In Susan Minot’s novel Thirty Girls, thirty Ugandan girls are kidnapped by rebels and face various traumas. In the novel it was made clear that women’s health issues are a taboo topic. The girls, specifically Esther who narrates a portion of the novel, were uneducated on health issues, such as HIV, that could have affected them as a result of being raped. The nurses and counselors who worked with the girls did not inform them of any risks and issues that they may face as a result of being raped nor did they discuss coping with the trauma. Esther describes visiting a nurse after returning home: “The nurse will maybe take a blood test, but she will only do this if you make the request. Most girls do not know to request it because no one has told them. No one wants to frighten them about the HIV virus” (Minot 53). This lack of education and unwillingness to discuss women’s health issues in Minot’s fictional work is a direct reflection of the stigma surrounding women’s health all over the world, both Western and Non-Western countries. Because women’s health is not being openly discussed, due to institutions, such as the government, silencing its importance, women around the world face challenges when it comes to having access to healthcare.  It is important to have programs and organizations that work to provide women of all races and economic statuses with easy access to a range of health services. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood attempt to make healthcare more accessible to women all over the world.

What is Planned Parenthood? Some may think it is exclusively an abortion clinic providing services to women in need. Although Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, they provide many other health care services in the hopes of advancing global health. A major barrier in the advancement of women’s health is the lack of education and resources. By providing women with education, they become aware of what health care issues there are and how they can deal with those issues, for example, preventative measures that can be taken, treatment options, counseling, etc. Through education, women become safer, as they are aware of issues and how to deal with them and become empowered, as they can take control of their own health. Nearly as important as education, which Planned Parenthood provides, is access to their services.

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As the graph above shows, abortions are a very small percentage of the services that Planned Parenthood provides annually. The majority of these services provide care to women who may not be able to afford the care needed to be healthy. Women have the right to control their own bodies. If they wish to be sexually active, socioeconomic status should not prevent them from having control over their bodies. Planned Parenthood provides many of these services to women with no health insurance at little or no cost, due to the funding from the government, private investors, and donations made by the public. However, abortion services are not free and their prices vary based on geographical location of the Planned Parenthood site and on the day since last menstrual period. According to Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, abortion services range anywhere between $400 and $1100. The clinicians who perform the abortions are trained and educated on the safest route for an abortion. Two of the most common ways to perform an abortion are the abortion pill and surgical procedure. These are safe and effective procedures that attempt to minimize the recovery time. Counseling services are available to those who have had an abortion to allow them to cope and be mentally healthy after their procedure.

Anti-abortion politicians are fighting diligently to defund Planned Parenthood and the various services they provide. Defunding Planned Parenthood would strip the right for millions of women to be able to access necessary medical care, including testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI), contraceptives, cancer screenings, and many more. Many politicians are ignorant to the fact that Planned Parenthood provides more than just abortion services. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are contraception and testing for STI’s. These services not only benefit the patient, but also future and current sexual partners, bettering their community. Planned Parenthood, and the millions of women who depend on its services, have the right to receive medical care.

Here are some ways to get involved in the fight for Planned Parenthood:

  • Planned Parenthood’s website offers upcoming ways to participate in the fight to keep the government funding. Whether it be calling a local Congress member or signing various petitions, Planned Parenthood provides the resources for people to stay updated.
  • One quick and simple way to show support for Planned Parenthood is to write to Congress advocating on behalf of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides a template that can be submitted online through their website that adds your name to a petition aimed towards preventing their defunding.
  • With the possibility of Planned Parenthood being defunded, this organization will need financial assistance to still provide care to millions of people. A small, monthly or one-time, donation can be made to make a difference on the international level.
  • Watch how activism for Planned Parenthood has and will continue to fight for access to women’s health care.
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