Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood: The Radical Notion of Choosing Parenthood

My Planned Parenthood story doesn't involve any particular tales of obtaining contraception, getting a low-cost exam, or having access to a safe, legal abortion.

Instead, I want to talk about how Planned Parenthood improved my life (and, I believe, the lives of my family members), by simply existing, and adhering to its primary mission:
Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual's income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence.
I was born in 1956. At that time, the phrase "birth control" was younger than I am now, and "The Pill" would not be approved for contraceptive use in the United States for another four years.

During my childhood, the notion that individuals might choose the number of children they engendered was still very controversial in and of itself -- contraceptives were not available to married women in all US States until 1965 (I was age 9), and not available to unmarried women in all States until 1972 (I was 16). Roe v. Wade would not be decided for another year after that.

I've wrestled a bit with how to tell my personal story without invading my parents' privacy -- so I'll make it brief and discrete: After I was born (the fourth of four childen -- an "average" size US family in those days), my parents chose birth control.

I believe that, because of this, I grew up in a family that had better economic viability, a higher level of physical and mental health, and a better quality of life in general.

Without the efforts of Planned Parenthood (and other organizations like it) in educating, offering resources, and advocating for the concept of parenthood as a choice, that may never have happened -- my parents might have never known they had a choice about how many children they were going to have.

It's easy to forget, sometimes, that the idea of "chosen parenthood" is a fairly recent one in my nation -- that easily-obtainable contraception has been available to just two and a half generations, and that safe, medical abortion was legalized less than 40 years ago.

My great-grandmother gave birth to thirteen children. Whether she saw this as a choice or an inevitability, I will probably never know.

I know that I have had the privilege to see child-bearing as a choice, nearly since the time it was a possibility for me, and for that, I thank Planned Parenthood.

Read the rest of the My Planned Parenthood Carnival posts here.