Several years ago I attended a speech by actress Kathleen Turner, who was a national spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America at the time. Turner told the college audience about how she had relied on Planned Parenthood’s health care services when she was a student, and she encouraged all of us to take advantage of the services offered there, too. But, she told us, when we were in a position to give back to Planned Parenthood, we had an obligation to do so.
I volunteer at Planned Parenthood to fulfill that obligation. For more than ten years, I have depended on Planned Parenthood to provide affordable health care. When I haven’t been able to afford a Pap smear, I have been able to count on Planned Parenthood to help me out. When I needed information about pro-choice ballot issues or electoral candidates, I turned to Planned Parenthood to give me reliable information. No matter what, I know that I can count on Planned Parenthood to be there for me. Which is why I have made up my mind to be there for them.
The real call to action for me was the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009. I had been reading Gloria Feldt’s book The War on Choice previous to Dr. Tiller’s murder, and that book was very clear about the need for pro-choice supporters to become actively involved in the reproductive justice movement. Dr. Tiller’s murder sealed the deal, and I signed up to become a clinic escort in Phoenix. I moved to Tucson shortly after that, and my volunteer role changed as a result.
Fortunately for women in Tucson, there isn’t a need for clinic escorts. There are occasional protesters who stand near the Planned Parenthood center on Grant. But this scraggly little group of three protesters is sad more than anything else. Sometimes I want to bring them a cupcake. Maybe having some human interaction with a pro-choice supporter will make them realize that we’re involved in the movement because we care about people. But honestly, neither side is likely to find common ground. So I’ll save that cupcake for myself.
My current involvement with Planned Parenthood revolves around blogging and social media outreach, as well as making phone calls and knocking on doors to help educate pro-choice advocates about the issues and the services provided by Planned Parenthood. My favorite form of activism involves tabling at community events because I love to talk to people face-to-face and engage them in a conversation about women’s health.
I’ll keep volunteering for Planned Parenthood as long as I am able. Maybe someday I’ll make enough money to give back to Planned Parenthood financially. Until then, during the holiday season, I’m going to ask other people to make a donation to Planned Parenthood instead of getting me a gift.
If you’re reading this article, I hope that you’ll stand up for Planned Parenthood. Get involved! Become a volunteer. Arizona women are in for a tough year in 2011, and we need all the help we can get to ensure that Planned Parenthood can keep on advocating for women and families, no matter who is sitting in the state legislature. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what you can do to make a difference.
And if you’re so inclined to give me a Christmas present this year, give that gift to Planned Parenthood instead. It would be the best way to wrap up a very busy year.