I’ve always admired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which tells the story of a religious coup that results in a theocracy called Gilead, where women are stripped of rights and forced (the world has, except for a few, become mysteriously infertile) to bear children for the society’s elite. Like all dystopian tales, this is an exaggerated version of an existing societal construct and due to the present US administration, and thanks to Hula TV’s brilliant adaptation, the novel has become relevant again. Back in 1985 I could never have imagined a man as regressive as Trump becoming a president, or the idea of free women’s sexual healthcare and contaception being threatened in a supposedly first-world country, or the need to be still protesting about the reproductive rights of women over their own bodies-but here we are. Again.
On May 17th, women protesting the defunding of the non-profit organisation Planned Parenthood appeared outside the Legislative Office Building in New Hampshire, dressed in Handmaid’s costumes to call for the expulsion of Republican State Representative Robert Fisher, after news reports of his involvement in the Reddit forum ‘The Red Pill,’ known for its misogynistic content (he later resigned). In June 13 in Ohio, a group of women assembled in the same costumes to attend a hearing at the Statehouse in Columbus to protest a bill that would ban the dilation and evacuation procedure, the most common abortion method in the state. Importantly, this is the area where the main, usually willful inaccuracies written about Planned Parenthood arise: only 3% of the budget is used for termination of pregancy, most of the funding is used to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place, and to give all women access to regular pap smears, cancer screenings and other necessary sexual health checks. Other protests included Missouri, Austin, Texas and Albany.
The use of this powerful imagery caught the eye of the world’s media. Christine Hauser wrote in the New York Times that “As symbols of a repressive patriarchy, the crimson robes and caps — handmade, repurposed or ordered online — have become an emblem of women’s solidarity and collaboration on rights issues”.
I posted about it on our instagram , addressing *many of the misconceptions regarding PP* to a whole lotta likes. Tracee Ellis Ross reposted it to her followers (all 3.6 million of them, it got 24,804 likes). This was when I saw the comment from Jasmine Shea who said “I was one of those women“. I got in touch and asked her to tell us about the march and why she protested. KayX
Hello. My name is Jasmine Shea, I’m 32 and a college student.
The upper Hudson Planned parenthood got a hold of me and asked if I wanted to take part in the Albany and Washington DC protest. They know I’m down to talk about why PP is important to me or to be present in support. So on the 27th June 2017 I was representing the 518, Upstate NY. Over 200 women and men from all over N.Y. bused down to Washington to make people aware of how much Planned Parenthood means to them and what will happen over the course of the health-care bill if Planned Parenthood is defunded.
A group of thirty of us dressed up as Handsmaids, and walked two by two very silently through the streets of Washington to bring awareness of what complacency and inactiveness can do if Congress doesn’t listen to women.
A lot of Americans really think that Planned Parenthood is only about abortion, they think that-that’s all they do because they’re misinformed. It is true that only 3% of what they do is abortions. I’ve been going there for 15 years and no, I’ve never had one.
Ignorant people assume that it’s just black women who visit PP, because that’s what the basis of Planned Parenthood was in their mind when it began (in 16 October 1916) . People are so misinformed by media such as Fox News and the lies that they give voice to. People who are pro-life are really just pro-baby because if they were pro-life they would care about the women and their health issues and why they go to Planned Parenthood. They seem to only care when the baby is born, but then get upset about a mother having to be on welfare. People don’t realize that Planned Parenthood is the only OB-GYN (an obstetrician-gynecologist) clinic or health center in rural areas. If you close them down women and men who have to travel further just to get health or prenatal healthcare, or even just to hear their kids heartbeat. And they will have to pay a lot for it.
*In 2014, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research center, surveyed all known abortion providers in the US (nearly 2,000) , including PP and found that 60 percent are in majority-white neighborhoods.*
I will admit I’ve never read The Handmaid’s Tale but I’d been reading things about it when it came out (the Hula tv adapation) and I thought this protest was a brilliant way to show that this could happen if we, as a people don’t get involved-if we don’t say anything.
The hardest part of the protest for me was having to stay silent. I would have never survived in the novel’s story because I am very outspoken-I’d be damned if I let anybody tell me what I can do with my body!
I have been a patient of Planned Parenthood for over 15 years and they are my OB-GYN. My primary doctor has always referred me to go there for my women’s health issues. Aside from never having had an abortion, I have never had an STD either so I am very angry at the Republicans for not acknowledging that women like me exist. Women who go to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings and STD testing. I get my birth control there. I feel comfortable talking about my body and asking questions to the doctors, nurses and physicians. I am more in tune with my body becasue of what planned parenthood has taught me over the years.
*Side Note: There are many misconceptions surrounding Planned Parenthood and it’s founder, Margaret Sanger, a controversial figure of the 1920’s, largely due to her interest in Eugenics (see below), a widely and dubiously discussed area at the time. This has been used by the far-right in the U.S. to discredit and create mistrust of PP nearly 100 years later. Kay.*
One of 11 children, Margaret Sanger was a pioneer of birth control and sex education, a writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control” and opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Useful links about Margaret Sanger: