According to 40daysforlife.com, a spring campaign of “fasting” and “outreach” is underway in 167 American cities, including Austin, Houston, and several other Texas towns. The organizers hope to repeat their alleged fall 2009 successses: two clinics closed, seven Planned Parenthood workers resigned.
Here’s a crazy idea. Instead of intimidating people, let’s make a list of things that can be done to prevent the need for abortions.
1.Become a mentor. A kid with a strong mentoring relationship is less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy. http://tiny.cc/MdBvb
2.Volunteer at an afterschool program since kids are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies when they are not in extracurricular activities. http://tiny.cc/rPvOn
3.Volunteer to mentor a foster kid. Teen girls in foster care are 2.5 times more likely than their peers not in foster care to get pregnant by age 19. http://tiny.cc/dyyPh
4.Coach a girls’ sports team. Girls who participate in sports are less likely to become sexually active and pregnant. http://tiny.cc/bMB64
5.Tutor a kid after school. Kids who have educational goals beyond high school are shown to have lower rates of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. http://tiny.cc/EyCyW
6.Volunteer at a local preschool. Early, high-quality preschool education is linked to long-term school performance. Performing well in school is linked to lower risk for unwanted pregnancy. http://tiny.cc/2KeX1
7.Volunteer with the Nurse Family Partnership, a program shown to delay rapid repeat pregnancy in at-risk first time mothers. http://tiny.cc/35c2B
8.Contact your national representatives to support the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act (HR 3312) http://tiny.cc/q6GrH
9.Encourage your college alma mater to require first-year experience courses. These have been shown to reduce unplanned pregnancy. See research from the Community College Research Center atwww.ccrc.tc.columbia.edu.
10.Lobby your representative to repeal the contraceptive coverage section of DRA 2005. An unintended consequence of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 has been the dramatic increase in the price of contraceptives for non-Title X clinics, which has left many college students and low-income women unable to access low-cost, effective methods of contraception.
11.Lobby your representative to extend Medicaid coverage of women who have a birth paid for by Medicaid to include 24 months after the birth of her child. Currently, women are only covered for the 8 weeks after the birth of their child. Women need longer coverage to insure access to contraception and preconception care.
12.Encourage your local school district to provide evidence-based sexual-health curriculum at all grade levels.
13.Volunteer at a domestic-violence shelter since kids who grow up in families with violence are more likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy.
14.Volunteer at a domestic violence shelter since women living in abusive relationships are more likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy and abort. http://tiny.cc/OOfG6
15.Volunteer at a family-planning clinic, or donate to a family-planning clinic. Family planning prevents abortions. Since I can only assume that this is what pro-life people want, I can’t understand why they aren’t standing in line to give funding to family planning clinics.
But do you know what won’t prevent unplanned pregnancies and abortions? Intimidating healthcare workers at a clinic that provides abortions. Intimidating women who are facing a tough decision and deserve privacy and respect. The pro-life movement has very successfully created a climate of intimidation and fear, but if the goal of the movement is to decrease abortion, it is failing. After years of decreasing unintended pregnancy rates and corresponding abortion rates, the numbers are on the rise again http://tiny.cc/76EZA. Though the poll numbers may suggest more people identify as “pro-life”, the movement is failing in what I have to assume is it’s central goal — to prevent abortions.
I cannot understand a movement that would rather scare people with a “we’re watching you” prayer vigil than actually do something that would advance the goal of preventing unwanted pregnancies and subsequent abortions. We have real needs in our communities — needs that require time, commitment, and caring. For a movement that is always screaming about being “responsible,” it seems happy to duck it when it comes to actually providing care or services for women and children or taking responsibility for the results of the increasingly violent rhetoric that is now seen as mainstream.
So, please, don’t waste my time or yours on a show of force that results in nothing useful for anyone. The clinic workers are scared out of their mind that one of you is going to pull a gun. The women are already freaked out. It’s just a crappy thing to do.
Jenny Hixon is an MPH, a DrPH student, the mother of a 2-year-old, a former Planned Parenthood employee, and a third-generation family-planning activist.