If you're still reeling from last week's violent attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, a shooting which left three people dead and nine injured, you're not alone. Unfortunately, that wasn't the first violent attack in Planned Parenthood's history — a 1994 attack on a Brookline, Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood left two dead and five wounded, and CBS News reports that U.S. abortion providers have suffered "eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons and thousands of other incidents" since 1977.
And the constant danger of harassment and violence isn't the only threat that Planned Parenthood has to deal with. The nonprofit, which offers affordable reproductive and general healthcare, as well as abortion services, to women throughout this country, and served 2.7 million patients in 2013, has had to deal with other problems recently — such as a House vote to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood based on highly sensationalized videos about fetal tissue sales. Though this House vote is disappointing, it's nothing new — it often seems like every time you turn around, there is a new attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
You may be feeling helpless right now, and wondering what you can do to help a crucial organization for women in its time of need. One of the best ways to fight that feeling of helplessness is to take action — so if you care about Planned Parenthood, and everything that the organization stands for, the time is right to support them. Even if you're short on cash or short on time, don't worry — there are countless ways to help stand with Planned Parenthood, and do your part to make sure that American women have access to the crucial health care that is their legal right.
If You Only Have A Little Time...
1. Donate Money
This is the simplest way to support Planned Parenthood, but it's still one of the most effective. You can donate to Planned Parenthood directly, through their website, which will accept any amount of money over $5; you payment is shared between you regional Planned Parenthood affiliate and the national organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America, so it's a great way to support both Planned Parenthood and your community at the same time.
The site also offers the option to set up a recurring donation that will automatically be deducted from your account each month — which can help you show your support if you have some cash, but are short on time.
2. Urge Your Friends To Donate On Social Media
Posting a link with information about how to donate to Planned Parenthood will only take a few seconds out of your day, and you could potentially help to raise hundreds of dollars for PP — way more than you could probably contribute on your own. In fact, if you're so busy, I'll even give you some ideas about what to write:
You know that I feel passionately about supporting Planned Parenthood, and I know that many of you do, too. If you do, please consider making a donation to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America — our reproductive rights are under severe threat in this country, and Planned Parenthood needs us more than ever.
There! Now you can go to work/class/commute/watch Jessica Jones for nine hours straight knowing that you did your part.
3. Follow Planned Parenthood On Social Media
Linking up with Planned Parenthood will help keep you abreast of what's going on with them — and by following Planned Parenthood on Facebook or signing up for their official email newsletter, you'll hear about more than just the attacks on the organization's funding that become major news stories; you'll also be able to see the good news about all the positive stuff that Planned Parenthood is doing for women around the country.
If You Have Some Time...
4. Attend A Fundraiser
There are cool fundraising events for Planned Parenthood going on all over the country right now — today alone, I've seen notices for music and comedy fundraisers for Planned Parenthood in my own neighborhood. Check out local social media or look wherever else you get information about events in your area, and find a PP fundraiser to check out. At the event, you'll have the opportunity to make donations, learn about your local Planned Parenthood, and enjoy the musical, comedy, or other performing arts stylings of talented folks who believe that women have a right to bodily autonomy! You may even find some new favorites — I'm a huge fan of live comedy, and I find that comedians who want to take part in a reproductive rights fundraiser usually have my favorite kind of comedy sensibilities.
5. Organize Your Friends To Donate
Want to make sure that PP gets more than whatever you can scrape together from your own bank account? Then make a personal project out of mobilizing your friends to donate, too. This mini-fundraiser can take any form — telling yourself that you'll ask friends to donate until 10 friends say yes, bringing donation information to the next meeting of your book club or basketball league, putting a donation box in your dorm room and shaking down every person who enters for laundry quarters. If you're focusing on a small group of friends (say, you and your roommates), you can just pool your cash and make a single donation; if you want to reach out to more people, you can start an official Planned Parenthood fundraiser page.
