If you’ve ever been to a Planned Parenthood, odds are you’ve faced the protesters. Waving pictures of mangled fetuses and warnings of hellfire, they scream at you about sin and murder and beg you to change your mind. Even in the cases where volunteer escorts attempt to shield you from the shame brigade, entering the health clinic can be a jarring experience.
But every now and then, one of them will cross the picket line — even if surreptitiously and temporarily. Marie Myung-Ok Lee, writing for Salon, reports:
Indeed, my doctors told me, getting an anti-abortion protester as an abortion patient was actually not that uncommon. It even made a certain kind of sense: protesters liked going to a doctor they knew, one who was reliable and committed to her work. One doctor told me about an unmarried patient who stressed over getting “it” done before she’d start to show, i.e., the people at church would know; the doctor changed her schedule for this woman, who went out to continue screaming from the protest lines afterward. Conservative fathers with “important” careers brought in their daughters. One doctor recounted her days at a Catholic hospital pre-Roe v. Wade, and how Catholic mothers dragging in bearing their fifth, sixth, seventh child would beg her in a whisper for “hysterectomies.”
Basically, the message is not getting out that likely around 40 percent of American women have had abortions, even though, a very large segment of this population is pretending they didn’t — and are even actively working against that right for others. It’s a little bit like the regularly repeated story (just change the names) of the homophobic congressman or clergy later caught soliciting on Grindr, only these women (and the men who go along with it) are protected by HIPAA.
Frankly, I’m good with those HIPPA protections because they cut both ways in a society that baselessly and hypocritically shames women who seek an abortion. Yes, it shields those who partake while protesting, but it also protects pro-choice women who, as Lee points out, are pretending they didn’t seek an abortion in order to dodge public condemnation. But what this information reinforces is that abortion is healthcare that should be accessible to all who need it, because that’s a much larger group of women who will need it than those protesters know… a group that includes their own comrades.
This may all eventually change. After all, the same religious folks who advocated against legal divorce unless it was for their pre-approved reasons lost — and they are far from vocal opponents today. The evangelists who railed against interracial marriage during the Civil Rights era may still be out there, but it’s not the political movement it once was. It is possible, even if not plausible, that the religious might eventually reserve their opposition to abortion for their private lives — which is really the only place it’s marginally acceptable. One can hope, given the rising number of women who have found need for abortion services in their life, that this shift happens.
But I wouldn’t hold my breath.