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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Birth control or bust

Published: March 11, 2011
Section: Opinions

While visiting my friend during midterm recess at Hampshire College she suggested we attend the Stand Up for Women’s Health Rally on Feb. 26 in Manhattan’s Foley Square. Her school, Hampshire College, sponsored two buses of students to go to New York to partake in the rally. The rally was aimed at raising awareness and gaining the public’s help in opposing the House of Representative’s cuts to Planned Parenthood.

In mid-February the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization which provides sexual and reproductive health care services and education to more than five million people every year. Planned Parenthood began in Brooklyn, NY, in 1916, and now has more than 800 locations throughout the United States.

With an annual budget of more than $1 billion, Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate (

The budget cuts are part of an effort by the House to limit government spending and, some believe, reduce the number of abortions in America. The senate will vote on the bill in mid-March.

As I arrived at Foley Square I was shocked by the enormous crowd, later estimated at more than 6,000 people, as well as the provocative signs people were holding.

Planned Parenthood distributed bright pink signs which read, “I stand with Planned Parenthood,” “Don’t take away my birth control” and “Don’t take away my cancer screenings.”

NARAL Pro-Choice New York also provided signs for the crowds. I was, however, most surprised by the handmade posters. A few of my favorites read “Real men support women’s health,” “Sex happens, unwanted pregnancy shouldn’t” and a cute little boy holding a sign saying “I am mad!!!” The people in the crowd were enthusiastic, angered and eager to make their voices heard.

The rally featured speeches by many well-known advocates, public figures and political leaders. Kathleen Turner, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Board of Advocates continually urged people to get the word out to their friends to support Planned Parenthood.

She encouraged everyone to get their friends, family and colleagues to call their senators, sign the petition online and spread the word about what is being done to Planned Parenthood.

Along with Turner, congressmen and elected officials were vowing that they will vote against the cuts to Title X (multiple organizations, including Planned Parenthood). There were repetitive and continuous attacks against two key members of the House of Representatives: Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who introduced the amendment to cut spending to Title X organizations and House Speaker John Boehner.

There seems to be a lot of talk about whether this bill was actually intended to help reduce the budget deficit or eliminate support for an organization which provides abortions.

This was the first protest I have attended, as well as my first time visiting New York. I was astounded by the number of important and influential government officials who came out to support the actions taken to defend Planned Parenthood.

Going to this protest and seeing the enormous public support and the draw of influential people reaffirmed my belief in grassroots campaigning and ultimately our rights as Americans to stand up for what we believe. A memorable sign read, “We need a voice.

We need a choice. This is America!” Although we may not think we have any say in politics, we do. We live in a democracy and the words and opinions of the public do matter and will be respected and considered.

Attending this rally and seeing what the power of the people can do has inspired me to reconnect with politics and give America and its government another chance. We are the people and we have a voice that matters.