I am very fond of a woman who prefers not to be identified on public forums. She recently retired after 40 years of working for Planned Parenthood. Her job was to visit schools and teach young people about sexual health. She was not teaching them how to have sex or get abortions or sneak behind their parents' backs. She was teaching about all our different bodily fluids and which ones transmit which diseases. Many teenage girls believe that oral sex can't hurt them, and I suspect this teacher saved hundreds of those girls from diseases they would have been too embarrassed to get treated.
She taught boys and girls alike how to properly use a condom. Many snickered. Many frowned in disapproval. Many were secretly grateful for the lesson while appearing to be bored. She didn't care how the kids reacted, as long as they were reasonably respectful and well behaved in class, as all people should be. She relished every question, every brave raised hand, every conversation with every teen. Conversation imparts information, and information is power and choice and control.
I'm saddened that political ultra-conservatives have targeted Planned Parenthood as somehow immoral or as a good place to cut funding. Unwanted, unsupported, unloved babies are tragic, and we as a society have a lot of work to do to make sure those infants are cared for. Why on earth would anyone want to stop funding education and prevention before there is an effective infrastructure for providing for the pregnancies and infants that would result if these health clinics were forced to close?
It is my fervent prayer that we all think more with our hearts.
I humbly applaud the dedicated woman who did her best to make a real and powerful difference in countless young people's lives -- young people who finished school and went on to college and got jobs and got married before having children, instead of ignorantly leaping into sexual activity unarmed with education, only to bear children who were likely to spend their lives on public assistance. I applaud the young people who listened and remembered. I especially applaud the students who recognized the gift this particular woman was giving them -- ignoring criticism and threats and uninformed judgment to do what she knew was the right thing, to make a tangible difference for hundreds of people in her community. People like her will continue to do the right thing, whether their programs are funded or not. They just won't have access to as many folks who need their help.
Please educate yourself before passing judgment on Planned Parenthood, or any of the numerous other programs that aim to educate and offer choices to folks who can't afford traditional medical care. Poverty really sucks. So does feeling helpless. Empowerment is the greatest gift we can give one another. Thank you, my beloved friend, for taking a stand and empowering several generations.