This week, anyone who hadn’t already been following the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood was jolted to attention as the organization’s president, Cecile Richards, went before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Over the course of Tuesday’s five-hour hearing, far-right committee members continued their dishonest and illogical claims about the organization in an effort to bolster their case that the federal government should “defund” Planned Parenthood, or stop the $500 million in Medicaid reimbursements that the organization currently receives for health services such as testing for sexually transmitted infections and providing birth control.
On Tuesday, there was an outpouring of support for the organization, which serves 2.7 million people nationwide. Supporters turned their social media profiles pink and a coalition of activists and patients delivered more than 2.4 million “I stand with Planned Parenthood” petition signatures to congressional leaders. Nearly 300 rallies and events were held nationwide. The sea of pink featured in news reports confirmed the message that Republican hardliners refuse to hear: The American public is not falling for the lies or the narrative that the deceptive, highly edited videos that started this mess seek to portray. Sixty percent of those polled this week believe that any federal budget agreement must maintain funding for Planned Parenthood.
So what now? What beyond that highly successful “pink out” and the hashtags? Here are four ways to stay engaged.
1. Correct the rampant misinformation floating around.
Outright lies underpin this witch hunt. From Carly Fiorina boldly lying to viewers of the last Republican presidential debate about the sting videos, to members of Congress pretending that the Hyde Amendment (which for four decades has banned the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when a pregnancy puts a person’s life at risk) doesn’t exist, hardliners are counting on the power of misinformation. To me, it’s never made much sense to engage in back-and-forths with willfully ignorant ideologues, but there are plenty of people—our friends, our family members—who just don’t know the facts and so are especially vulnerable at times like this. Stay informed and share with them what you know.
2. Organize to preserve and expand abortion access.
If anti-choicers want to pretend that the Hyde Amendment doesn’t exist, now seems as good a time as any to repeal it. An activist coalition called All* Above All has been working nationwide to get Congress to lift bans on abortion coverage. Specifically, they’re trying to pass the EACH Woman Act, which would repeal the restrictions enshrined in Hyde.
Bianca Campbell is a co-founder of Access Reproductive Care Southeast (ARC-Southeast), an abortion fund and advocacy organization based in Atlanta, and a writer with the reproductive justice collective Echoing Ida. She stressed the importance of the bill via e-mail: “Fund volunteers have been doing in-district meetings with their state reps to talk about repealing Hyde and making private insurance cover abortion care as well. Doing that is one way to help Planned Parenthood and the broader access conversation.”
This is just one legislative battle underway, and there are plenty more on the state level. If you want to do something more explicitly focused on Planned Parenthood, call your local affiliate and ask how to get plugged in as a volunteer.
3. Donate to an abortion fund.
In the wake of reports that children’s author Lemony Snicket and his wife have donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood, it’s easy to feel like your $5 or $10 donation is too small. Wrong. There’s still a great need.
“People should be donating to abortion funds,” Campbell of ARC-Southeast and Echoing Ida told me via e-mail. “Planned Parenthood Southeast has the Women In Need Fund, there’s ARC and so many others. It’s important to continue the radical ways we have been circumventing the system for years.”
This means providing a way for people who need an abortion but can’t afford one to get the services they need. Cost is often an issue in part because of widespread clinic closures and mandated waiting periods that force women to travel long distances and pay for transportation and hotels. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds to learn more.
4. Become a clinic escort.
For those willing to stand between people visiting a clinic and anti-choice protesters, becoming an escort is a way to get on the front lines. Elyse Hughes is a volunteer who serves as the Health Center Escort Program Co-chair at Planned Parenthood of New York City. She volunteers once a month at clinics in Manhattan and Brooklyn and also coordinates escorts who show up rain or shine every Saturday morning, which is when protesters who want to dissuade patients from entering are most likely to be there. Hughes said being an escort means helping patients find the entrance amidst all the people and being a smiling face in the crowd. “We’re just there for support and to normalize the process of legal, safe health care as much as possible,” she told me.
Hughes has volunteered as an escort for the past five years and said that in recent months as the attack on Planned Parenthood has ramped up, she’s gotten a flood of outreach from friends who want to know more about what she does and how they, too, can get involved. “Whenever you’re under attack it also gets your volunteers excited,” she said. “The show of support has made me feel like we’re going to be okay. We’re banding together.”