Sadomasochism isn’t a dirty word.

Today Planned Parenthood supporters and opponents spoke out on Twitter with the hashtag #SexEd. The tweetfest was organized by the anti-abortion organization, Live Action, to denounce the Lurid! Disgusting! Immoral! Dangerous! advice given by Planned Parenthood counselers to a young woman who pretended to have honest questions for them about BDSM. She filmed the clinic workers – without their knowledge – answering the questions openly and honestly. Live Action calls this “undercover investigation.” I call bullshit. The film that Live Action is so very proud of can be seen on YouTube.

[Read more...]

Planned Parenthood Solidarity Event

It’s that time of the year again! Good Friday marks the annual organized anti-Planned Parenthood vigil here in the Twin Cities and it’s celebrated with much somber walking, very pray, so clutching of rosaries and wow crosses outside of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood:

Anti-choice crowd hangs out by the fence and stares at the prochoice celebration with sadness, contempt, anger and pleading.

Anti-choice crowds line the fence and stare over at the pro-Planned Parenthood celebration with a mixture of anger, contempt, pleading, sorrow, curiosity and indifference.

And on the other side – a celebration of accessible and legal abortion, comprehensive reproductive options, sex education and outreach:

A line of Planned Parenthood supporters walking with signs of support.

This year a bunch of jerks – not satisfied with marching with their anti-choice brethren – decided to make a nuisance of themselves on “our” side of the rally. As always with these harassers, they’re not satisfied unless they’re edged right up to the public property line, which was particularly annoying because they were standing between us and our food trucks. Buttheads. These special friends had a penchant for screaming about hellfire and damnation. For the most part we all minded our manners, but me, Niki and our friend Chris couldn’t resist stopping for a quick photo op:

10253920_10152386399836354_5570777897489793548_n

 Happy atheist trio mocks your angry sky fairy – Mwuahahaha!

We had happy music, warm drinks and supportive signs. We took pictures and laughed and raised money and cheered and ran to give hugs when we saw friends and supporters arrive to join in the march. It was a great time.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki M. in our clinic escort vests.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki take a photo at the march in our vests – shiny!

Happy Lich Jesus Day, everyone!

Planned Parenthood Solidarity Tomorrow!

373156_427238537358455_1676713012_n

Do you support Planned Parenthood? Do you live in or near Minneapolis*? Do you have the day off of work, or can you call in sick tomorrow? Then you can come to the Vandalia Clinic’s Planned Parenthood Solidarity event! From the PP Advocate website:

Why Good Friday? Why the need for solidarity? Every year on this day, hundreds of anti-women’s health protesters gather outside our health center to intimidate our patients and attempt to disrupt our work. It presents an opportunity for supporters of Planned Parenthood to come together and celebrate what makes the organization, its volunteers and its activists so great and so necessary!

There will be like-minded people, fantastic signs, music, and a chance to see a scary number of abortion opponents who would like nothing more than for you and me and everyone else to be denied our right to make the health care and reproductive choices that are right for us. If the idea of confrontation makes you squeamish – don’t worry. Both groups are separate and ignore the other – we’re each doing our own thing. Their side does the somber, downcast thing, and we do the celebratory, jubilant thing. I’ll be live-tweeting from the event, so follow me on Twitter for updates and photos. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ll be at the sign-in table from 8:30-10:30am and then I’ll be walking in the line for much of the rest of the day (except between noon and 2pm when I’ll be inside volunteering). If you see me, come and say hi! I’ll be wearing a blue Surlyramic with the red atheist “A” on it. And I’ll do my best to answer any questions about the event via Twitter, Facebook or the comments.

Have a happy Solidarity Day!

DSC_0106

Taken by me at the 2011 Solidarity Day at the old Highland Park clinic in St. Paul. Look how much fun we have!

*Want to get involved in other cities? There may be an event near you! I recommend Googling for local Planned Parenthood and abortion clinic sites to see if they have solidarity events planned.

