Raising My Voice for Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood is in the headlines daily, especially following the House of Representatives’ May 4 vote to pass a new health care bill, which includes a part about “defunding” the organization and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Despite all the news coverage and the women’s marches across the globe, Planned Parenthood’s main purpose is still misunderstood by most people. Abortion is what many, including some of my friends, associate with the organization. The truth is, the primary role Planned Parenthood plays is to provide affordable reproductive health care for anyone who needs it—without judgment. Attempts to “defund” Planned Parenthood disproportionately affect already disadvantaged women who wouldn’t otherwise have access to medical care they desperately need.
I know this because I spent last summer interning at Planned Parenthood’s Chicago office. During my internship I went to a few events where there were protesters outside, who were very aggressive and scared me. These protesters were there to shame and judge people. It was, and continues to be, sad to me that patients going to Planned Parenthood had to deal with that. Volunteers were stationed outside to make sure patients got in safely. The fact that volunteers are needed outside so patients aren’t harassed is crazy—it’s a doctor’s office!
It made me realize how important it was to fight for people’s right to choose to do whatever they want with their bodies. The amazing women and men I worked with there taught me the importance of the group’s mission. After the election, it became even more clear that we need more voices to raise awareness for Planned Parenthood.
I've been interested in the intersection of health care and women’s rights for a long time. A few years ago, I saw a documentary called The Punk Singer about the musician and activist Kathleen Hanna. It became clear to me how important it is for women to stand up for each other; it made me want to do that, too. After my internship, I realized that I could play a role in helping teens speak up.
What started as an idea to host a small fundraiser in Chicago turned into a full-blown concert, Voices for Choices, featuring Wild Belle, as well as other local musicians and slam poets. Between tickets sales and donations the benefit raised $12,000. More than 850 people came. Seeing the packed room was incredible because the main goal was to engage other kids and inspire them to do what we’re doing: mobilizing for something they care about. Maybe we can’t donate huge amounts of money, but we’re a really important part of the community and we have loud, influential voices.
When I think about the future of women’s rights, I know that my generation will play a huge role. I’ve been to so many marches and rallies over the past few months with my friends - teenagers are showing up and we are showing up big. We are brave, we care, and we will not accept anything but progress.
How To Be an Activist
From this process, I learned that even as a young person, organizing an event like this is very possible, especially when you’re working alongside people with whom you share passions and values. Here’s the things I learned for those of you who are thinking about planning an event similar to Voices for Choices:
• Ask for help. There’s no way that I would have been able to organize this event by myself – so ask everyone to be part of the process. You’ll find that when it’s for a good cause, lots of people are always willing to lend a hand (family, friends, teachers, etc.).
• Be organized and work closely with the organization you are volunteering with. There are lots of deadlines and logistics and having the organization support you will be a big help.
• Spread the word! Promote your event via social and traditional media. Draft a press release and send it out widely (blogs, local papers, TV stations etc.) and don’t forget to follow up. Create a Facebook page for your event. And get everyone (participating bands, your friends etc.) to share the event page as well as any media/posts you generate.
• Give people multiple ways to engage. Sell tickets online, in person and set up a donation link so folks who can’t come have a way to participate. Set up a table at the event with information about the organization, a donation card and free giveaways.
• Not everyone supports your cause. There will be those who don’t like the cause you are advocating for and they’re all too happy to tell you. And that’s OK. If you’re passionate about something, you can get past the anxiety that comes with taking a stand. That part isn’t fun but you learn to get past it, because what you believe in is worth standing up for.
• Don’t give up. There will be hurdles and obstacles along the way, but don’t be deterred. Believe in your cause and know that while it may be hard at times, it will be worth it in the end.
By Natasha Lerner, 18