The not-so-secret secret of evangelicals and Planned Parenthood

Laura Kasinof is a former “accidental” war correspondent who has written articles about war and terrorism and the refugees fleeing, publishing work in places like The Atlantic and Foreign Policy. Her latest is for Marie Claire, and it concerns another kind of refugee: “The Secret Evangelicals at Planned Parenthood.”

“When I walked in there, I was so embarrassed,” Elizabeth says of her first reluctant visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic. “These were all people getting free services to possibly kill their child. They were a stereotype, to me. But I was out of resources.” The only place Elizabeth could think to turn was the one place she’d been taught forever to avoid.

There are many more women like her, all around the country. Women who grew up in conservative Christian environments that push abstinence-only education, unwavering anti-abortion attitudes, and adherence to the Republican party line — and who, out of necessity, are secretly visiting Planned Parenthood clinics for pap smears, birth control, STD tests, and other reproductive health services, including abortions.

This has never really been much of a secret. Not for anyone who actually knows the reality of Planned Parenthood — as opposed to the urban legends, scary stories, and fantasy role-playing modules circulated about it by Christians who’ve been taught to believe it’s their sacred duty to bear such false witness against this neighbor. The “secret” of white evangelical women relying on Planned Parenthood was a major plot-point in the movie Saved! more than a decade ago, and the subject of one of its most memorable jokes:

CASSANDRA: There’s only one reason Christian girls comes down to the Planned Parenthood.

ROLAND: She’s planting a pipe bomb?

CASSANDRA: Okay, two reasons.

Saved

Nor has this ever been a secret even within white evangelical churches and communities. Despite the rhetoric, everybody knows.

Well … not everybody. Some folks will be shocked and defensive to read the many stories (and statistics) in Kasinof’s piece. They will be horrified to learn that women from those other evangelical groups may be relying on Planned Parenthood for care, but they’ll reassure themselves that this is not true for their church and their community.

These are the same people who read every opinion survey reporting that a third of white evangelicals are pro-choice and dismiss that finding as the product of liberal media bias. That’s just impossible, they think. Why, all of my friends and acquaintances are evangelical and I’ve never heard anyone say such a thing!

That’s probably true. It’s extremely unlikely that such people will ever hear anyone say such a thing because those who know them are well aware that there’d be little point in ever trying to talk to them about it. They would be unable to handle it. They’d freak out. They would be unable to understand because they’d be unwilling to understand, and no one around them is eager to trigger the ranting sermon that they would end up spouting instead of attempting to understand.

So they don’t know.

That’s why, for people like that, the evangelicals relying on Planned Parenthood are a “secret.”

Those people will read Kasinof’s article and be sure that every story she cites is an exceptional anomaly and every statistic she cites is false and unreliable. And they will tell themselves that even if some of those stories might be true about some other, inferior evangelical churches or communities, they’re certain it’s not true of theirs.

But it is. Always has been. And everybody who could be trusted to know that already knows that.

So, then, if you’re a part of such a church or community and you don’t know of any evangelical women in that community who have sought and received medical care from Planned Parenthood then guess what? That means you’re apparently someone most women in that community don’t think they can trust. You may want to explore why that is.

 

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