6. See If Your Company Has A Matching Gift Policy
Some corporations offer "matching gift" programs to their employees — meaning that when their employees make a donation to a qualifying charity, the company will donate as well. Check and see if your company has a matching gift program, and if they do, ask your human resources department if Planned Parenthood qualifies for the company's matching gift policy. If it does, use this Planned Parenthood corporate giving information to fill out the form.
There's no limit on how many employees can participate in a matching gift program, so make sure your coworkers who also care about reproductive rights know that they can do this, too!
7. Write To Your Local Legislators
You may think that politicians don't pay attention to random letters they receive from the folks they represent; but in fact, your local representative is reading the mail they receive from their constituents, and it can help shape policy. So don't be shy — write to your member of Congress or state legislator, and let them know you stand with Planned Parenthood. The Planned Parenthood of the South Finger Lakes site has some good tips on how to write a letter to a legislator, and the Planned Parenthood Action site can help you find the contact information for all your local political representatives.
8. Learn The Facts About Planned Parenthood & Share Them
A lot of people out there are really confused about what exactly Planned Parenthood does, and why making sure that their doors stay open matters. You can brush up on exactly what Planned Parenthood does by reading the Planned Parenthood Action website — and the next time you hear a person making uninformed comments about Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights in general, you can give them the facts.
Here are a few to get you started!
Did you know that millions of women receive health care from Planned Parenthood each year, and for 40 percent of those women, it is their only source of health care of any sort?
Did you know that defunding Planned Parenthood would prevent 900,000 preventative health medical appointments and cancer screenings from happening?
Did you know that one in five American women uses Planned Parenthood in her lifetime?
And no, you don't have to have an argumentative personality in order to do this: yes, some people willfully misrepresent the facts about PP because they have an agenda (and if you're willing to debate them, more power to you!). But a lot of people are just genuinely confused, because there's a lot of incorrect information about what exactly Planned Parenthood does out there. You can correct the misperceptions of friends or classmates in whatever way that feels comfortable to you — and contrary to what some would like you to believe, a lot of people will actually be happy for the info.
If You Have More Time...
9. Organize A Fundraiser
Of course, organizing a fundraiser is dependent on more than time — it's also dependent on having both the resources to pull one together, and knowing enough people who might donate. If you know very few people who want to support Planned Parenthood, this might not be an option for you, no matter how passionately you feel and how much time you have.
But if you have access to people (IRL or online) who would be interested in donating, and the time to pull one together, a fundraiser can be a great way to spread awareness and raise some cash. To start a fundraiser, get on the Planned Parenthood Fearless Fundraiser site, and pick out a fundraising goal; you'll then be able to set up a fundraising page, which you can share online. You can run an online only fundraiser, or you can support your fundraising by setting up an IRL fundraising event. Fundraisers can be small dinner parties, house parties thrown for like-minded friends and acquaintances, concerts, plays, comedy shows, sports events, bake sales — whatever floats your boat. You can find some tips on setting up your own D.I.Y. fundraising event here.
A lot of us say that we've always wanted to volunteer for Planned Parenthood; well, now is the time. If you want to become a clinic escort, and help women walk through groups of protesters so that they may receive vital health services that they are legally entitled to, that is awesome and you are amazing, and you can sign up to do that here, on Planned Parenthood's Clinic Defender page. And you'll be doing more than just helping women — getting hands-on involved in a cause that you feel passionate about can change your life, teaching you new skills, giving you new insights, making you part of a community, and helping you realize strengths you didn't know you had.
However, being a clinic escort is far from the only option when it comes to volunteering. The Clinic Defender page also lists other ways that you can volunteer your time and services, for your local Planned Parenthood and those in other communities. And if you have a specialized set of skills that you think could be of use — fundraising, event planning, or anything else — don't keep it to yourself. Your regional Planned Parenthood probably has a dedicated email address for volunteers — for example, those looking to volunteer in New York City would contact firstname.lastname@example.org — so shoot them an email and offer your services.
In the end, what you do matters less than making a decision to do something to let Planned Parenthood know that you stand with them — and to let Planned Parenthood's opponents know that you're not afraid, and you refuse to be quiet about a woman's right to health, safety, and controlling her own reproductive destiny.
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