A few years ago, during the initial wave of early-2010s attacks on Planned Parenthood, I went to a rally where I heard rock icon Kathleen Hanna talk about being young and wandering into Planned Parenthood when she was sick with an infection and in need of care. It made an impression; here was a woman who had been idolized by her fans at the time and had a sort of cult fame, but who still needed Planned Parenthood to help her out of a real health jam.
In the intervening years, many more celebrities have come forward to support Planned Parenthood and share their stories of getting treatment there — usually not abortion care, but some other kind of desperately needed education and testing.
This week, as Congress held a mostly sham hearing about Planned Parenthood and threatened to cut off Medicaid reimbursements for its patients, more celebrities shared their stories. Musicians like Neko Case and Sara Bareilles took to Twitter to do this.
Going even further, bestselling YA novelist Libba Bray blogged about her experience sneaking out to Planned Parenthood to receive both birth control and desperately needed sex ed:
There, in the privacy of her office, I could ask all sorts of questions without shame, questions about birth control, my body, and sex. Again, without shame or judgment, I could have those questions answered knowledgeably. I didn’t have to rely on sketchy second-hand information from a teen friend of a friend whose cousin’s older sister swore that if you douched with vinegar right after sex, you couldn’t get pregnant. (Spoiler alert: That’s bananas. Also, your lady parts will smell like an Olive Garden salad. Just sayin’.)
When I left, with five months’ worth of birth control pills in a brown bag, I was relieved and empowered. I felt like an adult—like a woman driving her own body for the first time. The choice was mine and mine alone. I was responsible for my choice and my body, and I liked that very much. I had gone in like a young Frodo and left like Gandalf. Boo-ya, bitches.
Other prominent authors also tweeted about themselves — and their characters — obtaining birth control at Planned Parenthood:
Meanwhile, Jennifer Weiner tangled, humorously, with critics of her pro- PP stance who demanded that women simply not have sex:
In an earlier video, Elizabeth Banks spoke about getting birth control from Planned Parenthood when she was younger, for medical reasons:
Other celebrities chimed in without personal stories, but with great enthusiasm for the cause:
These high-profile tweets and stories are probably not going to change anyone’s mind (although who knows, maybe someone out there loves Neko Case more than she hates abortion). Opponents of Planned Parenthood have already demonstrated a great willingness to ignore the real-life experiences of women. But the stories do show why it’s so hard, no matter how beleaguered Planned Parenthood is, to fully shut down the organization.
Approximately 1 in 5 American women (and many men) have walked through a Planned Parenthood clinic’s doors for one reason or another. And because of the organization’s commitment to serving everyone in nonjudgmental way, regardless of income, chances are that that reason had to do with real need, not convenience, as opponents of Planned Parenthood like to believe. If the clinics serve the young and low-income clients primarily and they are seeing millions of those clients a year, there’s a healthy chance that many of those young and broke or scared patients will end up becoming famous.
Celebrities who have visited Planned Parenthood put the lie to the idea that it’s not a needed or popular institution, and also demonstrate exactly why it endures these attacks. Much like last week’s #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag showed, social media has allowed us to hear each other’s stories about controversial topics in a direct way — and to realize that, yes, we all probably know someone who has needed services at Planned Parenthood, even if no one around us has admitted it.
As Rebecca Traister wrote yesterday, Americans continue to love Planned Parenthood. While they might occasionally be swayed by smear campaigns, in this case people’s actual experience — and the life experience of their peers, friends and more — trumps the rumors.
Americans love Planned Parenthood so much that in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday, 61 percent of people polled said that they opposed cutting funds to the organization. But more notably, Planned Parenthood again emerged as the entity with the highest favorability ratings in the poll, with 47 percent of respondents saying they feel positively about it, more than felt good about either political party or any of the presidential candidates.
With all this in mind, it’s hard to watch the way the male congressmen continually badgered and interrupted PPFA President Cecile Richards without wondering if they’re deliberately shooting themselves in the foot. Not only were the optics terrible, but they were in service of an organization that has supported, and is not supported by, the famous and non-famous alike.