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Planned Parenthood: Ours Not Yours
Adwoa AboahPhotography Natalia Mantini, t-shirt design Tallulah Willis

Planned Parenthood: ours not yours

Planned Parenthood: Ours Not Yours

Adwoa Aboah, Grace Miceli and Alexandra Marzella speak on the importance of keeping Planned Parenthood afloat as a woman’s right to safe care is increasingly placed in the wrong hands

Most women on Earth can relate to a specific feeling: that jolt of fear that comes when something isn't quite right in her body. And thus, whether or not they’re sexually active, women from across the gender spectrum need a trusted place and professionals to turn to when specific health matters arise – especially since non-specialists can have a tendency to brush female pain aside. Women need places to go when they’re curious, when they have pregnancy scares, need STD testing, when they’re in the grips of extreme illness (for example, reproductive disorder endometriosis is overwhelmingly misdiagnosed). Safe spaces are essential, even life-saving. And so the fact that there are fewer and fewer of them is getting disturbing.

In July of 2015, women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood was subject to a series of bogus attack videos. Created by an anti-abortion organisation called the Center for Medical Progress (oh, the irony) the videos purported to show that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue, begging viewers to “Hold Planned Parenthood accountable for their illegal sale of baby parts.” They were proven to be falsified propaganda, but the damage was done; socially conservative politicians railed against the organisation, and in December of 2015, the Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood. That was then vetoed by President Obama, but thus far, 11 states have reduced or completely cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

All hope is not lost. This month, Obama issued a ruling that says states cannot cut funds for health care providers solely because they conduct abortions (Planned Parenthood also provides birth control, STD testing and treatment, sex education, and more). But we’re in the midst of an election, and thus Planned Parenthood’s fate is somewhat uncertain. Conservatives’ persistent fight against PP is, in addition to being entirely unsettling, also somewhat baffling – all women, all people, benefit from Planned Parenthood’s services.

“People who are not in our bodies should not be making these decisions” – Natalia Mantini

And so, in order to help the organisation, photographer Natalia Mantini created a project: shooting portraits of various female artists – accompanied by a women’s health-focused interview – wearing custom shirts co-designed with artist Tallulah Willis. Mantini and Willis are selling the shirts, which feature the powerful slogan “Ours not yours,” and all proceeds are going to Planned Parenthood.

Mantini came up with the project on the day she released her last book, Crave. “It felt like a responsibility,” she says. She enlisted Willis to design the shirts, calling her drawings “vulnerable, funny, relatable, and very human.” They came up with the slogan during a brainstorming session – though Mantini was quick to give Willis credit for it. “I think the most powerful things can be the simplest,” explains Willis. “They really pack a punch. It’s about our bodies, and people who are not in our bodies should not be making these decisions.”

Both women see the clear value of Planned Parenthood and are fighting to defend it. “I think it’s synonymous with safety,” says Willis. “I hear ‘Planned Parenthood’ and I think of a safe, comfortable place. It’s safety, and it’s also a necessity. It’s integral to our world.”

“I get very overwhelmed and frustrated when I think about women who are in need of care and are unable to receive it,” continues Mantini. “The fact that (women’s healthcare) is being sanctioned and made more inaccessible is very scary and very real. So to me, it’s something absolutely crucial that we need to maintain.”

You can purchase t-shirts here – 100 per cent of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood

BIANCA BOUTILIER, 26, BROOKLYN, MODEL

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Bianca Boutilier: There are so many injustices women face like violence, education inequality, and access to healthcare that I couldn’t call one issue more pressing than the other. I feel my experience as a woman has been greatly affected by our lack of quality sexual and reproductive education. There’s a dangerous amount of misinformation and confusion surrounding women’s health and bodies.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Bianca Boutilier: I think we have to educate and empower young people to make decisions about their bodies for themselves and not make those decisions for them. Through education and awareness, we can erase harmful stigmas about periods, promiscuity, consent and all other issues dealing with sex. In doing so, women can make healthy decisions for themselves without shame or pressure.

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Bianca Boutilier: Planned Parenthood is a vital and extremely necessary organisation because everyone deserves affordable care and accurate sexual health information. Planned Parenthood has a familiarity and recognition that I think has a big influence on where women choose to go for healthcare. As a teen, you hear about Planned Parenthood through friends, at school, rumors about who was looking for a ride or seen coming and going. When you need care or support, Planned Parenthood is the name you know.

