At the Rally for Women’s Health on Feb. 26, the master of ceremonies quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before 5,000 people. “You will not remember the words of your enemies,” she asserted, “but you will remember the silence of your friends.” Yes, essentially the bill known as “H.R.3” (sensationalized as the “anti-abortion bill”) prohibits federal funds from being used for any health benefit that includes the coverage of abortion. There is a notable amount of support amongst Republicans and conservatives for this bill. There is also an understandable amount of opposition amongst females.
I am not a raging radical or a Freudian medusa. I am a 21-year-old who has never been to Planned Parenthood. My views regarding abortion are not black-and-white and neither is my understanding of this bill. This is because I know what Title X is: the only federal grant program dedicated to family planning and related, preventive health services. The revoking of the program is about abortion, but it’s also about something more important—my healthcare.
As I stood next to “What She Said” signs and life-size penises, I marveled at the creative wittiness of the Rally’s attendees. At the same time, I asked myself why these clusters of “I Stand with Planned Parenthood”-pin-wearing, iPhone-picture-taking youth would spend their Saturday afternoon at the Rally for Women’s Health instead of sleeping in after the drudgery of a school week? Were any of us completely aware of the details of this heated controversy?
Ignorant oppositionists to Title X do not know that since 1976 (even before the introduction of H.R. 3 by Speaker Boehner), federal funds have not been used for abortion services. In addition, preventive health care and family planning programs receiving federal money are segregated from any funds for abortion services (the Hyde Amendment, 1976). The Hyde Amendment has been renewed annually since it was passed 35 years ago. But there are exceptions. Federal funding is used for abortions when pregnancies endanger the life of the mother and for those that are a product of rape or incest.
However, there are knowledgeable opponents of H.R.3. Strong negative sentiments regarding this “anti-abortion” bill are founded on the expansion of the Hyde Amendment. As a result, this expansion will deprive any organization that conducts abortions of federal funds. Another noteworthy change is this bill’s redefinition of “rape” and its audacity to reduce the issue of incest regarding victims of all ages to only minors. Protesters of this “anti-abortion” bill, or H.R.3, can be clueless hipsters or intelligent feminists. In essence, both sides are expressing powerful stands on this bill.
“The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” or H.R.3, prohibits indirect funding that may potentially come in contact with abortion services. This is where “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” comes in. Planned Parenthood is a 95-year-old organization that directs 90 percent of its work toward preventive care. The puzzling part is that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even use federal funds for abortion services. Their efforts that receive federal funding range from anything from a pap smear to a cancer screening to STD-detection to birth control. Only 10 percent of its efforts go toward abortion, and these services are not federally funded. Planned Parenthood receives as much as a third of its money from the government. This organization is also our country’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Planned Parenthood, because of its work with people of all socio-economic backgrounds, is a significant staple of America’s inclusiveness. This organization losing a third of its funding, as a result of H.R.3, distresses me. The thought of a woman without healthcare discovering her cervical cancer at a Planned Parenthood clinic and dying instead of receiving proper treatment saddens me. The fact that this “anti-abortion bill” will only overlook the incest-related pregnancies of minors concerns me.
The fact that a sexual McCarthyist movement is getting ground in government scares me. The ambiguity behind H.R.3 dismissing statutory rape and redefining it to only include “forcible” situations infuriates me. Five thousand people, including myself, stood outside in the brisk weather on a February afternoon listening to unknown bloggers and obscure politicians because we want to ensure our country’s future reflects our disheartening concern. I heard elderly women reminisce about visiting Planned Parenthood when they were young. I saw middle-aged men unhesitatingly nod when a blogger retold a story about how Planned Parenthood saved her life by recognizing her cervical cancer when she couldn’t go to a hospital because of her lack of insurance. And I heard disgruntled youth scoff and say, “Let’s just move to Canada.” One guest speaker asserted, “Seldom do well-behaved women make history.” All right, I’d like to think I’m a little well-behaved. However, I’ll comfortably assert that I’m definitely loud and that’ll contribute to me making history.
Anyone’s silence regarding this bill is louder than that of the ignorant supporter and ignorant opposer of the bill. We may not know how to support the revolutionaries in Egypt or the victims of civil war in Libya. But in the United States, ever since we took our first civics class, we’ve learned how to address issues like this: by educating ourselves and speaking up. Go to Opencongress.org, read objective summaries of its content and stay clear of strong biases. It may be that well-behaved women rarely make history, but in this country, only women who put their knowledge in action and in public reactions make history.