Oct 21st, 2007
When I was in high school, a friend of mine whose mother served on the local city council told me about what her mother had endured as one of the few people willing to stand up to anti-Planned Parenthood protesters. A new PP clinic had just opened in a small strip mall along one of the busiest roads in the area. As in most cities, this road didn’t have sidewalks alongside it, and the people who turned out daily to protest the clinic wanted the city to put in a sidewalk for them to walk on as they marched with their signs.
My friend’s mother was one the most vocal opponents of this proposition—she was horrified that taxpayers might be asked to make what amounted to a donation to the protesters. She got dirty looks, overheard muttered disparaging comments, and was rudely treated by several of her fellow council members. She stood her ground, though, and the protesters never got their publicly funded sidewalk. (They did get permission to pay for and build a sidewalk of a certain length—something like twenty feet. The sidewalk was built, and though I don’t know how much use it got I do know that whenever I’ve visited my parents over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve never seen a single person on it.)
At least she never got death threats, though. I’ve heard here and there stories on both sides of the debate over reproductive rights, and it was in Faye Ginsburg’s excellent (and balanced) Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (which I read in a grad school seminar on narrative) that I first encountered in-depth narratives on the subject.
A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a fairly new blog called I Am Emily X, “the true-life diary of a frontline Planned Parenthood worker and activist.” At the bottom of the homepage, a note points out “For their safety and protection, Emily X represents a small handful of Planned Parenthood workers and activists, who may or may not be named Emily.” So I guess it’s technically a collaborative, anonymous blog. (You can read the history of the blog here.)
This blog started as a response to anti-choice/pro-life/whatever activists’ call to picket PP clinics for forty days starting September 26. “Emily” posts nearly every day about something that’s happened at a clinic—some encounter with a protester that’s scary or frustrating, some interaction with a patient that makes it worth all the trouble. The blog is also a PP fundraiser, where, in a curious twist on the walk-a-thon, visitors can pledge to donate a certain amount (as little as five cents) per protester or just make a fixed donation.
It’s been interesting to read, and not just because I’ve long been a fan of Planned Parenthood and what they do. Take a look for yourself.
(If you’re wondering what exactly they do, check out this post from Bitch PhD. In addition to a discussion of PP services—of which only three percent are abortions, you’ll find a link to this post by a medical student, who describes his ignorance about PP until he did an OB/GYN rotation there.)