On Planned Parenthood and the Experiences of Our Elected Representatives

Obama sotomayor
photo of President Obama and Sonia Sotomayor courtesy The Daily News

As you've likely already heard, two female members of Congress, Jackie Speier and Gwen Moore, were very brave during the floor debate Thursday night over the Pence Amendment, the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Speier revealed that she had an abortion in the 17th week of a wanted pregnancy, because of medical complications. "For you to stand on this floor and suggest that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought, is preposterous," she said to a supporter of the amendment, Chris Smith of New Jersey. 

Moore, meanwhile, shared the story of her own unplanned pregnancy at the age of 18. When she went into labor, she was too poor to call a taxi or ambulance to take her to the hospital. I want to quote at length from the rest of her remarks, because she offered such an incredibly powerful and true statement about this country's approach to poverty, women, and children. This should be required reading for every American who cares about health and education policy, and certainly for every Democratic elected official wondering how to speak coherently about reproductive rights:

I just want to tell you a little bit about what it’s like to not have Planned Parenthood. You have to add water to the formula to make it stretch. You have to give your kids Ramen noodles at the end of the month to fill up their little bellies so they won’t cry … It subjects children to low educational attainment because of the ravages of poverty. You know, one of the biggest problems that school districts have in educating some of these poor black children who are unplanned is that they are mobile; they are constantly moving because they can’t pay the rent … [P]ublic policy has treated poor children and women who have not had the benefit of Planned Parenthood with utter contempt. These same children, it has been very difficult to get them health insurance through CHIP.

These two women serve as reminders of why we need many more women and people of color serving in public office. To suggest so much is often derided as playing "identity politics," but really, it's just an acknowledgement that people with identities that differ from the status quo of political life–old, white, affluent, and male–have experiences that add something to the public debate and decision-making process. They've been single mothers. They've endured the tragedy of losing a wanted pregnancy. They've been poor.

In short, they've been chiseled by life. 

I think President Obama said this most eloquently, when he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

…as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience."  Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers.  It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. 

4 thoughts on “On Planned Parenthood and the Experiences of Our Elected Representatives

  1. A

    Do you support affirmative action for women in educational settings? I’m asking because you write on both feminism and education and was interested to see if you had a different take on it than most concerning the gender gap.

    Best wishes.

    Reply
  2. Amanda

    So because a woman decides to have sex and thus opens the possibility of becoming pregnant even when she is apparently too poor to be a parent, I, as a taxpayer get to fund an organization whose primary solution to said above problem is an abortion. This is in spite of the fact that I am morally opposed to abortion, but under compulsion to remain a taxpayer.

    I am a little confused how two congresswomen’s “experiences” with their own pregnancies and abortions somehow vindicate the use of taxpayer money for a service that is consequence (in most cases) of a personal choice to have unprotected sex. I also am uncomfortable with the notion that Planned Parenthood abortions are the only solution to an unplanned pregnancy for people deemed too poor to have children; or the implication that Planned Parenthood somehow is doing the poor black community a favor by offering taxpayer funded abortions.
    Life is about hard choices and there are consequences to our actions (good or bad) but forcing the public to fund a “solution” so that kids don’t have to eat ramen noodles or watered down formula, seems . . . well, wrong.

    –Mother of three adopted “black/racially mixed” children

    Reply
  3. TK in MKE

    Oh what bliss is ignorance, and somehow supporting the public funding of Planned Parenthood is enlightened, brave perhaps to the point of being courageous…..But it is too much to ask that a person of limited intellect as Ms Moore, or other “enlightened” idiots know the history or original design of planned parenthood and the genocidal intents of it’s founder and supporters; specifically targeting Blacks and other minorities as inferior…as Founder Marget Sanger eloquently put it:
    On the extermination of blacks:
    “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” said Sanger, “if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
    On sterilization & racial purification:
    Sanger believed that, for the purpose of racial “purification,” couples should be rewarded who chose sterilization. Birth Control in America, The Career of Margaret Sanger, by David Kennedy, p. 117, quoting a 1923 Sanger speech.

    On the right of married couples to bear children:
    Couples should be required to submit applications to have a child, she wrote in her “Plan for Peace.” Birth Control Review, April 1932

    On the purpose of birth control:
    The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” she wrote in the Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

    On the rights of the handicapped and mentally ill, and racial minorities:
    “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12

    Yet here we have Obama, Moore, Clinton (list goes on and on) clueless and blindly making public comments that the above quoted Sanger is such a role model…either they do not know who she really was or we need to really look at their core values and beliefs but you can’t have it both ways. Moore in her typical incoherent babbling suggests that because she was poor and had to feed her children Ramen…that it is OK to decide to instead kill the unborn and have someone else pay for it? How does her not having money when she was 18 (how many of us did?) make it a reproductive right to have someone else fund your abortion? She should put corks in her ears to help the brain from leaking out completely.

    Reply

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