Dear Speaker Ryan

Before your staff shuffles this letter into a pile reserved for “people who do not agree with you and also are not represented by you,” perhaps they might find a more special pile reserved for “people who graduated from college with you.” Surely that can’t be more than 4,000 of us, right? Back then, Miami University couldn’t really muster more than the state treasurer to come speak at commencement, so kudos for actually getting to be a commencement speaker. Don’t take it too personally that many of the graduates didn’t really care what you had to say. Did you really care what our commencement speaker had to say? Me, neither!

Here’s the deal. Your recent appearances on the news are troubling to a certain segment of society (me among them), and no doubt, they are a sign of wonder to others. At this point in time, you’ve made it perfectly clear that the Affordable Care Act has got to go as well as all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and this leaves me perplexed. Is the ACA perfect? Oh, god, no! Anyone who suggests that is highly suspect. Even the president said it wasn’t . . . and people like to slap his name all over it. And I get it: premiums have gone up, people are pissed that they can’t keep their doctors or coverage, folks are getting confused by the names Affordable Care Act vs. Obamacare. But in the end, Congress was finally able to do something. After record low approval ratings for the past five or six years, y’all finally got it together and passed a bill to effectively dismantle the ACA. Congrats? Maybe?

But truly, this letter isn’t about the ACA. I think that Congress will figure out quickly that creating something is far harder than railing against it. No, this letter is about Planned Parenthood. Why is it that Republicans spend six long years going on and on and on about how we need to put America back to work again and how our economy is going to shit, and yet one of the very first things you do is move to defund Planned Parenthood? Are there tons of OB/GYNs out of work and this is a jobs act for them? Didn’t think so. So, why? It’s that whole abortion thing, right?

At the rate that Planned Parenthood supposedly gives out abortions, I’m a little irritated that I’ve never been offered one at Planned Parenthood. Seriously, I’m still waiting on my punch card for that. The way the talking heads go on about the horrors that are committed at Planned Parenthood and their “abortions for everyone” philosophy, I’m still a little miffed that mine must have gotten lost in the mail. Or, and this is probably it, I’m a rational person who knows that only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does involves abortions. Back in 1990, when you and I were juniors at Miami, I went to the local Planned Parenthood (relax, Speaker Ryan – it isn’t there any more) on Spring Street in search of some prenatal pills. You see, I had already made the choice to continue with my pregnancy, and god bless Planned Parenthood, they actually would see me and provide some vitamins to ensure that both me and my baby would be healthy. Not a damn person tried to sway me from my decision. It was so shocking! You know what else was happening there? Two kids I tutored the previous summer decided they were going to start having sex, and they went in together for birth control. And they each got some. Another woman was there to have an STD test run. I’m not sure if you remember this or not, but 1990 was the height of the AIDS epidemic, so most people were concerned enough to get an STD test or two run. Let’s see . . . what else were people doing? Two women were talking about their Pap smears; I remember one of them was really nervous because she never had had one, and the other woman was quite comforting in her frankness. And then, there was me. Just trying to get some prenatal vitamins.

If you fast forward a couple of decades, I’m still using Planned Parenthood for my doctor’s visits because a) they are super close to my house, b) they can have my insurance dollars if they want it, and c) it’s easier to get an appointment there than with a more “traditional” doctor. The women in my local Planned Parenthood are pretty much the same as in the one that used to be in Oxford. The walls are still as lackluster as I remember, but I guess with a shoestring budget, you get by on all the free posters that you can. But the people there are just as caring as the one in Ohio. They aren’t in it for the money. They are in it because people need and rely on them for help and the services they provide. Services like: pap smears, breast exams, STD screenings, flu shots, prostate cancer screenings, condoms, sex ed, birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling for a variety of diseases, Plan B, mental health care, and abortions. Yup, they do provide abortions (you’ve got me there, Mr. Ryan), but thankfully the Hyde Amendment took care of using tax dollars to support them. BTW, if you are so opposed to abortions, then why cut off the funding that provides birth control to millions of women? That makes about as much sense as citing a work of fiction as one of your guiding principles. You do know that Atlas Shrugged is not a “how-to” manual, right? Did you also have the economics professor who put everything in terms of rum and sluggish sales? Maybe that’s why you are so confused.

So, let’s wrap this up, shall we. I doubt anything that I say will change your mind. You seem rather resolute in your desire to defund Planned Parenthood, so kudos for standing for something. I just wish it weren’t something that actually helps millions of women in a nation that continually underestimates and insists on explaining things to them like they are a six year old. Couldn’t you choose instead to defund naming a post office after someone instead? Oh, fun fact – in the past few years, that’s pretty much all Congress has been able to do: rename post offices. In the end, abortions are still going to happen. They aren’t going away . . . not at all. If I needed one, I wouldn’t have any trouble with obtaining one. Neither would my daughters if they needed one (forgot to mention: it was twins! Yay, me!). But I can’t say that about all women. I certainly can’t say that about women in Texas or in Ohio or in any other state that insists on a 20-week ban. Or women who need to take off a day from work or whose partner isn’t in favor of anything. Or for women who don’t have the luxury of having a provider within a reasonable distance. Sure, abortion is technically legal, but it’s not accessible. Maybe that’s been the plan all along: keep it legal but just out of reach for the vast majority of American women.

Well, I guess that’s it. Do you ever make it back to the old alma mater? It just isn’t same since they tore the water tower down. Then again, once Chuck stopped selling his corn nuggets and Bruno’s burnt down, it seemed a bit off to me. However, so much seems off now. Any way, if you’re not busy next Saturday, come on down to the corner of Independence Avenue and Third Street and join me at the Women’s March on Washington. Sure, you can probably see if from your place of employment, but do you really get the chance to interact with thousands of savvy, intelligent, passionate, and, yes, opinionated women sitting in that drafty old building? Didn’t think so . . . we’ll save you a patch of grass.


A fellow class of 1992 graduate

Oh, and the title of the post is “Falling Faster Than You Can Run” by Nathaniel Rateliff. It’s just a song that I’ve had on repeat, Mr. Ryan. Truly, it has nothing to do with anything . . . then again, maybe it does.