We at Planned Parenthood believe these six basic rights are central to freedom and opportunity for women and their families — rights we can’t afford to lose. To see why we value these basic principles, hear from the men and women who are impacted when the people in power ignore them.
1. We all have the right to plan when and if to have a child.
Women like Sarah Bess, who wrote an op-ed while she was attending Trinity College, are able to pursue an education and career thanks to affordable health care and birth control.
Sarah writes: “As a young woman living in 2013 (not 1913), it's shocking to me that there are still people who think a woman's boss should be able to decide if she has access to insurance coverage for birth control.
"Like the majority of my peers, I'm already feeling the economic benefits of the Affordable Care Act's preventive benefit that requires my insurance company to cover the full cost of my birth control, without a co-pay.” (Source: Hartford Courant, 10/15/13)
2. Doctors help decide our medical care — not politics or religious restrictions.
When politicians interfere with women’s medical decisions, stories like these happen:
Pregnant with her second child, Carolyn Jones had two sonograms showing that her fetus was not developing correctly. If she carried it to term, the child would suffer greatly and need a lifetime of care. Jones and her husband decided to have an abortion. Although she'd had two sonograms that day, Texas law required that she get another, administered by her abortion doctor, and listen to a state-mandated description of the pregnancy, before she could have an abortion. Carolyn asks: “What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make?” (Source: NPR, 1/22/13)
When Jessica R. was hired at a Catholic university, the Human Resources secretary told her that the health insurance plan did not cover birth control. Jessica said: “I love my job, and I can’t afford to lose it. But I’m afraid that I will be fired if I press my employer about whether contraception should be covered in our health plan. No one should be forced to choose between her job and her dignity, but that’s what I feel I’m being forced to do right now.” (Source: ACLU, 3/13/13)
3. Our rights shouldn’t depend on who we are, where we work, or where we live.
Cost should never be a barrier to accessing basic health care, but it is the harsh reality for too many.
When Charlene Dill, a Florida 32-year-old mother of three, collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor in 2014, her death was a result of a documented heart condition. And it could have been prevented if she could have afforded health care.
Under the health reform law, which seeks to expand coverage to millions of low-income Americans, Dill was supposed to have access to a public health plan through the expanded Medicaid program. But she was one of the millions of Americans living in a state that has refused to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court ruled this provision to be optional. (Source: ThinkProgress, 4/9/14)
4. We all deserve access to sex education.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the accurate information they need to make responsible decisions and stay healthy.
Lauren M was educated in an abstinence-only high school and became pregnant after becoming sexually active with her boyfriend at age 17. In Lauren’s words: “My parents NEVER talked to me about sex. So, I pretty much became sexually active at 17, and just crossed my fingers and hoped nothing would happen.
"Why did I become sexually active? For all the wrong reasons. I was insecure, and wanted a boyfriend, someone to give me attention (remember those parents who didn't bother to talk to me about sex?), affection, make me feel loved/desirable. Curiosity. I wanted to know what the big deal was about. Again, for all the wrong reasons. I sometimes used condoms, sometimes not. I didn't know what I was doing at all.
“But guess, what. Teenagers make decisions like that every day.” (Source: Planned Parenthood Share Your Story, submitted 4/7/11)
5. We will not stand for coercion, harassment, or intimidation.
Aaron Gouveia wrote about the experience he and his wife had when trying to enter a Planned Parenthood health center in Massachusetts.Sixteen weeks into his wife’s pregnancy, a team of renowned Boston doctors had diagnosed the fetus with Sirenomelia and zero chance of survival.
Aaron writes: “I still remember the harassment the day we visited a clinic four years ago. By ruling the 35-ft. buffer zone unconstitutional, the Supreme Court is putting people in danger.
“Two women, 35 ft. away, were standing across the street holding signs. When they saw us, they immediately started yelling things like ‘Don’t do it!’ and ‘You’re killing your unborn baby!’ I couldn’t have been more horrified.
"I couldn’t believe how these people would willingly stand outside and harass others at their weakest and most vulnerable. I couldn’t mask my anger, nor could my wife hold back her tears at being unnecessarily and unfairly vilified.” (Source: TIME Magazine, 6/26/14)
6. Victims of sexual violence deserve care without delay, judgment, or intimidation.
Survivors of sexual assault should have access to compassionate health care without delay, judgment, or government interference. But that’s not always the case.
An Oklahoma emergency room doctor refused to provide emergency contraception to a 24-year-old female rape survivor because the medication violated the health provider’s personal beliefs. The hospital also denied the survivor a rape kit, noting that it had no appropriate nurse on staff to administer the test.
The survivor’s mother, Rhonda, says the doctor told them she will not give the survivor emergency contraception because it goes against her beliefs. Ronda explains: “[The doctor] knew my daughter had just been raped. Her attitude was so judgmental and I felt that she was just judging my daughter.” (Source: ThinkProgress, 5/31/12)
We are working to create a world where access to health care doesn’t depend on who we are. Where it doesn’t depend on where we live. We’re pushing to guarantee the right of every woman everywhere to make her own medical decisions without interference from employers, politicians, and lawmakers, no matter what.