Freedom of Speech: A Response to Planned Parenthood Protesters

Abortion. It’s been a hot topic for as long as I can remember. As a teen, I often went to visit my mother at her place of work, Planned Parenthood. On abortion day–the day or days of the week on which Planned Parenthood performs abortion procedures–I was always bombarded with a hoard of protesters assuming I was there for my own abortion. They would tell me I was “sinning,” “committing murder,” or, my personal favorite, “don’t you know your baby has finger and toe nails?!” even though they had no clue how “far along” I apparently was. Although I was visiting Planned Parenthood just to say hello to my mom and her friends, I would always play along and let the protesters think that I was, in fact, there to get an abortion. I would respond with phrases like, “it’s my body so why on earth would you have a say in what I do with it?” or “I am only sixteen, I have no possible way to support a child and I still have many years of adolescence to experience myself.” These are just some of the more tame responses I gave the protesters. This is the kind of protest one will see outside of any given Planned Parenthood on abortion day, even in one of the most liberal cities in the United States: my hometown, Portland, Oregon.


I can’t fathom what a protest on abortion day in a conservative city would look like, but on Thursday, Sept. 22, I got a small taste. An Anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood activist, Bobby, informed me of all the misgivings he had about Planned Parenthood while handing out pamphlets at the East Colton entrance of Hunsaker Plaza. He told me about the illegal trafficking of “baby” parts Planned Parenthood was involved in. (Note: this issue had been resolved months ago when it was proven that Planned Parenthood was in fact donating, not selling, fetal tissue, to leading research institutions in order to contribute to medical advances in Parkinson’s Disease, and previously, the development of the Polio vaccine.)


Bobby also informed me that, “New Mexico allows abortion of babies the day before birth…. And actually I think California too.” Now, this is technically true. There are nine states and D.C. which do not have specific laws prohibiting abortion after a certain point in pregnancy. But what he failed to tell me, or possibly did not know himself, is that although there are no specific laws restricting the time in a pregnancy at which a woman can receive an abortion, it is up to the doctor’s discretion whether or not to perform the procedure. The current standard is that a doctor will only perform an abortion if it will not harm the health of the woman receiving it. Therefore doctors do not perform abortions the day before a woman is due to give birth because it will do considerable harm to the woman receiving the abortion.


Bobby then asked me if I supported the choice to have an abortion the day before birth. I explained the previous concept to him and said that so long as the procedure is safe then yes, I support the woman’s right to an abortion. Bobby responded by drawing what he thought to be a parallel. He said,


“If you believe abortion is okay the day before birth then what about the second after birth? What if the mother decided she did not want the baby and killed him or her right then and there? Is that okay too?”


I was shocked that he believed that these two concepts were equivalent to one another. One concept, abortion, is a right of every woman made legal across the nation by the supreme court decision Roe vs. Wade, while the other concept, murder, is a convictable felony offense in the United States of America.


As I left the conversation to go to class, I was handed an anti abortion pamphlet entitled “UNFAIR!” Reading this pamphlet cover to cover, I could not wrap my head around what was written inside. With titles such as “Abortion is Unfair to Women” and a quote saying that “…the effects of abortion are much more far-reaching than the effects of rape” I was simply dumbfounded by the entire brochure. “UNFAIR!” included a fact that after Poland passed a law making abortions illegal that the number of abortions decreased from 15,000 per year to 174 per year. Reading this fact, I did not count it as a success, but a failure. I could only think about all the women who needed help but could not receive it, and wonder what measures they had to take in order to get the abortion they needed.


I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and should be able to express themselves. But I also believe that when advertising a perspective, such as pro-life, one should use accurate facts when speaking to the general public. If I had been someone who was not informed on Planned Parenthood and abortion I could have easily been mislead by Bobby’s misconstrued statements.


In keeping with the idea that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, here is mine: I believe every woman has the right to choose abortion in any given circumstance. I also believe that no one should be able to govern that choice, because it is in fact a woman’s own body, and a woman’s own life and therefore her own choice.