What does it mean to provide & protect?

Writers explore Planned Parenthood's mission with essays and poetry

A literary fundraiser can be quite romantic - especially if you can't get your lover to read you poetry. February 12 is the annual Planned Parenthood Valentine Party and art event, featuring 12 local writers reading poetry and essays. Poet Jenny Browne brings together writers whose works traverse the broad territory of planned and unplanned parenthood: from the sentimentality of sex to the reality of conception, and from the joy and complexity of rearing children to the pain and hilarity of being reared.

This will be Planned Parenthood's second literary event of the year. Last month its Government Affairs Council honored Roe v. Wade with a poetry slam at Tito's Tacos. Open to the public for a minimum donation of $3, it was more of a friend-raiser than a fundraiser.

"The most successful aspect of the Slam," says Jeffrey Hons, president of Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas, "was that we had young people there who were being introduced to Planned Parenthood for the first time."

With President Bush elected to a second term and Chief Justice William Rehnquist ill, Roe v. Wade faces a real threat, and supporters, such as the donors who attend the GAC fundraisers, fear that the next generation of women is not motivated to carry on the fight.

Judging from the roar of appreciation at Titos, they were happy to hear 22-year-old slam poet Genevieve Rodriguez declare "a revolution that will be televised / With headlines reading all around," punctuated with a promise to defend her reproductive rights at any price. "Because if you think my/generation won't pick up a speculum / in the back of a van you better think again." `Rodriguez' poem if printed in full, at the end of this article.`

Hons believes art successfully communicates across political divides because it allows people to see that every choice - birth, adoption, abortion, or none of the above - is a woman's story. And people can relate to stories.

"People are tired of hearing the political dialogue on women's reproductive rights; no one is listening, they've made up their minds," says Hons. "Art speaks to people in a much more humane way than politics ever can."

"Good writing and art ask us to pause and consider someone else's experience," agrees Jenny Browne, "and to think about how it is similar, or not, to our own."

   Provide and Protect:
Writers on Planned and Unplanned Parenthood

5-8pm Sat, Feb 12
$25 individual/$40 couple
Finesilver Gallery
816 Camaron
736-2244 x318

Saturday's event includes cocktails and hors d'oeuvres from Beto's Comida Latina, and readings from Browne, Rosemary Catacalos, Cary Clack, Catherine Kasper, Victoria Garcia Zapata Klein, Ignacio R. Magaloni, Bryce Milligan, Hoa Nguyen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Barbara Ras, David Rutschmann, Phil West, and Abe Louise Young. A limited-edition chapbook of the authors' works will be available for $10 - cheap at twice the price considering the quality of writing therein.

Browne gave the writers no guidelines outside the title and her own inspiration for the project. While Planned Parenthood's detractors work hard to associate the organization with abortion, Browne would like to refocus the conversation on its mission, which is to "provide and protect the sexual and reproductive health care and information people need to plan their families."

"There are a lot of people who don't have healthcare, and that's a big part of what Planned Parenthood does, on a really practical level," Browne says.

A new mother at the time that she began organizing the event, Browne was also moved by Planned Parenthood's mission "to consider the parallels between the charge to provide and protect ... and the overwhelming responsibility" to provide for and protect her child. Riffing on how provide and protect might resonate with other choices, and other writers, became the scope for the project.

Reading through the chapbook, the diversity of voices and literary integrity of the writing is impressive; it's clear the authors' voices have not been subsumed by any agenda. "I didn't want this to be a political pamphlet, I wanted it to be a literary book," says Browne.

By Susan Pagani


I've been in this room for about 22 years now

I don't really know why I'm here but I'll probably in anger end up stating a theory or two

You see they don't care about how I feel

I asked to not be kept in the kitchen barefoot and they stuck me in the bedroom in heels

I know what you're wondering

What color are my heels well they're white with some writing on them

Something about my innocence which despite my persistence was lost

Not by choice

I was hardly old enough to have control over my voice

But it's ok

It taught me early on my body is not my own

I'm sorry it's

So rude of me to rant and rave

And not even stop to give you a name

Allow me to introduce myself

I'm a c cup a size 14 and I've slept with four people

Now that the formalities are out of the way

Let me just say

That the chances of me getting out look a little gray

See I'm allowed to physically leave but my mind must stay which works out

Because their opinion of me is in the bedroom anyway

I tried to talk to the owner of the house but it turns out he's not too bright

He can't ever get my name right which is not OK I mean

What kind of a name is Terrorist anyway?

And it doesn't help they stuck me in here with Ann Coulter

Who claims to be 30 but is a hell of a lot older

She goes on and on about how the queerness in me has the ability to ruin society

But she's the one who won't stop calling me

And perpetual persecution of people is our national pastime and the fight this church wants to pick is whether or not I prefer dick

They think my choice is perverse

So I'm sure glad dubya wasn't around in all his shame

To see the roles reversed while his sweet Jenna called my name

And as far as the rest of the right wing

That runs on one thing

Fuck your hypocrisy

And your ability to lie with no remorse

Will fail you on this course

Because the very people you despise will bring you

A revolution that will be televised

With headlines reading all around

It's the new weather underground

Cause you see the time for scheduled resistance is coming around again

It's already been to long you can say it even started

When dubya woke up to 1.15 million people on his lawn

And what do I have to say to the rich straight white men

That damn me?

Your daughters are out buying our CD's

But I'm still here

And they're out there yeah it's not fair but I've made them aware

That our only choice will be to open some of the railroads of our underground

Because if you think my

Generation won't pick up a speculum

In the back of a van you better think again

Because the very bodies you envy will be the ones

To bring chaos and change to this country

By Genevieve Rodriguez

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