Protesters gather in support of Planned Parenthood



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Carmel, Ind. resident Peg Paulsen holds her sign in support of Planned Parenthood up to a protester against Planned Parenthood on Tuesday on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Mickey Woods

Rachael Richter was 15 years old when she visited the Planned Parenthood in her hometown, Ithaca, N.Y., for the first time. It was the IU junior’s second time having sex, and the condom broke.  Rachael’s boyfriend was out of town soon after the fact.

Rachael hadn’t told her parents yet. Her body tensed as she put on jeans and a T-shirt. Rachael called her best friend, who came over right away. Planned Parenthood was within walking distance of her house.

In the Planned Parenthood waiting room, Rachael filled out forms about her medical history. Though Rachael’s parents always stressed the importance of body and health awareness, it was the first time she’d ever taken herself to a health facility.

Rachael got Plan B One-Step free of charge. Plan B is the emergency contraceptive designed for mornings after situations like these.  

On Feb. 18, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the federal budget proposed by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. If passed by the Senate it would cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

This amendment could prevent people like Rachael from receiving reproductive health care such as birth control, cancer screenings and HIV testing.

At a rally on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, it was voiced that these changes reflected an ongoing “war on women” and their right to choose what to do with their bodies.

Event organizer Katie Blair said more than 500 Planned Parenthood supporters, male and female, young and old — and their detractors — showed up Tuesday at the Statehouse to make their voices heard.

Rachael, a face in a crowd of many, said she is able to see the bigger picture. She said this fight is her mother’s fight, whose life would be different were it not for Planned Parenthood. It’s her father’s fight, who encouraged Rachael’s independence and self-awareness. Because of their influence, Rachael said she can stand up for what she believes in.

Under clear skies and sunshine, Rachael raised a cardboard sign reading, “Planned Parenthood is birth control,” and shouted with the crowd.

In addition to the rally, Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

“Women! United! Will never be defeated!”

***

“Murderers,” yelled a pro-life advocate to Ashley Holmes, a Planned Parenthood patient, as she addressed the crowd. 

The protestor was behind the crowd, raising a poster of an aborted fetus high above it.  
Peg Paulsen of Carmel, Ind., held her sign to block the aborted fetus one. Peg blocked the sign long enough for the owner to lower it. She tried talking with him.
“This is about the women’s right to choose. It’s their bodies, it’s their bodies ...”

For a second, she seemed to have his attention.

“Murderers. Is this child free?” the man shouted over her.

His shouts were stifled by boos. Police officers inched closer.

Ashley, who was still speaking, paused and fixed a steely gaze on the crowd. The crowd subdued itself as Ashley said she was the first woman in her family to earn a college degree. Broke from more than $120,000 in bills from Butler University, Planned Parenthood presented a way out of having to choose between academia and her reproductive health.

The crowd cheered for Ashley, and the man’s shouts were drowned out.

***

All Rachael knew about her grandmother came from her father’s stories. Rachael’s grandmother died of breast cancer when Rachael was 1 year old. But she led a life aimed at supporting women’s rights, something that Rachael said inspired her to stand up for herself.

One story involved Rachael’s grandmother and grandfather, who was in the military. At a cocktail party, her grandfather was talking to an upper officer about going golfing.  
“Grandma loved golf, too, but for whatever reason she was excluded from the conversation by the officer,” Rachael said.

Rachael’s grandmother poured her drink on the offending officer.

During her time in high school, Rachael dedicated herself to Planned Parenthood as a sex educator for the peer group Guerilla Youth Network Organization.

“The high school boys would tease me about the name,” Rachael said. “But I still have that reputation, as sort of a sex educator among my peers.”

***

Rachael was standing outside of a side entrance of the Statehouse, sign still raised, her voice hoarse, exhausted in the best way possible, she said.

“It’s great to see so many people with so much passion with your beliefs,” Rachael said.

She said a reverend who spoke particularly touched her. Over the protestors’ shouts, the reverend read passages from the Bible, suggesting even Jesus Christ cared about reproductive health for women.

“I’m not really religious,” Rachael said. “But it was certainly nice. A very nice touch.”
The chants of supporters continued all around Rachael as she slowly eased up the steps to the Statehouse. It was time to tell the lawmakers why they should reconsider the bill being pushed through the government.

***

Rachael was recently reminded why she cares so much.

After shivering outside in the cold during a Roe v. Wade rally last month, Rachael was sitting at her computer doing gender studies homework when her roommate came in with a card. It was orange, her favorite color, and had a drawing of a car with a surfboard on the front. It was addressed to her, from her boyfriend’s mother.

“There’s no you in cool.There’s a lot of cool in you,” it said. “Thanks for your help.”
The word “help” was crossed out and replaced with “work.”  The card, Rachael said, expressed pride. She said it expressed a shared fight that may not be a fight much longer.

“Just think,” Rachael said. “Only 30 years ago, Roe v. Wade gave women the freedom to choose how they handle their pregnancies.”

Cards are usually reserved for special occasions. Rachael said this card was unexpected. She simply thought she was doing what she was supposed to do, as a woman and as a human being.

Rachael teared up and texted her boyfriend’s mom “Thank you” right away.

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