Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 18, 2012

Forum: Restricting access doesn't solve problems


---- — Michigan's anti-choice legislators are celebrating the passage of two lame-duck bills, HB 5711 and SB 975. HB 5711 is a "super bill" that purports to regulate abortion services for the health and safety of women. SB 975 is a "moral conscience" bill that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide services that go against their conscience. Refusing abortion services, blood transfusions, surgery for patients with HIV or TB, and refusing to serve gay or transgender persons will become acceptable under this bill.

Pro-life groups that support these bills focus only on the end game and crisis management. They hope to rescue women from making what they view as disastrous decisions. They have the singular job of saving the unborn, and the special duty of saving women from damnation. I can't blame the majority of Republicans for adhering to this agenda. It works better in sound bites.

Let's focus in. When our youth learn that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy, that birth control fails; when they make promises to God that they will remain virgins until marriage, they are walking a very narrow path. What happens when they step off or are pushed? Standing alongside that very narrow path is now a young person faced with consequences and a gamut of emotions: disbelief, regret, shame. What they do not have are tools. The lucky ones have a parent to support them, but some do not.

Abstinence is no doubt the best way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Abstinence is the dotted line down the middle of the road. This is the path that pro-life organizations promote. Good job. Planned Parenthood does too.

Planned Parenthood also teaches about the right lane, and the left lane, and the sidewalk. They teach adolescents about their bodies so that they have the language to communicate their physical changes to their parents and their doctors. Planned Parenthood educates about birth control, how it works, when it doesn't and how and where to access it in our community. Planned Parenthood respects the values that each person brings from their family and involves and encourages parents in the education of their children.

When a patient comes to Planned Parenthood with a personal crisis, like a sexually transmitted infection, or a missed period, or a breast lump, they are treated with respect and dignity, educated about their health concerns, and treated or referred for further care.

Planned Parenthood is not in the business of saving people from themselves. We are in the business of health care. We are in the business of education. We are in the business of caring for our patients, without judgment, no matter what.

While anti-choice groups prepare to celebrate legislation that will limit access to abortion (should Gov. Snyder sign them), Planned Parenthood will continue to educate and provide our patients with real preventive health care. Because Planned Parenthood focuses on prevention before crisis management.

About the author: Karen Griggs is the Regional Medical Services Manager for Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan. She manages four of the eight Planned Parenthood health centers in the region, including those located in Traverse City, Petoskey, Marquette and Big Rapids. She has a bachelor's degree in Social Relations from the James Madison College at Michigan State University.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing Please include biographical information and a photo.