It was a just another sunny Sunday afternoon in southern Florida — except that nearly 2,000 protesters were gathered along Interstate One, stretching the four miles between LeJeune Road and Kendall Drive. They were standing their ground against what we at Planned Parenthood call basic health care.
I’m accustomed to seeing five or 10 protesters outside our health centers throughout the month — but nothing like this.
These protesters were part of the “The Life Chain,” a group that opposes women making their own reproductive health decisions. They don’t try to hide their stance against contraception, either — they are openly unwilling to find a common ground on prevention. There were the same old clichéd anti-choice signs, as well as other signs of varying creativity and offensiveness. Several people held rosaries. Others harassed passing cars with angry chants.
As a native of Miami and a Planned Parenthood employee, I know firsthand how essential it is for the women, men, and teens here in Miami-Dade County to have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services. Access to sexual and reproductive health care is essential — as is education. The Miami metropolitan area has the highest AIDS rate in the entire nation, and ranks high in cases of other STDs.
When I see these protesters, I can’t help but think, “These people haven’t heard the stories I’ve heard. They don’t know the realities of life in this fast-paced, complicated urban environment.”
This health center offers comprehensive reproductive health care for the men and women of this community. I mean preventive health services: STD testing and treatment, breast exams, contraception, and education and information. And we provide women with a safe space to ask questions and seek guidance on even their most complicated reproductive decisions.
Here, we help them claim their own destiny.
All those protesters gathered along the road, filled with hate and bent to intimidate, they make me sad. But that only strengthens my resolve.
I am Emily X.
I am Planned Parenthood.