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Planned Parenthood: Care, No Matter What

Politics

The English idiom: “a picture is worth a thousand words," aptly describes newly sworn-in president-elect, Donald Trump, as he climbed out of the chauffeured vehicle, leaving his wife behind, never once looking for her, or taking the time to do what usually comes naturally for most couples-a little thoughtfulness and a willingness to share such a historic moment with the woman he calls his wife. After all, the U.S. Presidential Inauguration only takes place once every four years. Some might point out that he may have been distracted. Trump did himself no favors to dispel the talk that he's an out-and-out misogynist when he left his wife behind. President Obama, took a moment to wait and welcome her to join in the festivities. Trump's faux pas has been discussed by many as a harbinger of worse to come.


But this article is not about the newly elected president. It's far more important than that. It's about an organization that has transformed millions of lives for more than 100 years.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (PPFA), is a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health services both in the United States and worldwide partnering with organizations in 12 countries. Stateside, PPFA, consists of 159 medical and non-medical affiliates, which operate over 650 health clinics. The organization directly provides a variety of reproductive health services and sexual education, contributes to research in reproductive technology, and performs advocacy work aimed at protecting and expanding reproductive rights.

A relevant history lesson not taught in school...

Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, on October 16, 1916, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, where she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, in 1921. Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell were arrested and jailed, accused of distributing obscene materials at the clinic. Sanger preferred going to jail, turning down the option to simply pay fines instead, realizing that the cause would garner national attention, which it did. Though convicted on misdemeanor charges, Sanger's strategy paid off: the convicting judge modified the law to permit physician-prescribed birth control, a watershed moment that led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sexual education in the U.S.

It became Planned Parenthood in 1942, because people had found the previous name offensive and against families.

By 1960, the Federation had provided family planning counseling in hundreds of communities across the country. Interestingly enough, Sanger-like many other advocates of birth control-publicly condemned abortion, arguing that it would not be needed if every woman had the education and access to birth control. Following Sanger, Alan Frank Guttmacher became president of Planned Parenthood, serving from 1962 until 1974. During his tenure the FDA approved the sale of the original birth control pill, giving rise to new attitudes towards women's reproductive freedom. PPFA also lobbied the federal government to support reproductive health, culminating with President Nixon's signing of Title X to provide governmental subsidies for low-income women to access family-planning services.

Then in 1978 Faye Wattleton became the first African-American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

During Wattleton's term PPFA grew to become the seventh largest charity in the country, providing services to four million clients each year through its 170 affiliates, across 50 states. Then from 1996 until 2006, Gloria Feldt became president and activated the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the organization's political action committee, launching what was the most far reaching electoral advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the PPFA mission. Current president, Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor, Ann Richards, and formerly deputy chief of staff to the U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, started her term on February, 2006. Richards was voted one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, in 2012.

Our elected officials...

A year ago the 114th Congress kicked off 2016, much like it had in 2015, by voting yet again to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest family-planning provider, because its health services include abortion. There's already a federal law preventing taxpayer dollars from being used toward abortions (patients have to pay for abortions out-of-pocket). But Republicans have long despised the family-planning provider for ideological reasons, and now they control the House, Senate and the White House.

Courtesy of Longroom.

Scarlett Johannson revealed she visited planned parenthood as a teen during her speech at the Women's March.

More than 40 years after Roe vs Wade, politicians are still trying to legislate what women can and can't do with their bodies. North Dakota, recently passed a law that outlaws a woman's right to choose, starting as early as six weeks, even if a woman is raped. Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman's right to choose--laws that would make it harder to get contraceptive care, laws that would sever access to cancer screenings and terminate educational programs that would help prevent teen pregnancies.

Help spread the word...

Millions are standing with Planned Parenthood with #PlannedParenthood@PPAct and #IStandwithPP because there's simply too much at stake to allow government to interfere with our rights for reproductive health. Today, approximately one in five women in the U.S., visit Planned Parenthood, and nearly 75 percent of those women are low income. “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body," was the motto coined by Margaret Sanger over 100 years ago.

It still rings true today, but now more than ever, our help is needed. Grassroots protests and fundraisers can have a significant impact toward protecting one of the most relevant organizations, not just in the United States but also throughout the world. It is easy to forget that sometimes the smallest deeds ignite the greatest outpouring of support and action.

Deeds...

Tuffet restaurant, in Brooklyn, raised over $3,500 for Planned Parenthood, through a raffle, silent auction and drink sales. The owner, said that she didn't think that she would be the best person to address questions on the current political climate that threatens the access to healthcare for millions of women across the country. She's wrong. Her actions, like the actions of countless other selfless individuals, who do far more for the betterment of society than so-called elected officials, are a powerful reminder that deeds address needs far more often than words.

Deeds like proposing legislation favored by many elected officials to not only take away the legal right to choose, but also take away life-saving access to cancer screenings, health education, annual well-women exams, HPV vaccine, pap tests (cervical cancer screenings), STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, HIV testing, urinary tract infection testing, breast exams, vasectomies, birth control, pregnancy options education, is not only heartless. It's also a not-so-subtle way to discriminate and harm millions of people (not just women) nation-wide. The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.

The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.

Did You Know...?

- Today more than 55 million women have no co-pay birth control thanks to the Affordable Care Act, saving women an estimated $1.4 billion in its first year alone

- In 2014-2015, thanks to Planned Parenthood, we saw a 40 year low for teen pregnancies

- Planned Parenthood's website garners 60 million annual visits

- The FDA approved Liletta, (Feb 2015) an IUD device that is safe and effective for up to three years and is priced at $50 at qualifying public health clinics

- In June 2015, The Lancet published a study conducted by Planned Parenthood affiliates and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, about how training healthcare providers in contraceptive counseling and insertion of the most effective forms of reversible contraception-IUDs & implants-could affect patients contraceptive decisions and prevent unintended pregnancies

- Since Roe vs Wade, 11 murders, dozens of attempted murders and hundreds of death threats have plagued Planned Parenthood facilities in the U.S.

- In 2015, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, advocated for a landmark law making Oregon the first state in the nation to require health insurance companies to give a year's supply of the pill, patch, or ring up front

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.