“We have to educate and empower young people to make decisions about their bodies for themselves and not make those decisions for them” – Bianca Boutilier

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Bianca Boutilier: When I became sexually active I had very little information and access to care that I needed. I grew up without health care and my family’s deeply religious beliefs made any information about sex (beyond the idea of abstinence) inaccessible. As a result, I became pregnant the second time I had sex. Like so many others who had no one to turn to for help, but I knew if I could get to Planned Parenthood I could be given the care I needed. I took the bus a few cities over and was able to have a medical abortion. After my first experience at PP, I continued to use their services for birth control, STD screenings, and annual exams. Having access to care helped me feel in control of my body and inspired me to respect and love myself.

We love the way you challenge patriarchal (and societal) norms through your internet presence; adding to this generation’s voice of female empowerment and awareness. What has your journey of learning and embracing your femininity been like?

Bianca Boutilier: I feel like my journey has just begun! I’ve spent so many years under pressure to please men, modeling agencies, peers, and essentially everyone else but myself. Because so many of these pressures are based on looks I think that if I would have been treated like a person instead of just a female, I could have learned a lot more about myself.

I am so grateful to be learning about and embracing myself now – it feels like freedom! I love being a woman and expressing my sexuality and femininity, but that’s my choice and I don’t owe it to anyone to look or behave a certain way. Ownership over your own body may not seem like a revolutionary concept, but in our world where girls and women are subjected to sexual violence, child marriage, and gender inequality, I’ll celebrate every victory of empowerment along my journey.

BEATRIX OST, 70, NEW YORK/VIRGINIA, DESIGNER

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Beatrix Ost: I feel it is tremendously degrading when women's issues are tossed around in every political and presidential election. These rights should be once and for all a human right, not an issue. 

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Beatrix Ost: Women's reproductive rights and the right to their bodies should be taught in school. As was done with AIDS education, it should be a free healthcare offering. 

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Beatrix Ost: Planned Parenthood should be elevated from being an interest organisation to a human right. If abortion is something to be avoided, we need sex education! We also need Women's Rights Education. Life is not about quantity, it is about quality!

“If abortion is something to be avoided, we need sex education!” – Beatrix Ost

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Beatrix Ost: To resolve these issues we need to offer Planned Parenthood as a resource to reach people living in poverty, the whole world over. Resources like food and water may be limited in our very near future.

You say "in your body is a good place to be" which boasts a powerful message of the importance of confidence. If you could give women one piece of advice on how to build a confident voice, what would it be?

Beatrix Ost: "In your Body is a good Place to be" :

This is You.

This is your body.

The only one you have.

Be kind to it.

Cherish it , like the most precious gift you have received.

Educate yourself to be its best keeper and friend.

To be there for you and life's challenges!

CHRISTELLE DE CASTRO, 32, BROOKLYN, PHOTOGRAPHER/FILMMAKER

What do you feel are the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Christelle De Castro: The stigma on abortion must be abolished. Women should not be forced to bear children they feel unready, unfit, or simply unwilling to have. Let's call it what it is: patriarchy and the misuse of Christian values is what polices women’s bodies, silences our thoughts, shames us for exercising power, and underpays us in the workplace.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Christelle De Castro: Give all women their god given right to govern their own temples. Our house, our rules. 

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Christelle De Castro: My first ever relationship was with a boy named Daniel when I was 17. He was my boyfriend until my first year of college, and the first person I became sexually active with. Planned Parenthood was my safe haven. A place where I was able to access birth control, condoms, and advice at a time when sex was unchartered territory for both my partner and I. It's crucial for our youth to have a place like Planned Parenthood, where they can get answers, treatment, and guidance without being judged, or worse, turned away.

“Give all women their god given right to govern their own temples. Our house, our rules” – Christelle De Castro

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Christelle De Castro: When I was about 12, my dad cut off health insurance and dental care for my entire family because we couldn't afford it. In my early 20' I began experiencing intense, debilitating cramps. After an emergency rush to the hospital, and an ultrasound later, I discovered I had fibroids in my uterus. My mum and I struggled to pay for those medical bills. We couldn't even afford treatment. It was the hospital visits and the ultrasound that killed us.

In hindsight, I should have gone to Planned Parenthood to seek help. I would have gotten the same attention at a fraction of the price. Ultimately I feel that our healthcare system in the US is disappointing. I don't want to be a person that complains without offering a solution, but as a tax paying citizen, I would hope that in the face of a medical emergency, there is access to treatment at an affordable rate instead of what feels like a life sentence of debt.

How do these type of issues and the other nuances of your personality tie into your photography and filmmaking?