Sex Ed – We’re Doin It Wrong

I was recently accepted as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota. One of the requirements for becoming a volunteer was attending four classes. The first two were introductions to the organization; the third and fourth were educational sessions focused on the basics of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), reproductive health and contraception. It makes a lot of sense to train volunteers in these topics, as the majority of what Planned Parenthood does is provide family planning and sexual health advice, education and health services.

After having attended these last two courses with a group of my peers, I say this: We need to do better at providing the people of this country standardized, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education.

Remember: All of the attendees of these courses want to be there. All of us believe in reproductive planning, promoting sexual health, positive sexuality, and supporting a woman’s right to  have an abortion. We are all supposedly “the good guys”. But goddamn there were some ridiculous beliefs that were shared in that classroom! There were misunderstandings about how common forms of birth control work, what happens during puberty, how certain STIs are spread, how communication with partners can limit the spread of STIs, how to bring up the issue of STIs with a new partner. There were prejudices, preconceptions and privileged opinions about issues such as sex before marriage, how many partners people “should” have, relationship status (monogamous vs. polygamous vs. open marriages, etc.), gender identity, how young someone should be before they have sex, if parents should have a say in whether an underage girl is allowed to have an abortion.

In a country that allows parents to pull their children from classrooms during sex ed…

When sex “education” still seems to come primarily from friends or the internet or those first fumbling encounters…

When sex, birth control, reproduction and sexual autonomy remain taboo subjects that aren’t discussed in “polite” company…

When these things happen we find ourselves in a climate where people speak the right words and espouse the right positions, but we still don’t know what the hell we’re talking about. A lot of people in that room probably walked in thinking they knew all there was too know about the basics of reproduction, contraception and STIs.

Planned Parenthood seems to understand the reality of sex education in this country, and they have taken steps to extend their educational outreach to their volunteers as well as their clients. We can do better.

Happy Good Friday!

For the second year in a row I will be celebrating the holiday at Planned Parenthood , countering this kind of dumbz:

I’m pretty sure the “Chicken Strip” sign was for the DQ next door, and not an anti-choice protest sign. Poor framing of the shot. Mea culpa. *hehehe*

Our side had WAY more fun:

Plus we raised a crap-ton of money for Planned Parenthood through the Pledge-A-Protester effort.

Why is everyone out walking in circles in front of a doctor’s office? Let’s ask the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis:

Join with us to pray in front of Planned Parenthood on Good Friday. Fifteen area pastors will lead in scripture and prayer each half hour throughout the day. A life-sized cross will be our only sign as we carry the cross of abortion. An area will be cordoned off for a family-safe day of prayer. Last Good Friday, more than 2,500 Christians joined in prayer throughout the day at this vigil. Help us double those numbers on April 6! Invite your whole church.

One of the church congregations that attended last year had this to say about the event:
Pro-Life Action Ministry’s annual all-day Good Friday Prayer Vigil is quickly approaching. This is one of the most moving events you could attend to commemorate the passion and death of our Lord Jesus. This event will bring for you a deepened awareness and spiritual understanding of Jesus’ suffering and death which won our salvation. And it will greatly enhance the Good Friday services at your own church.

I don’t even…oww…it…so many irrelevant non-arguments…my head!

There’s still time to join in the fun today.  If you’re in the Twin Cities are, these are two way can get involved:

1) Come on down to the St. Paul Planned Parenthood Health Center (671 Vandalia Street) any time from 8am to 4pm today. Organizers will have signs that you can carry. Just jump in the march line and add your voice and presence to those of us who will be out to show that Minnesotans stand with Planned Parenthood!

2) Pledge a Protester – Over 1000 protesters are expected at the St. Paul Planned Parenthood today. For $10 you can “Pledge a Protester”, the idea being that the more protesters who show up, the more money they raise for Planned Parenthood. You know you want to: Click here to Pledge A Protester.

One more cup of coffee and then I’m out of here. Photos of the rally to follow in the next day or so. Happy Good Friday!

Photos of PPFA Supporters

Yesterday I posted the story of my experience at the Good Friday  counter-protest that was held during the pro-life prayer vigil at Highland Park Planned Parenthood. Here are some of my favorite photos from yesterday, and here’s a big shout-out to everyone who took time on a Friday morning to show their support for men and women’s access to reproductive and sexual health.

