The Battle to Keep Planned Parenthood Alive in the Trump Era: Interview with Nancy Duncan

23335800_10214569944392539_511657999_o“I’m a pre-antiretroviral AIDS survivor and proud of it. I feel my life experiences can help many, and to be part of the solution and not the problem is very rewarding to me.”

By Emili Ema Sedlar

In recent years, Planned Parenthood has become one of the most impactful organizations in the United States. But now, Donald Trump and his administration—and Republicans in Congress–are doing everything they can to defund Planned Parenthood, breaking the basic principles of sexual and reproductive rights for millions of Americans.

From the beginning of this year, activists have passionately marched on the streets to fight for the rights of many of those who have been targeted and are afraid. Planned Parenthood is one of the organizations proving to Trump that things cannot and won’t go his way. According to its annual report of 2015-2016, Planned Parenthood health centers have had an enormous impact on different segments of sexual and reproductive rights. For instance, in the past two years, they provided information and services on birth control to over 2 million people, and over 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The numbers get bigger each year.

In addition to this, Planned Parenthood has had a significant role in sex education. According to the Planned Parenthood website, the education department of Planned Parenthood provided sex education to over 750,000 participants. The majority of these participants are young adults (75% are of the age of 12-24).

Nancy Duncan, a Planned Parenthood advocate who has been in this fight for years and will continue in many more years to come, is 60 years old and has been living with HIV for over 32 years. In 1999, Duncan started to do HIV peer education work, helping young adults talk about the importance of testing and practicing safe sex. Together with eight other women, in 2004, they started up a women’s HIV prevention program, which was funded by the AIDS Institute. After 13 years, she is here to talk about the important role of Planned Parenthood in a time of chaos in US politics.

Nancy at a PP mobile testing unit

Abortion at Planned Parenthood is safe and legal

According to Duncan, Planned Parenthood is the primary source of health care for many of its patients, one of them women. Planned Parenthood helps women who are insured, uninsured or undocumented.

“We take Medicaid, and for many women it’s their only insurance. Other doctors, gynecologists, obstetricians and primary care doctors don’t accept Medicaid, and they don’t have the capacity to provide the care to all the patients currently served by us,” explained Duncan.

Furthermore, one of the goals of Planned Parenthood is to provide aid and advice to women, even if they have no income. The organization provides birth control in all forms, pap smears to detect cervical cancer, and breast exams. When it comes to abortion service, it is 4% of Planned Parenthood’s business, and because of the Hyde Amendment, is not covered by Medicaid.

“Many of our supporters will tell you that attacks on Planned Parenthood harm access to comprehensive care for many women, men and young adults, especially those living in underserved communities. Congress should stop its politically motivated attacks on Planned Parenthood and instead work to protect, expand and improve the programs that keep women and their families healthy,” added Duncan.

Educating about safe sex

Moreover, Duncan explained how today, employees and volunteers go to communities and do street outreach–mainly to women—as well as personal testimony and HIV testing. In addition to this, they also go into high schools, county jails and colleges to provide a range of programming options, including evidence based programs for young people, adults and priority populations, peer educations programs, thus community driven culturally relevant health education program.

When it comes to the discussion about HIV, a topic today that many still stigmatize or ignore, Planned Parenthood also has an HIV prevention department, which includes education on how HIV is and is not transmitted and making sure clients know HIV testing is free, confidential and the only way how to find out one’s status.

“I believe abortion is a very personal choice. If one does not support it, don’t get one, but leave others alone.”

Duncan explained that since abortion is the first target to many Republicans seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, many people believe that it is the only service Planned Parenthood provides.

“We still have to deal with the protesters at the front gate pretty much on a daily basis. Though pretty much everyone who comes is not seeking an abortion, they hold up signs and pictures to intimidate clients from coming into the center,” said Duncan.

One of Duncan’s messages is that it is vital to use all possible educational tools to inform and educate others through the media about specific topics, such as STI’s, HIV, birth control, pregnancy, and abstinence.

She plans to stay with the prevention program and to continue to share her own personal story. “I’m a pre-antiretroviral AIDS survivor and proud of it. I feel my life experiences can help many, and to be part of the solution and not the problem is very rewarding to me.”