Commentary: Planned Parenthood — one man's view

The Kansas City StarMarch 9, 2011 

This column comes with a warning:

Men may cringe for their private parts; women may applaud a new ally.

Congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood sparked a perspective only a man could add. It’s a rarely articulated view.

Cutting funding is about opposition to abortion. I wrote recently of my tempered support for the organization, despite my opposition to abortion. My reasoning is that by ensuring women access to contraception, Planned Parenthood probably keeps abortion rates down by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Jeff Munzinger e-mailed of his life-changing encounter with Planned Parenthood — emphasis on life.

Munzinger married at 21. He and his wife were still students at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

On a tight budget, they relied on Planned Parenthood for birth control pills. It was the early ’70s, when zero population growth was widely discussed.

“I remember thinking that ‘I need to do my part,’ and marched off to Planned Parenthood in Columbia, Mo., to discuss a vasectomy,” Munzinger wrote in his initial e-mail.

Today, he recalls the kind, middle-aged woman there who counseled him. She urged him not to be so hasty, saying that someday the couple would desire children. He left the office without the procedure.

His son is 30, his daughter, 27.

“I guess the thing that struck me is that Planned Parenthood gets so much criticism for being an abortion provider,” said Munzinger, now of Springfield. “But here, it was just the opposite.”

Leadership coaches often press people to think about whose voice isn’t at the table when making decisions. It’s an exercise to broaden thinking, consider ramifications not readily seen, perspectives not being articulated.

Too often, men are not at this table, unless they adamantly oppose abortion. Other men tend to opt out, falling back a little too conveniently on the idea that it’s a woman’s issue. But it takes two to make a baby.

Planned Parenthood’s website notes that more than one out of three women in the U.S. have an abortion by age 45. I find that disturbing.

But here’s the problem. To end Planned Parenthood’s participation in abortion, the organization’s detractors are willing to take down all services provided through more than 800 clinics.

Much of that work — cancer screenings, fertility testing, reproductive health exams — is very life-affirming. Munzinger’s example attests to that reality.

At 59, he finds himself more apt to speak his mind. Maybe it’s the latitude that comes with children he’s deeply proud of, and a long, loving marriage.

He concluded: “I’ve never told anyone this story, but perhaps I should.”

Consider that task complete.

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