Celebrating Mom and Her Empowering of Women

On this Mothers Day, I want to salute my own dear mom, who would be 100 years old today. A Yale-doctorate sociologist, her greatest cause was empowering women to take control of their own destinies. One form this took was family planning. And one role she most proudly served was as president of Planned Parenthood of Bucks County.

It was important to her — and our family — that women have access to the full range of reproductive health services — not just birth control, but also things like screening for cancer and prevention of sexually transmitted infections. She worked to ensure that low-income women especially could get information about every medically available option, and have the freedom to choose among them. Her legacy includes the 80,000 Pennsylvania women who received general screenings last year by Planned Parenthood.

I know she would find it tragic today that there are thousands of fake pregnancy clinics all over America, pretending to offer a full range of advice and medical services to pregnant women, but in fact intentionally deceiving them about their options and not even licensed to provide medical services.

Why deceive women? Simple. These “crisis pregnancy centers” are fronts for anti-abortion activists. According to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, the goal is religious rather than medical. Their ads and websites misleadingly mention abortion as a potential option, but their actual counseling is filled with misrepresentations and outright lies about the dangers of abortion to a woman’s physical and mental health. They even “avoid discussion of contraception and dismiss the role of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections.”

“Anti-abortion ideology thus supersedes the needs, values, and preferences of the woman seeking care,” conclude the medical ethicists. “These centers endanger women by misinterpreting and misrepresenting medical evidence.”

Sadly, the women of Bucks County and across our commonwealth are targets of this deception. An organization called Crossroads Pregnancy Care in Quakertown lists abortion as one of three options for a pregnant woman (plus parenting and adoption), and all the young people depicted on their website look gravely concerned rather than joyful. But their sole mission is to talk women out of abortion. Among the “services” their counseling covers, birth control is not even mentioned.

Dig deeper and you find that Crossroads calls itself a “ministry” rather than a health clinic. It is one of five in Bucks County, and is fundamentally committed to “share the good news of Jesus Christ ... discouraging abortion in all circumstances, thus honoring God.”

Frankly, my mother would be appalled. A woman seeking medical help is greeted with ideological arguments by non-medical personnel. And every woman drawn into one of these “clinics” is diverted from a real clinic with life-saving medical services.

I would add my own personal dismay. My mother died of ovarian cancer, which is among the many screenings that Planned Parenthood provides. And studies show that women on the “pill” are up to 50 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer — an unmentionable medical fact obviously, if contraception is off-limits. This is sad news, as we’ve just this week celebrated World Ovarian Cancer Day, a disease which kills more than 150,000 women each year.

It’s shocking that a slender 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court ruled last year that these anti-abortion zealots have a “free speech” right to deceive women. And it’s shocking that some politicians promote and defend this deception, as Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick did in a recent tweet.

So on this Mothers Day, I celebrate truth, not deception. I celebrate protectors of low-income women’s rights like Planned Parenthood. And I celebrate my mom and her life’s work to empower women and their partners to make informed choices about becoming a mother.

Scott Wallace, an attorney and foundation executive from Doylestown, was the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District in 2018 and the co-Founder of Kennedy Democrats.

Scott Wallace