How attacking Planned Parenthood shames women into silence

BY CHRISTINA CONNERTON

By now, we’ve all heard of Congress’s fit over Planned Parenthood funding. As the House attempts to defund the program, we’ve got to ask ourselves why this is all happening.

Is it the cost of abortions

Well, no. Abortions cannot be financed through government funding. When Republicans tell you that your money is paying for the mass genocide of the unborn, they are purposefully leading you astray of the facts.

OK. Could it be those videos, then?

Wrong again. The videos that caused an uproar throughout the Republican debates allegedly show the illegal bartering of baby parts from aborted fetuses by Planned Parenthood doctors. These videos have been proven to be heavily doctored to the point of absurdity, almost like the people behind the videos are purposefully leading you astray of the facts. 

I’m sensing a theme here.

So why are we still talking about this?

Because the fight against Planned Parenthood is really about something much greater. It is, as it always has been, another attempt to police women’s bodies, their experiences, and their sex lives. It confuses voters with emotional rhetoric and then strips women of their rights through shame.

Shame.  

It’s that nasty, little friend that tells us we are unloveable, unworthy, and tainted. It’s deeper than regret. I regret getting drunk the last time I saw my ex-boyfriend and screaming really loudly at the wall for no reason. But I’m not ashamed of it, though some might say I should be.

I felt shame when a guy I was dating made me feel guilty for telling him I didn’t want to have sex with him yet. I thought, just maybe, I had done something wrong, stupid, or childish. And later, I felt shame for having sex with that guy, when he violated my rights in the process. I should have known better.

Shame

Couple that dirty word with people in power telling us we are slutty and murderous, and our self-esteem is going to take a hit. We are going to lose the sense that we are authors of our own stories and that we are privy to our own needs. This can cause a multitude of issues for society.

Abuse and assault survivors less likely to seek out services

A sex offender has two needs: an uneducated society and a person ashamed enough to keep their secrets. When we tell women at a young age that they do not own their bodies and should be ashamed of their basic sexual instincts, we make it harder for them to speak up when a sexual encounter makes them feel dirty, sick, or taken advantage of. This could make women (and men) less likely to seek out services, as they have even more reason to feel ashamed of their bodies. 

Less access to services in general

Forget for a moment about abuse at all and just focus on the need for routine sexual health screenings. When a woman is ashamed of her sexual behavior and needs, she could be less likely to (or able to, given the availability of affordable clinics in her area) seek out medical procedures that could keep her healthy. As we all know, pretending sex doesn’t exist doesn’t make people stop having sex, they just do so in an uneducated way. Similarly, women and men are going to get STIs, and when we stigmatize this, we increase the likelihood that these issues will go unchecked. 

Criminalization of women’s bodies

Policing women’s bodies leads to the incarceration and blame of women’s bodies. Take a look at feticide laws—regulations put in place that, while meant to promote the persecution of people who harm pregnant women, have also led to the incarceration of women who have induced their own abortions or had mysterious or suspicious late-term miscarriages. When we legislate the right to choose, it’s easy to see how regulation can turn into incarceration.

So, what does all this shame and blame accomplish?

Silence.

When someone tells you that they know more about your body than you do, it silences you.

When someone tells you to close your legs and make better choices, it silences your experiences, both good and bad, in the bedroom (or wherever you might choose to have sex).

When someone tells you that your story doesn’t matter, it silences you.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is another ploy to take what you have as a woman and tarnish it. The rhetoric used does not simply call for a reform in funding practices, it slams every woman who walks through those doors. It teaches your daughters that they don’t have the wherewithal, the right, or the understanding to make choices for their bodies and their lives. It shames and it silences. But we are all stronger, louder, and braver than that. We can shed the stigma now. We just have to fight for it. Again. And again. And again.

This story originally appeared on Ravishly. Check out other related articles on Ravishly or follow them on Twitter & Facebook.

Christina Connerton runs Alala News, a humorous take on politics featuring blog posts, podcasts, and music videos. She also writes the bartending blog Chronicles of a Barmaid. 

Photo via PBS NewsHour/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)