Christelle De Castro: I do what I can to use my strength in image making and my access to fashion outlets to raise awareness through my personal work. I collaborate on a feminist mag that celebrates women who are changing the game. I'm raising money for Black Lives Matter by selling prints I've photographed at protests. I do not tolerate misogynistic behavior on my sets. Diverse casting is very important to me. I make sure that women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community are both well-represented in my work and integrated into my teams behind the scenes.

It's 2016, we have lived with the internet for decades. It’s necessary to be awake. It's important to be vocal. The kids are watching us, let's nourish them with good values and empower them to do amazing things.

GRACE MICELI, 27, NEW YORK, ARTIST

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Grace Miceli: A lack of access and education. Also there is still prominent anti-choice legislation in many states in the USA.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Grace Miceli: I can’t believe that anyone feels they have the right to control a woman’s choice of what happens to her body. More pro-choice legislation needs to be passed everywhere and women need to be able to access resources that help to educate them on their reproductive health. There is supposed to be a separation of religion and state in this country but I don’t see that in action. It angers me so much.

“If teenagers are not taught about sex how can they learn about consent?” – Grace Miceli

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Grace Miceli: There are so many reasons! Planned Parenthood is an organisation that women can turn to for help regardless of their socio-economic background and that level of access is so important. It’s a place that so many of us have gone to in stressful and overwhelming times of need.

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Grace Miceli: I think the lack of sex education for teenagers is ridiculous. I remember being younger and so confused and ashamed about my body and sex. Only 24 states in the US mandate sex education, but 37 states require information on abstinence be mandatory and 26 of those require that abstinence be stressed. I think this attitude is responsible for many under-informed students and has serious repercussions. If teenagers are not taught about sex how can they learn about consent? We have to actively work to dismantle rape culture and I think sex education is an important place to start.

Has your relationship with these issues impacted the tone of your art or the work you chose to curate?

Grace Miceli: I think it has pushed me to be loud with my thoughts and opinions and also to provide as big a platform as possible for others to tell their stories, through art. We cannot be apathetic towards injustice – whether that is regarding representation in the art world or the government trying to control our bodies.

SARAH SOPHIE FLICKER, BROOKLYN, WRITER/ACTIVIST

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Sarah Sophie Flicker: There is a lot of work to do and a tonne of stigma surrounding abortion, reproductive health and women's sexuality. Because women's rights are intrinsically tied to reproductive rights, we really can't move toward equality without an intersectional approach. That's why I love the umbrella term "reproductive justice".

Reproductive justice, as defined by Sister Song, is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women's human rights. This is an intersectional way of looking at women's health and takes everything into account including sex education in schools, racism, equal pay, sexuality, rape culture, maternal health, birth, environmental racism, police violence, paid family leave, affordable child care, raising minimum wage, domestic violence, and gun violence. All of these issues are reproductive rights issues. If women can't raise their children without the threat of poverty, violence or discrimination, then we aren't serving women, families, and the future.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Sarah Sophie Flicker: Birth control should be affordable (or free) and easily accessible. Make Plan B accessible and affordable. Menstrual products have a "luxury" tax on them. New York and Illinois just eliminated the tax, but all states should do so. We need comprehensive, fact-based sex education in all schools. We need to teach consent early. We need to punish sexual assault on campuses and everywhere. We need to repeal the Hyde Amendment as soon as possible. The Hyde Amendment blocks the use of Medicaid to pay for abortions, making access to care unaffordable and inaccessible, which especially affects poor people and people of color. That's just a start!

Another thing I'm passionate about is raising feminist boys. We focus so much on raising empowered, feminist girls, but rarely talk about the messages boys are sent and the pressure of toxic masculinity boys feel at an early age. I suppose I'm especially passionate about this because I have three kids, two of whom are boys! I want them to have the same access to a full range of emotions that girls are are. I want them to hold onto their softness and vulnerability. I want them to respect women. I want them to be hands-on dads if they choose to have kids, who experience the fullness of parenting. I love that Jenny Holzer advocates to "raise boys and girls the same way". I've taken this on as my mantra!

Women across the country will still face significant, unnecessary, and harmful restrictions on their ability to access abortion care. This includes waiting periods — as long as 72 hours in Louisiana, 48 hours in Alabama, and 24 hours in Mississippi. In more than a dozen states, women seeking an abortion must also complete mandatory "counseling", where their doctor is required to provide false information. Many clinics have been forced to close, especially in Texas. We have to support these clinics in reopening!

