Saturday, January 21, 2012
Words are strange and powerful tools. With a handful of syllables, slight nuances communicate specific ideas. This reality is particularly significant when we are expressing strongly held, opposing viewpoints. The only way to engage in meaningful dialogue in those situations is to define the other’s view in a way that he/she would acknowledge as valid.
In the Jan. 1 Steamboat Pilot & Today, Allison Whitney (representing Planned Parenthood) wrote an editorial lamenting that the morning-after pill (emergency contraception/“Plan B”) was not approved for over-the-counter use by minors. In her article, she repeatedly referred to what she perceived to be the views of “anti-choice activists.” I imagine that if she knew me, she might label my views as “anti-choice.” However, I reject that label, just as I expect that Ms. Whitney would reject being labeled “pro-death” or “anti-life.”
A 2009 Washington Times article highlighted a statistic reported by the Elliott Institute: 64 percent of women surveyed said they felt “pressured into an abortion they did not want.” Two-thirds of women who decided to terminate their pregnancies did not think they had any choice. That tragedy should move the rhetoric about a woman’s “right to choice” out of the political arena. We should all be able to agree that women deserve to have enough time, information and freedom to determine what they want to do.
As director of the Steamboat Springs Pregnancy Resource Center, I believe that every woman facing the difficult questions that accompany an unintended pregnancy should have every option available to her. We are decidedly pro-woman, meaning that we advocate on the behalf of women, ensuring that they have full access to every choice. We offer accurate, current information about a woman’s options, truthful answers, unlimited support, genuine care and any resource she needs in order to make informed, holistic decisions for herself. We invest in our clients’ health long-term, providing support at every level. We care about women, and our services are free and confidential.
Regarding the morning-after pill, I applaud the decision not to sell it over the counter. As a parent, I am perplexed that my daughter cannot take an aspirin at school without my signed permission, yet some would advocate that she has the right and sufficient maturity to make major decisions about her health specifically without my knowledge.
After talking with 13-, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds who have stockpiled the Plan B pill, thinking they need to use it every time they have sex, I know for a fact that many teenagers do not even understand how their bodies function, let alone the potential effects of these drugs. They do not know that the manufacturer strongly states that Plan B is not to be used as a method of birth control. They do not know that the FDA never tested the effects of this drug on minors under the age of 17. They do not know that many board-certified obstetricians affirm that pregnancy begins with fertilization, not implantation. In that view, by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting, Plan B can interrupt a pregnancy. No one knows what long-term effect Plan B may have on teenagers who are using it repeatedly. How can it be prudent to facilitate access to these pills for minors and to encourage them to ingest powerful chemicals without input from parents and physicians?
As a parent, a woman and a community leader, I strongly think that teenagers need adults to engage them in honest, intelligent dialogues about the integrity of their sexual choices. Parents need to communicate the broad ramifications of those choices. Adults throughout the community need to have accurate, comprehensive information so we can encourage adolescents to pursue decisions they can live with, relationships without regret, respect for themselves and one another. I’m glad that the Pregnancy Resource Center exists in Steamboat to be a compassionate, trustworthy part of all these conversations.
Executive Director, Steamboat Springs Pregnancy Resource Center