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My faith calls me to support Planned Parenthood

The Rev. Darcy Baxter of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship gives the invocation during the rabbinic installation ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Bochner at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto, Calif., on Sunday, August, 16, 2015.
The Rev. Darcy Baxter of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship gives the invocation during the rabbinic installation ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Bochner at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto, Calif., on Sunday, August, 16, 2015. Modesto Bee file

I’m a minister, and I wholeheartedly support Planned Parenthood. I believe the work they do is sacred work because Planned Parenthood cares for the poorest among us.

Whenever I hear of a Planned Parenthood facility getting vandalized or attacked, as our Modesto Planned Parenthood health center was recently, I immediately think of the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew, particularly this line: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

I see the often-violent opposition to Planned Parenthood as a sign of the righteousness of their work. Did not many of our religious prophets suffer such persecution?

Yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortion services – a procedure one in three women will choose by the time they are 45 years old, according to a 2011 study by the Guttmacher Institute.

Because I worked on a national hotline for two years counseling women facing unplanned pregnancies, abortion is not an abstraction to me. I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of women. I bore witness to the complexity of their lives, their struggles, their decisions. The experiences they shared with me forever changed my faith and what I believe faith looks like. The people working inside Planned Parenthood are people of profound faith – faith in radical compassion. The kind of compassion that does not deny how hard life is for too many of us.

According to numbers provided by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which operates the Modesto site, our center provides care to over 7,000 patients each year. More than 5,000 of them earn less than $11,770 a year.

In human terms, based on the number of services PPMM provides in the regions it serves, this is what it could mean for Modesto Planned Parenthood to close even for one week, as it did after the arson attack on May 25:

▪ 113 patients who live below 100 percent of the federal poverty line would not have a health care appointment.

▪ 244 women would not get long-acting contraception.

▪ 14 women would not get Pap smears.

▪ 97 patients would not get tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea – sexually transmitted diseases that, here in our region, are at among the highest rates in the state.

▪ 34 would not get tested for HIV.

▪ 12 women would not get a mammogram referral.

▪ 14 family medicine appointments for services, such as child immunizations and cholesterol-checks, would be canceled.

▪ And, yes, four women would not get the abortion care they wanted and needed.

Care for our poorest? This is what gets attacked? Since this summer, Planned Parenthood around the country has seen a ninefold increase in vandalism and violence. This includes the horrific Thanksgiving weekend shooting at a Colorado health center that left three dead. It also includes four arson attacks this year over a period of three months.

The attack in Modesto makes it five.

In Stanislaus County, we provide so little support to women and families. Quality health care, child care and education have become luxuries, available only to those lucky enough to afford them.

For we people of faith, whose traditions call us to radical compassion even in the face of persecution, let us work together to create quality health care, child care, and education for all – not on attacking one of the few health care providers caring for the poorest among us.

Again, from the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. ... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Darcy Baxter is minister for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Modesto.

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