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Sarah Sophie Flicker: For the very simple reason that Planned Parenthood provides essential health care services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people across the country. The large majority of whom have low incomes or live in underserved communities. I also think that we recognise Planned Parenthood as a safe place. It's the first name I remember hearing as a girl in regards to my sexual health. Many people look to Planned Parenthood as the main source of their healthcare needs. People know that they won't be turned away at a Planned Parenthood. There are so few safe places for women, low-income families, and underserved communities, Planned Parenthood has always been a safe haven for us all.

“There are so few safe places for women, low income families, and underserved communities, Planned Parenthood has always been a safe haven for us all” – Sarah Sophie Flicker

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Sarah Sophie Flicker: I suppose it was early on. American schools are mostly useless on the topic of sex education. Information for young people feels like a game of telephone. Which is scary because so often, the information passed along is incorrect. I had an abortion when I was a teenager. I was lucky because I lived in California and had the privilege to afford the procedure. It was as good of a situation as anyone could hope for! Even still, I was too ashamed to tell anyone, including my parents about it. The shame surrounding abortion and women's sexuality in general is a curtain that needs to be lifted.

Just a few years ago I was pregnant and, at around 22 weeks, my son's head was measuring small. This was a red flag to my doctor who rushed us through a series of really terrifying tests because there would be "nothing he could do" after 24 weeks. It was a nightmarish few weeks because my husband and I desperately wanted this child. The thought that there could be something seriously wrong and that we would have no recourse was so scary. The good news is that all our kids are healthy and wonderful. They just all have remarkably small heads!

On your website you have shared: “I remember thinking there was no room in feminism for motherhood… Motherhood has confused my feminism at times; feminism has left me with few answers on the many questions of motherhood. Feminism has me firmly believing that motherhood, should be at least, the most uniting experience for women.” What is your relationship between motherhood and feminism like today?

Sarah Sophie Flicker: It's still a tricky relationship, but one that I feel much more at peace with since I wrote that. I think feminism, up until now, has done a wonderful job of creating access for women in traditionally male spheres. And this is critical. That said, women have gained access by accepting the male rules, adopting traditionally masculine behaviors, accepting values that are male. The truth is that we still value these more in our culture. For mothers and fathers, this not only creates a double bind but devalues the traditional work of women. The work of caregiving, of nurturing, of compromise, of peacemaking. As mothers, we are told that only our work outside of the home is important. As a privileged mother, I can hire caregivers to help raise my kids. Many women can't do this and thus are forced out of the workplace. Also, we undervalue the caregivers, mostly women, who care for children and the elderly.

My early days as a mum were confusing because, as any parent knows, parenting is the single most important thing I do. Simultaneously, parenting and caregiving are not valued culturally. Women often are striving to go hard at work and then have to go equally hard at home. Men generally aren't held to the same standard and usually do less domestic and caregiving work at home.

I stumbled on the movement of care (driven by amazing women like Anne Marie Slaughter and Ai-jen Poo, etc). Adopting "male/masculine" values and work leaves so many women out of the picture. It doesn't account for the millions of women who can't afford childcare or paid sick days, or great education for their kids. It doesn't allow for women to feel proud of their caregiving roles. Until caregiving is valued, gender equality can't exist. This movement towards asking men to "lean into" family, and valuing the important work of care has really been a turning point for me, and for my family. I hope it's a turning point for parents everywhere. This is the unfinished work of feminism.

ALEXANDRA MARZELLA , 26, BROOKLYN, ARTIST

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Alexandra Marzella: Basic humanity isn't even allotted to women as a whole. The complete lack of equality and the constant fear and pressure pushing us down has and always will be the biggest threat to the female and feminine spirit.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Alexandra Marzella: Personally, I don't think women should be paying anything for reproductive health care. These organs are the most valuable thing in the universe to humans. We give life. We should be able to choose when and how. This process should be shrouded in safety, not skepticism and criticism.

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Alexandra Marzella: Because it's doing something no other organisation has been able to. It's doing it for the people and not the patriarchy.

“Personally, I don’t think women should be paying anything for reproductive healthcare. These organs are the most valuable thing in the universe to humans. We give life” – Alexandra Marzella

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women's healthcare?

Alexandra Marzella: Since I can remember. I remember the school nurse sometimes didn't have pads or tampons due to a lack of school funding and maybe even negligence. I remember watching my mum have to jump through hoops to get medication and treatment growing up. Now I deal with it first hand.

Do any of these issues influence what you create and put into the world? What is the message you hope to pass on through your work?

Alexandra Marzella: Of course. Equality will always be the goal. 

