Moderated by Tom Sabulis
The longtime president of Planned Parenthood in Atlanta is set to retire after 32 years in Atlanta. Kay Scott talks about the women’s health organization, which provides exams and services for thousands of residents through eight health centers across three states. She also addresses the conservative opposition and political fire Planned Parenthood receives due to its role as an abortion provider and advocate for reproductive health issues. In our second column, a leader of Georgia Right to Life writes about the so-called war on women.
Commenting is open below Sherri Nelson’s column.
By Tom Sabulis
On Dec. 28, Kay Scott, 67, officially retires as president/CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. Her departure marks the end of a 35-year career — she spent three years at Planned Parenthood in Austin, Texas — fighting for women’s health issues. From her downtown Atlanta office, she had some final things to say:
Thoughts upon leaving Planned Parenthood: I feel proud, satisfied in some ways, disappointed and frustrated. I came into Planned Parenthood with a medical background as a nurse practitioner in women’s health care. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of women in the 30-plus years I’ve been here, and there’s a lot of satisfaction knowing that this organization and health centers made a difference. The frustration is that I thought we’d be head and shoulders from where we are, that we would not be fighting the same battles year after year. I really can’t think of a better gift than family planning, other than education, for women and girls. Education is the key, and I always say that with access to education, people will find their way to family planning. I believed 30 years ago that we would move in lockstep toward the European (health care) model, which is so much healthier and better. Almost all the European countries have less abortion, less school dropout, greater contraception, and it’s because they aren’t arguing about the philosophy of sex. They’re really saying what we value most is young people growing into healthy adults. We’ve gone through this really schizophrenic period about ignoring the scientific data that talks about the positive outcomes when there is access to medically accurate sex education, access to reproductive and sexual health care, and, of course, contraception. We know the strategies that work, but the legislative focus is on the wrong things. It is discouraging that a small minority of people have been able to move their agenda in a way that has limited progress.
The organization and the abortion label: Planned Parenthood is a major reproductive and sexual health provider; (abortions) are a small part, about 9 percent, of the services we provide. The majority of services we provide are annual exams for women, which includes a pap smear, screening for sexually transmitted disease, breast exams, and blood pressure screenings. Most of our patients are women 18 to 30, and Planned Parenthood gives them access to basic health care. The average annual cost including birth control methods is around $250 a year. What a wise investment that is. It’s so much easier and cost-effective for them to be well than sick. The opposition has raised the issue recently about mammogram services. PPSE provides the recommended standard of care based on age and family history, which are typically not mammograms due to the age of our patient group. We have referral partners that we work with when more extensive screening is recommended.
Reproductive rights: It is a women’s issue as well as a family and community issue. I am a feminist and proud of it, and as such I sit at a big table that includes men, community partners, religious leaders, other advocates with shared beliefs and values. The women and men who have served on the board, volunteered in our programs, worked for the organization are outstanding. We have shared many victories as well as challenges. Nothing feels so basic as the rights and responsibilities around planning in a purposeful way, your family.
How things can change: We need to take the politics out of this. This is a public-health issue, and I think more people need to be heard, and the message should be: Move on! We have critical problems that need work. There are 500,000 women in Georgia of child-bearing age that are uninsured. That’s a big number. They need a place to receive care. Planned Parenthood can be part of that solution. We should seek common ground on issues we agree and get to work. Our communities across this region need this from all of us.
By Sherri Nelson
The past election produced a flood of media coverage on what has been called the “war on women.” The premise is there is a concerted effort by out-of-touch lawmakers to deny women their freedom in making reproductive choices.
As a post-abortive woman and mother of three daughters, I agree there is a “war on women,” but not the one we usually hear about. It’s not about access to abortion services and free contraceptives.
The real war is for the very essence — the heart and soul — of what it means to be a woman.
It sounds so easy and so empowering: “My body, my choice.” I can tell you from personal experience there is a dark side to that view that is rarely talked about.
Abortion on demand, and access to so-called contraceptives that can actually cause an abortion, reduces women to their physical bodies. This is demeaning to women and also makes them easy prey during a very vulnerable decision-making time. Research shows up to 65 percent of abortions are coerced or include physical force; such is my story.
I’m reminded every day that I had an abortion; that the life of an innocent child was taken. That memory will haunt me forever. I’m not alone. Studies show that many women — perhaps most — suffer the same feelings of regret, suffering from the agonizing “reality” that a life was ended.
Week after week I sit with women who, like me, are post-abortive. I listen to stories of choices (some made on their own, and others by force or coercion); stories that bring tears and grief; stories of regret. Many of those women talk about buried emotions, of pretending that everything was OK, and of often resorting to self-destructive behavior.
It’s a picture of broken hearts and broken spirits. Broken souls trying to put their lives together after making “choices” they regret; choices that were to liberate and free them, yet enslaved them. Death from suicide is six 6 times higher in women who have had an abortion.
In addition to the psychological after-effects of abortion, you must consider the physical side-effects. Studies show links between abortion and the rise of breast, cervical, ovarian and liver cancer.
For more information concerning the after-effects of abortion, go to www.afterabortion.org.
A war on women? Yes, a war that reduces women to mere objects that can be “fixed” if things don’t go according to plan.
Mother Teresa said: “The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate of human relationships.”
Elizabeth Stanton, an early leader in the feminist movement and author of “The Woman’s Bible,” said: “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see it.”
Two very powerful women, from two different religious spectrums, one common understanding: Abortion on demand is degrading to women.
The real war on women needs to be told, it must be told. If this story is not told, I am afraid the very heart and soul of women in this and future generations will be found to be extinct.
If you suffer, or someone you know suffers, from any of these symptoms, please call the National Helpline for Abortion Recovery, 1-866-482-5433.
Sherri Nelson is president of the Forsyth County chapter of Georgia Right to Life.