September 06, 2011

The Right Way? Musings from a Summer Internship

For most people, the first word that comes to mind upon hearing the words Planned Parenthood (PP) is abortion.  Because of the sensitivity associated with abortion, people seem to solely focus on that issue and disregard all of the work Planned Parenthood does.  Before this summer, I knew it performed abortions, but I honestly did not know what else it did.  During my summer volunteer position at PP, I learned of the vital medical services it offers to women.  I did not understand why people wanted to get rid of such an organization.  It all seemed to be because of one word: abortion.

On one of my scheduled work days, a day when abortions are performed,  there are anti-choice protesters that gather outside of the building holding signs.  I also stumbled upon this one website which is a collection of stories written by activists and staff of Planned Parenthood from all over the country and focus on the anti-choice protesters and their encounters with them.  Some PP locations have to have escorts walk with women who want an abortion to protect them from heckling and harassment of the anti-choice protesters.  I read about how one group of anti-choice protesters rented the building next to a PP location and advertised “Free Pregnancy Tests.”  In reality, this was to lure women in and pressure them into not getting an abortion.  I just did not realize how far these protesters would go to prevent women from having an abortion.  I understand that people have their morals.  They have every right to do so, but what a woman wants to do with her body is her choice. 

The negative opinions surrounding PP just kept appearing to me and overwhelmed me.  One thing I had to do for PP is phone bank.  Because I assumed that these people were not against PP, I did not expect any negative responses, but I was so wrong.  I gave my usual response of “OK. Thank you. Have a nice day,” but some people’s hostile reactions got to me.  Here I was making a harmless and polite phone call and in response I got to hear how you “abhor” what “my people” do.  As if I am some kind of alien or different kind of human being just because I think a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body.  Just because we had differing opinions concerning what PP does and represents does not give them a reason to be rude.  Even though I had only listened to two nasty responses, I was still really affected by them.  That along with everything else made me think, “If there are so many negative and hostile reactions, there must be something wrong with what I’m doing.”  I know that is immature and childish thinking, but for some reason, that thought just filled my mind.  Then, of course, my line of thinking went to, “Am I doing something wrong then?”  At that point, I just broke. 

With the help of talking to my mom, I realized that I was absolutely not doing anything wrong.  My work with Planned Parenthood reflected a personal opinion of mine, and not everyone agreed with that opinion, which is absolutely fine.  I mean, not everyone is going to agree with me that mixing hot chocolate and coffee is absolutely amazing.  Or that Sia is an amazing songwriter/singer.  It’s a fact that there is always going to be someone who disagrees with you on something.  I realized this and I learned to accept that even though I don’t agree with anti-choice protesters and the methods in which they express that, they have the right to do so.  But the work that I did with PP this summer is helping millions of women everywhere, and I absolutely proud of that. 

Ariana is a guest post contributor to the WCC blog with her ongoing column, The Right Way? Ariana is currently a senior at Bryn Mawr College where she is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Her intention for the column is to share her experiences during the last two years in her college bubble before she enters the big and scary real world.  She hopes you enjoy her posts because she certainly enjoys writing them. 

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