Your work is compelling in that you don't seem to fear being extremely vulnerable or honest. All while exuding a strong, feminine power. Were you always so fearless or was there a time that you were apprehensive and inhibited?

Alexandra Marzella: I've always been this way. I think more so now than ever I am feeling the pressure to reign it in - to suppress and censor. You'd think it would get easier, but the system is a daily reminder of society's inability to cope with reality and it's constant shushing of it.

ADWOA ABOAH, 26, LONDON/LA, MODEL/FOUNDER OF GURLS TALK

What do you feel are the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Adwoa Aboah: The right to affordable, safe and accessible healthcare without judgment, discrimination and shame. The right to be in control of our own body and decide when motherhood is right for us. The right to accessible sexual education no matter what financial, cultural or ethnic background we are from.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Adwoa Aboah: More affordable and accessible sexual health clinics. Better and mandatory sexual education in schools.

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Adwoa Aboah: It is a necessary organisation because it provides a trusting and respectful place in each community for everyone who needs a place to turn to. It is a place for those who need someone to talk to without the judgement and stigma that surrounds these kind of conversations.

“The right to be in control of our own body and decide when motherhood is right for us” – Abwoa Aboah

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Adwoa Aboah: I have been lucky in my youth, having been brought up in England with the NHS and an accessible private health care system through my parents. But now, being older, I feel limited by the available knowledge and guidance needed for someone like myself who is on medication for other reasons such as mental health problems. 

Tell us a bit about the concept behind GURLS TALK. How did it come to fruition and what are you hoping to convey through this platform?

Adwoa Aboah: I hope to provide a safe and trusting environment where girls of all ages can speak and share openly with one another. Where they are introduced to women who can provide mentorship and knowledge of other worlds and career paths. A space where talking about sex, periods, boyfriends and mental health among other issues is met not with judgment but honesty and understanding. GURLS TALK hopes to be both an emotional and educational platform structured around guiding girls into womanhood. This is something I very much needed when growing up. I needed someone to speak to, someone who related to how I was feeling.

TAMARA SANTIBANEZ, 29, NEW YORK, ARTIST/EDITOR

What do you believe to be the greatest issues we're currently facing in regards to women’s reproductive rights and women’s rights in general?

Tamara Santibanez: I think that the dialogue can often revolve around responding and reacting to anti-abortion campaigning, which is myopic on both sides. I grew up in a state that taught abstinence only in my public school and saw how drastic the need for wider education and general access to healthcare for women, particularly young women, is. While preserving abortion rights is crucial as they are consistently under attack, the religious and conservative demographic needs to acknowledge how access to birth control and sex education are necessary in reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Based on those issues, what's the first change you’d like to see in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare?

Tamara Santibanez: The destigmatisation of empowering women with information. Equipping women with how to have safer sex, how often to get exams, how to do breast self-exams, information on and access to different birth control methods – all of these have a positive impact in the immediate as well as in the long term. Male partners need to shoulder this responsibility as well and not lay it solely at the feet of women.

Why do you think Planned Parenthood is such a necessary organisation for women and families?

Tamara Santibanez: Planned Parenthood is one of the more accessible clinics that I’ve found, particularly as it’s established itself as a household name in women’s healthcare. It’s known as a destination for affordable reproductive healthcare.

“In my sex ed classes in Georgia, we were told that if we had an abortion pieces of the baby’s dead body would fall out of us afterward, and that condoms were porous and HIV passed through them. The only option presented was abstinence” – Tamara Santibanez

When did you first feel affected by either the freedom or limitation of resources available for women’s healthcare?

Tamara Santibanez: In my sex ed classes in Georgia, we were told that if we had an abortion pieces of the baby’s dead body would fall out of us afterward, and that condoms were porous and HIV passed through them. The only option presented was abstinence. I realised pretty immediately I needed to seek out other information, but it’s horrifying to think that some kids might not realise they are being lied to.

What do you believe should be done in order to keep things moving in a positive, progressive direction?

Tamara Santibanez: More conversations, more inclusiveness, amplifying more varied voices and experiences. More people willing to listen, learn and check their own prejudices.                     

Would you say women’s rights are an issue that comes into play when creating your art? If so, how do you incorporate the subject matter into your pieces?

Tamara Santibanez: The best work is made when you go with what you know. Art should be authentic to your own experience and that’s the best starting point to use to explore broader ideas. My work is mainly about subculture and identity but a major aspect of it is fetishism and kink community. I focus more specifically on sex positivity and queer liberation in my personal life and publishing work. The work I make is all self-portraiture in one way or another, dealing with my own shifting gender and sexual identities.