Our generation must defend reproductive health services

by Hayden Wright / Beacon Staff • September 27, 2011

, Beacon Staff/strong

Just a couple of weeks before the first anniversary of Emerson’s “Love is Louder” rally to promote GLBTQ acceptance, a very different kind of political demonstration took place on our campus — a graphic assembly of anti-abortion protesters.

Organized by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, the Beacon reported that these visitors held signs proclaiming, “The Insanity of ‘Choice’” and depicting gory images of aborted fetuses.

Many students noted the irony in these activists’ bringing their message to what’s frequently described as a widely socially liberal campus.  A tweet from Jack Babnew, a freshman marketing communication major, summarized: “Abortion protesters standing outside of #Emerson... The like most liberal college in America... #idiots.” Some students confronted the protesters, and members of Emerson Feminists staged a counter protest soon after.

The incredulity of Emerson’s student body on that one day, when distasteful images of an invasive and very personal medical procedure were unavoidable on routine walks to class, needs to be sustained. This small, anti-choice protest is emblematic of a much wider national crusade against sexual and reproductive health.

As a herd of Republican candidates vie for their party’s presidential nomination, controversy recently stemmed from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s executive order that required girls to receive a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. The clinically approved immunization prevents recipients from contracting the most common STD in America, which the Center for Disease Control states can lead to cervical cancer.

What began as libertarian outrage against a government health mandate quickly dissolved into a misinformed public condemnation of an important measure in preventing a terminal disease. Gaffe-prone Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who is widely considered to be among the top tier of Republican primary candidates, dismissed not only Perry’s executive order, but also the vaccine itself — making the unfounded claim that the injection can cause mental retardation.

Mandated by the government or not, millions of women stand to benefit from the vaccine. Objecting to the politics of requiring medical care is one thing, but making unsubstantiated claims about a vaccine she knows nothing about makes Bachmann’s message utterly reprehensible.

Desperately false remarks like hers come across as thinly-veiled reproaches against sexuality in our culture — anything that aids the sexually active must be harmful, even if she can’t prove it with facts.

As proponents of abstinence-only sex education, it seems that politicians of her ilk are content with complicating issues of sexual health and women’s rights for the sake of their antiquated values.

Republicans have made that sentiment abundantly clear with their repeated efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been the target of deliberate misinformation. At the fever pitch of the debate this spring, Sen. John Kyl of Arizona stated that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood funding is allotted to providing abortions. Their website states that the figure is more in the ballpark of three percent, while the remainder funds STD testing, breast exams, preventative birth control, and other health services.

On the national stage, and across from the Little Building, the loudest, brashest voices are on the wrong side of these issues. The hysteria and fervor that’s so defining for people who oppose access to sexual health services is not matched by the outrage of those of us who don’t.

This is not a trend that will change in our lifetime — National Public Radio reported earlier this year that we are as divided on the issue of abortion as our parents’ generation. There will be more Michele Bachmanns forcing more Rick Perrys to walk back measures that progress our right to be sexually responsible, and to make reproductive choices.

We brush off Planned Parenthood canvassers who flag us down on Boylston St., and complain when photos of aborted fetuses appear on our doorstep. We can’t permit ourselves to have it both ways.

emHayden Wright is a junior writing, literature, and publishing major and the opinion editor of the Beacon. Wright can be reached at frederick_wright@emerson.edu. Follow him on Twitter @HaydenWright/em