What the Planned Parenthood Stings don’t show

In Portland we’ve seen a little of the anti-abortion activism that goes on in this country, but only a small amount. I remember driving by the empty space on Martin Luther King Boulevard where a Planned Parenthood was going to be put in and seeing a small group of people protesting with their picket signs. And from time to time I would also see them on Fremont and 15th, near an already opened Planned Parenthood. This was already scary enough to me, to see people simply protesting against an organization that I really like.

The recent sting operations against Planned Parenthood definitely scare me more, and this is the second time something like this has happened to them.

Just this January, an anti-abortion group called Live Action had 12 men acting as pimps go into Planned Parenthoods in 6 different states and ask about receiving medical care, birth control and abortions for their prostitutes, giving ages as young as fourteen. The experiences the men had were recorded. Two videos have been released since, though analysis shows they were doctored before being released. One Planned Parenthood Manager in one video was fired for her upsetting behavior and comments that were recorded, while the other woman recorded is said to have accurately represented Planned Parenthood’s values. Live Action is trying to “expose” Planned Parenthood for breaking state and federal laws and for covering up abuse against young girls that the organization says they protect. They are ultimately trying to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding.

To read a full article on the situation, go here. You can also read about Live Action, the doctoring of the tapes, and Planned Parenthood’s reaction on their website here.

This extreme scenario of trying to access services for underage prostitutes is a perfect way to get Planned Parenthood in trouble – one wrong word in a situation like this and you are the bad guy. It’s also perfect because it would be making them out to be abusing a group of people they want to protect, young women being coerced into prostitution. This is harassment against individual workers, however, not a productive way to fight Planned Parenthood’s values. Instead of gaining social momentum and using people as power behind their movement, they are using shallow tactics to try to disrupt or end Planned Parenthood. Also, since the videos were edited, then who knows how the exchange even happened? It’s clear that what occurred in these videos do not represent what Planned Parenthood truly stands for. As for the manager that got fired, it is quite unfortunate she acted the way she did (though again, it would be useful to see the unedited footage), and her firing is an appropriate response. Planned Parenthood reacted quickly and how their supporters would want them to, showing they are still protecting their own values.

This is a different approach to undermining and trying to exterminate Planned Parenthood, one that is scarier than protesters. What else are these groups willing to do to end this organization? And what does it mean to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood? It means taking away a huge resource for women, for men, for young people, for us. I use Planned Parenthood’s services, as do many of my friends. I knew the name Planned Parenthood before I ever knew what birth control was. Threatening a leader organization in reproductive rights is expected, but it doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Planned Parenthood stands for so much to so many people; this is a threat to more than the workers that were recorded and the specific locations that were targeted. This is a threat to the entire movement of reproductive rights, healthy sexuality, and access to cheap, safe and affordable reproductive healthcare.

To me this was a reminder that I need to protect Planned Parenthood and organizations like it when I can. As established as Planned Parenthood may seem, there are those who still fight against them. I don’t want to fight against the fighters, but I want to protect what they are attacking.

What does Planned Parenthood mean to you? What would it mean if these sting operations were ever powerful enough to affect their funding? What can you do to protect things like Planned Parenthood? Remember to vote if you can, and take action through volunteering and talking with your peers.

 

Angela Carkner

 

Save A Life, It May Be Your Own: An NLAAD Blog

By Ariel Cerrud, youth blogger for Amplifyyourvoice.org

On October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, I alongside my many peer activists, educators and friends recognized the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD).

Organized by the Latino AIDS Commission in 2003, “NLAAD has been established as a national community mobilization and social marketing campaign that unites the Hispanic/Latino community in efforts to raise HIV awareness, promotion of HIV testing, prevention and education; in addition to other critical health issues such as Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis…”

This year’s theme, Save a Life, It May be your Own. Get Tested for HIV, challenges us to educate ourselves about our own status and get tested, recognizing that regular and consistent testing is perhaps the best tool to combat this disease.

Every 9 ½ minutes, a person in these United States is infected with HIV… every 9 ½ minutes! All of us who work in this field recognize that more and more these days, the faces of those infected are that of our people, young Latinos and Latinas like me.

In the shadow of the day to come, I stopped and thought about what got me started in this field and why I continue to do what I do today.

In 2004, I had the privilege of attending the 11th Annual Ryan White National Youth Conference on HIV/AIDS held here in Portland, Oregon. The conference was a gathering of over 600 young activists, educators, students, and health professionals. In essence, RWNYC was a gathering of anyone and everyone who worked around, was interested in, or impacted by the issues of HIV/AIDS in young people.

For me, this was the first time I had ever attended an event of this type. Quite honestly, going to this conference was a bit outside my comfort zone! I don’t recall if it being my first time was what made me nervous or whether simply because I went to it alone, at the last minute request of a mentor. What I do remember, quite vividly, was sitting in the opening session of the conference, meeting and talking with a young man who was in attendance.

This young man was so charming with quite the lively personality. He was Latino, he spoke Spanish and he was young so we pretty much hit it off during that entire session. I remember conversing with him during the whole hour long plenary. He made it, being there…comfortable, he made it…relatable to me.

Towards the end of the plenary, there came a point where folks had a chance to introduce themselves and share a bit about his story. This young man got up and shared a bit about himself.

To this day, I honestly don’t remember what his name was or any other details about him for that matter. All I remember was one thing; him getting up to that microphone and saying four simple words: “I am HIV positive.”

For a young closeted boy like me who grew up in a small suburban neighborhood of Portland, HIV/AIDS was probably one of the last things on my mind. Looking back at it, this young guy, a guy I simply talked to for an hour at an opening plenary of a conference, probably changed all that!

Attending the RWNYC and meeting that young guy represented a fundamental shift for me personally. Attending that conference was the hook that started my work as a peer educator and activist in the field of HIV/AIDS. Getting to spend those days there made me realize just how prevalent HIV/AIDS is, how impactful it is on communities I am a part of: my Latino community, my young people community, my LGBTQ community just to name a few.  The conference got me to see and understand the many issues and problems that impact those affected by this disease including stigma, misinformation and fear.

More importantly though, getting to meet this young man who in many ways was just like me, was life changing. In many ways I saw myself in him. We match every perceivable demographic yet our lives were very different in one way: our statuses .  Getting to meet him and know him humanized HIV/AIDS. Getting to hear his story and know who he was allowed me to see how real and significant HIV/AIDS is in our community and in our lives.

It has been six years since I attended that conference and in a way I am saddened to see these numbers of infections and the number of folks affected by this illness continue to rise. More worrisome is the notion that within our communities this illness is still not talked about nor understood. I am very lucky to be afforded the opportunity to travel around the country and speak about this very illness and the faces of those in the forefront of this battle give me inspiration to continue.

Young, powerful activists of color are leading the fight for education and understanding of HIV.  Young people are leading the battle by speaking out in their communities, encouraging others, and forging allies all in the goal of ending this struggle. Adolescents with HIV/AIDS, Allied Advocates, HIV/AIDS Activism, Prevention and Support; all of these things are on the rise and are tools in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

The National Latino AIDS Awareness day  is designed to shed light into these issues and so many more. NLAAD is designed to be the spark for someone else like me, as a young boy, to get involved in this struggle and finally bring it to an end. So, with that said, every October 15 (and every day for that matter), take a moment or two  and share this message with someone you care about. Take a moment or two and talk about HIV/AIDS, educate, inform, and pass the message along!

-Ariel