Understanding the attack on Planned Parenthood


Formerly known as American Birth Control League, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit reproductive healthcare provider established in 1921. Throughout its history, has been debated as being beneficial or detrimental to the health of families across 14 countries in the world. These debates have taken many forms ranging from peaceful protests to violent attacks on employees and patients. The Planned Parenthood Surgical Centre at Auburn Avenue, Cincinnati is a highly active site for such protests and religious activities, being the sole provider of abortion services in the city. When viewed from the Google satellite street view, the image results show activists, indicating how frequent these protests are. This was also confirmed by the preparedness of the protestors that I observed during the ethnography, with collapsible mobile furniture and their attire, that made it apparent that this was a routine activity.

Google street view shows protestors outside Planned Parenthood

‘It seems inartistic and sordid to insert a pessary or a suppository in anticipation of the sexual act. But it is far more sordid to find yourself several years later burdened down with half a dozen unwanted children, helpless, starved, shoddily clothed, dragging at your skirt, yourself a dragged out shadow of the woman you once were.’

She was repeatedly imprisoned for her illegal actions of publicizing family planning and for providing ‘a medically accurate explanation of how the reproductive system works, and instructions on using contraceptives through trained nurses at ten cents per consultation’ ( Latson, 2015) in Brooklyn in 1916.

Pamphlet, newsletter and lent book photographed outside PP


The short ethnography at the Cincinnati Surgical Center of Planned Parenthood was conducted on 10th April 2019, Wednesday at 1 pm in the afternoon. It was a continuous three-hour observation of the Auburn Avenue location of the medical institution and its surroundings. I entered the space with an initial literature review to understand the abortion laws.


Racial eugenic strategies
The most visibly evident majority of peaceful protestors was white older adults, seemingly over 60 years old. However, the majority of passersby were black and seemed to live around the area, as they were carrying grocery bags and were walking and not waiting for the bus. This difference was stark and can be explained by pro-life positionality to be directly related to the conservative ideology with 77% pro-lifers self-identifying as conservative in a poll in 2018. (Gallup News, 2018) This data can be combined with the information that white conservatives in America form 66% of the total conservative population (Pew Research Center, 2014) to understand the racial divide. Hence, the activists protesting the abortion services of Planned Parenthood were all caucasian even though a majority of the passersby were black.
This indicated the area might be a majority Black community, bringing in question Planned Parenthood’s eugenic selection advocacy, which has been deemed as racist at multiple points in history. 2010 US Census-based studies conducted by an African-American Pro-Life organisation Protecting Black Lives, show that 78 per cent of their total facilities are within walking distance (less than 2 miles) of Black and Hispanic/Latino communities, claiming that Planned Parenthood strategically targets minority communities for abortion (Enquen, 2015). However, on studying the census I identified more white teens than black and way more black older adults as compared to white. The population distribution by race of the neighborhood of Mt. Auburn consists of 3,233 Black or African-Americans and 1,453 Caucasians. The other minority races collectively form the other 98 (US Census, 2010). The racial composition by age is 15%-30% white and 60%-80% black in the age group 60-80+ years. However white young adults comprise 45%-60% of the population and 25%-40% black residents (US Census, 2010). Considering the target audience for Planned Parenthood is the young adults, the data contests racial discrimination in the eugenic strategy adopted by Planned Parenthood.

Photographed from the road opposite to Planned Parenthood
Banners photographed outside Planned Parenthood
School visit to pray for Planned Parenthood

Summary and Conclusions

Abortion is still a polarising issue much like its foundations in the early 1900s, but with an urgent threat presented by the current political scenario. The Roe V. Wade constitutional right to abortion is quite likely to be overturned due to the failing health of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is one of the crucial votes for the continued legalisation of abortion. (Linker, 2019)
There is a shift in the participation of pro-life private organisations, that are now taking the role of building a collection of resources and alternative services to protect the personhood of foetuses through advanced opportunities of external support from anyone who feels incapable to take care of a child. The attacks on Planned Parenthood are centred around their counselling methods that are perceived as persuasive towards abortion, in order to profit as a business.



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