On Friday, November 27, a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs killed three people. Nine others were injured, and hundreds were forced to shelter in place. As of this writing, the vast majority of presidential candidates had failed to comment on the shooting. For the record, these include Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and—almost surprisingly—Donald Trump.
Planned Parenthood is obviously a controversial organization, especially among Republicans. Abortion is, theoretically, the lightning-rod issue. But as legal scholar Reva Siegel has pointed out, most abortion restrictions are not, as their advocates claim, rooted in a defense of (potential) life. Rather, abortion restrictions are today justified primarily through gender stereotypes that emphasize sex-specific roles and constructs. Why else, for example, would legislators not impose criminal sanctions on those who seek abortions? Why else would those who campaign against abortion focus on “women’s health”? And why would those who believe aborting fetuses constitutes murder allow for an exception in the case of race or incest?
When viewed in this light, Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s role as a comprehensive women’s health provider makes sense.
My support for Planned Parenthood has deep roots. I value women and their health. I believe in reproductive equality. I feel strongly that, whatever my personal feelings about abortion, I have no right to impose them on others.
But I also know about the other work Planned Parenthood does. When I was 21, I was raped. The experience was—to put it mildly—fraught. My father was in the hospital with a terminal illness, I had yet to internalize the meaning of “acquaintance rape,” and I was deeply focused on my own supposed wrongdoing. But I knew, immediately, where to go for anonymous, affordable, emergency contraception and STI screening.
You can see where I’m going here.
Planned Parenthood provides birth control to women who want to practice safe sex and become parents whenever and with whoever makes the most sense for them. Republican leaders call those women sluts. Planned Parenthood provides routine gynecological care to women who may not be able to afford visits to a private practice. Republican leaders call those women welfare queens. Planned Parenthood provides safe, anonymous assistance to women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Republican leaders think these women are a distraction.
Those who fail to speak up for Planned Parenthood are endangering the health, safety, and freedom of women throughout our country. So, to anyone who thinks they have what it takes to govern and lead: Stand with your daughters. Stand with your constituents. Stand with Planned Parenthood.