"Freedom," Elaine Blanchard says, opening a conversation about The Profound Plan, an oral history about women and Planned Parenthood. "We want the freedom to carry a gun, to fly any flag we want to fly. We want the freedom to call people any name we want to call them. We want freedom. Except for when it comes to a woman's right to make choices about an unplanned pregnancy."
Blanchard recalls a story about a white woman and her African-American partner passing through the ubiquitous wall of protesters on the way to Planned Parenthood. Some members of the disapproving crowd called them murderers. Others judged the couple differently and called them "racist." Abortion, Blanchard notes, is just a tiny fraction of the women's reproductive health services provided by Planned Parenthood. Women going in for regular checkups and STD-testing face the same shaming wall every day.
- Elaine Blanchard
Blanchard hadn't intended for her new work to be so timely. She was already interviewing workers and clients when a dubiously edited propaganda video zipped across the Internet accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts at bargain-basement prices. She hadn't anticipated the ongoing political grandstanding or renewed threats to cut the organization's funding.
"Soldiers" is the word Blanchard uses for Planned Parenthood workers, who manage the pressure of living with threats and constant harassment while working to assure reproductive freedoms.
Blanchard also tells the story of 65-year-old friends who both found themselves romantically involved with men.
"One of the women called her friend and said, let's do this. Let's have sex. But let's go to Planned Parenthood and get tested, just to make sure we're not carrying anything nasty into this new relationship." The men also went in for checkups. The result: "five years of bliss."
"65 years old," Blanchard repeats. "Who knew Planned Parenthood served so many people in so many different ways."