Last week, the advocacy group Tell Them organized a letter writing campaign to help raise awareness about DHEC’s (Department of Health and Environmental Control) possible closing of Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic. Tell Them, based in Columbia, South Carolina, is a non-partisan group of more than 20,000 members addressing issues such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections with education, counseling, and health care.
Attendees, both men and women of varied ages, dropped in for an evening of political discourse, letter writing, and refreshments. Representative Beth Bernstein was also in attendance. Paper and pen were provided, and, as is custom with these type of events, a sample letter was provided for inspiration. All were encouraged to share their personal stories with Governor Nikki Haley and to remind her of the integral role that Planned Parenthood plays in the community. For example, Planned Parenthood provided contraception to almost 3,000 South Carolinians and performed over 6,000 STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) tests and treatments in 2013.
Eme Crawford, Director of Advocacy at Tell Them, spoke with me about the possible closing of Planned Parenthood clinic.
Can you tell me about why you’re hosting this event?
“All lot of things happen in South Carolina that are harmful to women. And this was another example in a long line of examples of someone using women’s health like a chip in a political game.”
“Planned Parenthood provides preventative services for thousands of South Carolinians, and no one was talking about that. There always seems to be this focus on the 3% of the work they do, providing safe abortions. That’s the thing they do that gets blown out of proportion, and nobody is talking about the work that they do with cancer screenings, HIV testing, providing contraception in underserved communities.”
“We don’t agree with [Governor Haley] threatening to close down Planned Parenthood over things like the water is too hot in the sink, or not all the training manuals are completed. And so it’s gratifying to see that there are a lot of other people in the Columbia area that feel the same way, and are willing to share their stories with Governor Haley.”
Does writing a letter really make a difference?
“When people take the time to come to an event and actually write a letter by hand, it means something, and it’s going to have a large impact. It is more than just someone is sitting on their couch and pressing a button.”
Do you have anything planned for the near future?
“Well, we didn’t have this event planned. (laughter) We’re waiting to see what kind of support we have, what Governor Haley does next, what DHEC next, and see how they respond. We’re hoping to have more letter writing parties and rallies and things of that nature to build the community because there are a lot of people who care about this.”