Planned Parenthood on Good Friday

Good Friday protesting is a tradition at the Highland Park Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, MN. Every year on this day a prayer vigil is held and hundreds of anti-choice supporters gather to pray to God for an end to abortion. In response, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gather to walk and cheer their support for the services that Planned Parenthood provides and a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

This is the first year that I’ve participated in the solidarity event, and the first time I have visited the Highland Park Planned Parenthood. I arrived at 7:30am and found a parking spot not too far from the clinic. Everything was very well-organized with cones, mobile fencing and plenty of uniformed police. An area for protesters was set up on one side of the clinic’s driveway, PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) supporters were on the other. There was a division between the two groups of about the length of the clinic itself, and the only people who were allowed to stop in this neutral zone were police and on-duty Highland Park clinic escorts.

The police and escorts were very good about keeping people from both groups off of the sidewalks and property unless they were walking through (that’s my way of saying I was wrist-slapped twice during the day for standing on the sidewalk while I took photos).  

Both groups were setting up when I arrived. I signed in at the pro-choice supporter’s booth, grabbed a sign (“Women’s Health Matters”) and joined a small group which had started walking clockwise around our “pen”.

The PPFA supporter sign-in area was in the clinic parking lot, but escorts did a great job of keeping the driveway entry clear for patients and staff.

At around 7:30am, the walk begins!

One of the first things I noticed as I was getting in line was a nearby run-down white building with a sign out front that said “Highland LifeCare Center”. I walked down to take a look.

Ugh. Yup – Crisis Pregnancy Center. CPCs usually position themselves close to clinics that provide abortions. This isn’t a medical clinic, but a “counseling” center. CPCs exist to try to keep women from getting abortions, and they have been known to use some pretty sneaky and underhanded tactics to achieve that goal. Bummer that this one is here.

8:00am and the crowds grow larger:

As time went on, more and more people showed up for both sides. There was no drama that I saw; both sides kept to themselves. The protesters chanted bible verses, sang hymns and church leaders showed up to give sermons and lead prayers. There were a few anti-choice signs, but nothing graphic, no bloody fetus replicas or yelling or screaming. I think that for most of them this was a pretty solemn occasion.

Okay, I swear that the appearance of the DQ Chicken Strip sign is purely coincidental and was not an attempt at humor. But it does kinda look like one of the marchers could be carrying it, doesn’t it? Pro-lifers for Chicken Strips!

There was little to do except chat, walk and cheer – which was a blast! I had a chance to meet some interesting people, including a lovely, charming woman who has been involved in the pro-choice movement since 1991. She told me about the illegal abortion she obtained back in the day, and how years she later she tracked down the doctor who had provided her abortion in order to thank him. I spoke with a gentleman who is interning with the MN National Organization for Women, and who I had met at the much chillier Walk4Choice back in February. And then I ran into some friends who I hadn’t even known were pro-choice supporters!


Walking at PPFA solidarity events is a great way to make new friends…


…and a good place to have surprise meet ups with current friends!

We were walking on Ford Parkway and there was a lot of passing traffic, a lot of supportive horn honking, and very little heckling. I did see one woman make a cross with her fingers (what are we – vampires? And get your hands back on the steering wheel, lady!), and I heard another walker exclaim, “I think that woman just hissed at us!” and start giggling. The supporters who drove by were very vocal and wildly waved out of their car windows or gave thumbs up. For those who didn’t agree with our message, well…Minnesota Nice kept them most of them politely disdainful and quiet.

Around 10am some of the PPFA supporters held a non-denominational service and sing-along.

And that was about it for me. There was a little drizzle, and the weather was cool, but not not horribly uncomfortable. I ended up leaving at around 11:30am when the crowds swelled so much that we could hardly move around our allotted space. I ran off to have lunch with the Hubby, and on the way back to his office we drove by and added some of our own honking and waving to the mix.

All in all, it was a really good experience and I’m glad I participated.