Tomorrow marks the kick-off of 40 Days for Life, a sustained protest of Planned Parenthood. Protesting will take place 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for 40 days. The official website of 40 Days for Life describes its movement as 40 days of "prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil and community outreach." Planned Parenthood, which experienced similar protests this past spring, is concerned that protesters will harass patients and distribute false information.
Planned Parenthood of St. Louis provides a variety of services including birth control and emergency contraception; testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases; counseling and testing for patients with HIV; screening for breast, cervical, testicular and prostate cancer; HPV vaccinations, colposcopy and cryotherapy (procedures that can help prevent cervical cancer); vasectomies; well-woman GYN exams; and yes, abortions and abortion counseling.
While the protesters focus on abortion alone, it's important to recognize that Planned Parenthood provides a wide variety of health services. Planned Parenthood is a resource available to all members of the community, but importantly, is overwhelmingly utilized by the poorest members of our community. And no wonder. If I need to pick up my birth control pills, I would much rather do so in the privacy of my local Walgreens rather than face down a line of angry protesters each month-even if it means I pay more for a drug than I would have had I gone to Planned Parenthood and paid according to their sliding-scale fee schedule. I have insurance, I can afford my prescription co-pay, I have that luxury. Not everyone does.
Obviously these protesters have a right to picket outside. But patients also have a right to receive medical care without fear of harassment. I drive past Planned Parenthood on Forest Park Parkway frequently, and the protesters are generally quiet and non-threatening. However, there have been times when angry people have been gathered outside the gates, shouting at anyone who dares walk inside. A polisci professor who volunteers as a clinic escort has told me stories of protesters videotaping cars driving in and out of the Planned Parenthood parking lot in order to look up license plate numbers and attempt to find home addresses. Given the still-recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider in Wichita, these protests are understandably intimidating to patients and clinic employees alike.
Fortunately, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is fighting back. They've launched a Defend The Truth campaign, complete with a large banner on the side of their Central West End building. There's also a new blog, promising "regular updates on reproductive health news, useful resources and links, as well as personal stories of why our patients, staff, board members and community love Planned Parenthood."
If you'd like to support Planned Parenthood and the services it provides to our community, you may donate to their Defend the Truth campaign here. I think their donation page says it best:
"No woman, man, or teen should have to be harassed while accessing basic health care or going to work. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region is a critical safety net provider of preventative care in our community, serving more than 52,000 people each year."
If you think it's important for all members of our community to have access to quality medical care, and you think they should be able to receive that care with dignity and without fear of harassment, please donate what you can. Defend the truth.