Analysis

Women need to learn about their bodies, but Planned Parenthood isn’t the one to teach them

planned parenthood

In a recent conversation between actress and abortion activist Melissa McCarthy and Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, both women appeared to repeatedly advocate for girls and women to have open and honest conversations about their reproductive systems. Unfortunately, neither woman acknowledged that Planned Parenthood is the last logical place a girl or woman should go to actually learn about the beauty of how her reproductive system is designed.

Talking about reproduction shouldn’t make women fear their fertility  

McCarthy lamented the idea that “our bodies have become a political platform for politicians” adding, “the irony is, if I ever wanted to sit down and talk about my actual reproductive rights or my ovaries or my vagina, like, I feel like the same politicians that want to control it sure don’t want to talk about it. They’d be like… ‘oh! we don’t talk about lady parts!'” McGill Johnson concurred, relating how her own elderly mother chooses not to use anatomically correct names for private parts.

Planned Parenthood’s own disturbing and dangerous sex education programs may use anatomically correct names for reproductive body parts, but former employees have shared that rather than teaching young men and women to respect their own bodies, the programs normalize every kind of sexual activity and even lead to increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and abortions.

In contrast, groups like the Guiding Star Project teach preteen participants in the Guiding Star Cycle Show about how their their menstrual cycles work. Guiding Star’s messaging is that, “by giving [young people] the tools and the education to understand their bodies, they’re going to make better decisions that are in line with avoiding risky behaviors. They’re going to care for their dignity and the dignity of their partner.”

In reality, Planned Parenthood, which provides precious few adoption referrals and very little prenatal care, thrives on teaching women to fear their own fertility by encouraging the mass distribution of contraception. This sends the message that women must alter, suppress, or destroy their fertility in order to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

If you’re only talking about birth control and abortion, you’re not educating women and girls

McGill Johnson expressed dismay about so-called “abortion bans” that would outlaw abortion after a heartbeat (which starts between 16 and 21 days after fertilization) can be detected, stating that she did not know that she was pregnant with either of her daughters until 8 or 9 weeks. McCarthy agreed, saying she too had learned about her pregnancies around this time. McGill Johnson and McCarthy may be unaware that women who use fertility awareness-based methods of family planning can often target their child’s conception to the day, based on their knowledge of their fertile window.

Later on, McCarthy commented again, “There is still such a stigma around anything reproductive or female, that we shouldn’t talk about it, ‘don’t talk about it, girls,’ don’t get pregnant.” She continued, “Great! Let’s have a really open conversation about that. And then it’s like, ‘well, we don’t want to do that!” McCarthy was consistently vague in her assertions about wanting to be “open” with her daughters so that “they can ask me anything.” McGill Johnson eventually stated more explicitly that she and McCarthy were not referring to educating their daughters on much more than avoiding pregnancy and being “open” about abortion as a reasonable response to an unplanned pregnancy.

Misogyny shouldn’t be packaged as women’s empowerment

McGill Johnson actually appeared to perpetuate old stereotypes about women needing to be like men in order to succeed, noting her approval of “more and more movies, television shows that are featuring these badass women that are living their authentic lives, including having an abortion.” In reality, motherhood and professional success aren’t mutually exclusive, and a world which insists otherwise is only reinforcing the misogyny McGill Johnson claimed to loathe.

READ: Corporate misogyny: Nearly 200 CEOs claim banning abortion is bad for business

At one point, McCarthy surprisingly hit the nail on the head regarding the benefits of girls and women learning to work with, rather than against, the natural rhythms of their own bodies. Though she was actually ruefully referring to teaching her daughters to ‘advocate for their rights,’ and then wanting to eat her words when one preteen daughter wanted to dye her hair, her quote is pertinent to the tremendous courage and strength that come from teaching girls their own dignity and worth.

“I do think that when that [kind of education] starts that young, it’s also when someone — on every other level of being a woman and dealing with your own body — you feel like you can speak up,” she said. “You feel like you can advocate for yourself. And when you see that happening in young women? It’s everything.”

Yes, girls should be educated about their own bodies. If girls knew from a young age their own dignity and worth, perhaps they would also respect the lives of their own innocent preborn children as well. If they were taught the goodness rather than the ‘brokenness’ of their own bodies which are able to ovulate, gestate, and lactate, then we as a society wouldn’t rely so heavily on birth control and abortion.

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