! Fuck the Patriarchy!” says another. I see many posts equating the existence of Planned Parenthood with women’s body autonomy.

All of this rhetoric is deeply unsettling to me because as a patient I have repeatedly had experiences at Planned Parenthood that undermined my body autonomy & insulted my intelligence. I have also counseled & supported numerous women whose rights to informed consent were violated receiving services there. I have heard stories of women who went to Planned Parenthood for care & were shamed for their number of sexual partners, weight, choice of contraception method, &/or right to refuse procedures.

These personal experiences & anecdotes have created internal conflict as I see my feminist friends & colleagues using social media to shout their battle cries on Planned Parenthood’s behalf. I don’t want to rain on the pink parade, but I’m not going to twirl a baton in it either.

I mentioned to my friend Liberty that I was working on a blog post about the problematic nature of Planned Parenthood as a poster child for women’s rights. What she said in response provided the perfect validation & motivation for me to keep working on this blog post despite my fear of backlash.

Liberty is an incredibly wise & soft spoken 25 year old woman. She has presence in her body & a wisdom in relating to it that is palpable & rare at any age.

“It’s hard.” she said,  “I have always felt so dis-empowered by my experiences there.”

“Why?” I inquired, equally empathetic & journalistic.

liberty2

Ms. Liberty

“Because it felt like they didn’t trust or respect my ability to know myself & my body.  It was like they thought that they knew best. You think it’s just that one doctor, but 10 times later & it’s the same every time, something’s going on. It was like they…” she took a moment to find the right words to describe how her experiences receiving care from Planned Parenthood made her feel before saying simply,

“…it was like they didn’t think I was smart.”

Unfortunately, Liberty’s experiences of condescention & imbalanced power dynamic between care provider & patient are far from unique. I was pressured to take birth control pills every time I was seen as a patient at Planned Parenthood.  The choices I have made about how to manage my fertility were repeatedly met with fearful distrust & blatant disrespect. I have heard countless other women say they have experienced similar things. In recent years the pressure is less often to take pills daily, & more frequently to get the Mirena IUD. Because of this rampant pressure to get the Mirena, I have counseled multiple young women who have plastic that secretes synthetic hormones inserted into their womb without real informed consent. These women have come to my classes & to me for consultation not understanding how the device in their own uterus works, & often experiencing adverse symptoms from it.

These women are making decisions influenced by coercion inspired by ignorance & fear ~ which is pretty much the opposite of Planned Parenthood’s mission.

Coercion, ignorance & fear based decision making in the healthcare industry is tragically routine especially in the realm of sexual & reproductive health. From what kind of contraception we choose to where & in what position we give birth, many women’s choices are influenced more by the insurance industry, profit, liability, & beaurocracy than by what we know in our own mind, body, & spirit. As I mentioned earlier, this abusive power dynamic is not exclusive to Planned Parenthood nor a defining characteristic of the organization. However, it is frequently present in the services that it provides.

I don’t want to throw stones or sling mud that adds to the false accusations & demonizing Planned Parenthood has experienced recently, but I cannot be silent while so many of my peers glorify & praise an institution that frequently fails to provide true empowerment & education.

True empowerment & education involves challenging the status quo of treating the fertility of women who avoid pregnancy as an illness that needs to be cured with pills & surgery rather than a gift worthy of responsible reverence & respect. True empowerment & education involves dismantling capitalist & patriarchal systems of oppression that create abusive power dynamics. We must critically examine institutions that validate external expertise & consumerism rather than internal authority & self reliance.

I am so grateful that Planned Parenthood exists, & for all of the good it provides to those in need.

I cannot ignore or remain silent about the ways in which it needs radical improvement.

Planned Parenthood is the best thing we have helping to providing basic sexual health care to the masses, & while its mission is good, its vision is limited.

Planned Parenthood is the one eyed king in the land of the blind.

Let’s open our eyes.

 

Let’s envision  & create sexual healthcare where informed autonomous decisions are made from love instead of fear. Let’s envision & create a world where healthcare honors that

  • Our bodies are sacred, capable, & beautiful

 

  • The mind, body, & spirit connection deserves reverence & respect

 

  • We can experience embodied joy & personal power through sexual health & fertility

 

  • We have a right to informed consent through understanding the risks & benefits of a myriad of choices

 

  • No thing & no one should ever enter the vagina or womb without complete informed consent

 

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I find the need to highlight the fact that I have never, ever heard a story of anyone being pressured or coerced into having an abortion or to donating fetal tissue to research at Planned Parenthood. The instances of coercion I have experienced & heard about are primarily around contraception, & secondarily to receive premature & unnecessary colposcopy & LEEP procedures. “What is premature & unnecessary colposcopy?” is another (future) blog post entirely. For some of my thoughts on holistic HPV healing & links to the Center for Disease Control’s data you can visit my “Ask Ms. Happy Hysteria” post on the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

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