Anybody who has been in a long term relationship knows that love can wax and wane. And people in healthy relationships that stand the test of time generally know how to make the most of the periods when love feels the strongest, yet still hang in there when love feels a little more distant.
I'm in a long-term relationship with a person who I’ve been neglecting in recent years. Although I haven’t betrayed this person, I haven’t been doing the work required on my part to keep the relationship strong. This person has always been there for me — even (and especially) when very few others were.
But that’s just this person’s nature — to be there for people. Quietly. Selflessly. Consistently.
Me? Well, they don’t say opposites attract for nothing. I have been busy and self-absorbed — a dangerous combination when it comes to relationships. And what’s worse about my lapse is that my inattention comes at a time when this person has been under attack and could really use some suppport.
So, what was my wake-up call? Who do I have to thank for making me come to my senses before it’s too late? None other than Newt Gingrich.
At the anti-abortion group Personhood USA’s presidential forum in South Carolina recently, Newt Gingrich promised to swiftly and completely defund Planned Parenthood in early 2013 should he be elected president. That statement simultaneously got my attention and triggered a flood of emotions and memories from the very early days of our relationship.
The thing I remember most about you back then is how you always treated me with respect and dignity. As a nineteen-year-old high school drop-out, getting treated with respect and dignity wasn’t something that happened every day. And it definitely made an impression on me when it did.
The person that I’m in a relationship with is Planned Parenthood.
What? You don’t think Planned Parenthood is a “real” person? Think again. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit corporation. And, as Mitt Romney so eloquently told the hecklers at the Iowa State Fair, “Corporations are people, my friend.” The U.S. Supreme Court cleared that up once and for all in its landmark decision Citizens United, in which it clearly states that both for- and not-for-profit corporations are definitely persons.
I can’t really say why Gingrich’s vote-pandering comment snapped me out of my self-absorbed funk when none of the numerous other attacks on Planned Parenthood had. Maybe it was a cumulative effect. Maybe it was because the threat had a specific time attached to it and the imminence made it seem more serious. But whatever the reason, as is often the case when you fear you might lose someone you love, I found myself suddenly caught up in the rapture again.
And those feelings moved me to write the following open love letter:
Dear Planned Parenthood,
Next month — on Feb. 12, to be exact — you and I will celebrate our 28th anniversary. I remember that day so well! You were right there on East 7th Street. You looked nice — professional and clean — although it was clear you were on tight budget. But, hey, that’s not criticism. After all, I was on a tight budget, too.
I was a 19-year-old high school drop-out. After years of being a trainwreck teen, I was finally trying to get my act together. I was in my first semester of college — barely a few weeks into it — when I was suddenly struck with a serious illness. I was throwing up constantly and felt really weak and tired all of the time.
At first I thought it was food poisoning. But as the days wore on and I didn’t get better, I realized it was something far more serious. I couldn’t deny the obvious. I probably had cancer. Then a friend suggested something crazy: “Maybe you’re pregnant.”
That thought had never even occurred to me. And frankly, between the two — having cancer or being pregnant — I wasn’t sure which would be worse. I was married, at least — and had been for three straight weeks. So, I had that going for me. But Tim and I were not planning to have kids anytime soon, if ever. The truth was, we had never even discussed it.
That’s when I went to see you. You broke the news that I was pregnant. I was stunned. You and I talked over my options, and you asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wasn’t sure — that I needed to talk to Tim and do some thinking. You said you understood. You told me to call you the next day, and you assured me that you would be there for me, no matter what I decided.
As I drove away from you, my head was reeling. I knew that Tim and his construction crew would be eating lunch at Furr’s Cafeteria on South Lamar right about then, so I drove directly there. After lunch, Tim walked me to my car and I told him. I braced myself for his reaction. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
Tim jumped for joy. Literally. Up and down, over and over again, right there in the parking lot.
“This is GREAT NEWS!” he shouted. As you know, that definitely had not been my reaction when you delivered the news to me, nor was it the reaction I had anticipated from Tim. But suddenly, I couldn’t help myself. I found myself smiling from ear to ear.
“Don’t worry. We can handle this. It’s going to be great!” he assured me. His enthusiasm was contagious. Tim’s "can-do" spirit, sheer happiness and absolute commitment caused all of my worries to melt away.
Over the decades I’ve heard all the nasty things and outright lies that people say about you — like that you pressure young pregnant women to get abortions, or that giving abortions is ninety percent of what you do — and it always makes me furious.
The next day I went to see you again. I told you what I had decided.
“I’m going to have the baby,” I said.
“Are you sure?” you asked me.
“Yes. My husband and I talked it over. It’s what we want to do. We’re up for this,” I explained.
“In that case, let me give you the name, address and phone number of a clinic you can go to for prenatal care,” you told me. You knew from my earlier visit that I didn’t have any health insurance.
The thing I remember most about you back then is how you always treated me with respect and dignity. As a 19-year-old high school drop-out, getting treated with respect and dignity wasn’t something that happened every day. And it definitely made an impression on me when it did.
You didn’t try to steer me to any decision. You didn’t have any sort of agenda or bias. You gave me solid information and you let me know that you totally understood the decision was mine. And when I told you what I had decided, you walked your talk about being there for me by connecting me with a clinic that could help me from that point forward.
I know from firsthand, deeply personal experience the truth about who you are and what you do. I know that you stand for real family values — not the fake, hypocritical or self-serving kind that Gingrich and other candidates like to give lip-service to.
Over the decades I’ve heard all the nasty things and outright lies that people say about you — like that you pressure young pregnant women to get abortions, or that giving abortions is 90 percent of what you do — and it always makes me furious.
I know from firsthand, deeply personal experience the truth about who you are and what you do. I know that you stand for real family values. Not the fake, hypocritical or self-serving kind that Gingrich and other candidates like to give lip-service to.
My son is all grown up now. We did a good job with him, too — and by “we” I mean all of us that had a hand in it from start to finish: You, the clinic that I went to for early prenatal care, Tim, me, Furr’s Cafeteria’s macaroni and cheese (which I couldn’t get enough of when I was pregnant), the midwives that delivered him, our extended families, his teachers, our church — the list goes on and on. He’ll be graduating from Notre Dame Law School in May; the same law school that I ended up going to after I had him and went back to college.
Many times, when I look at him, I am mindful of the debt of gratitude I have to you for your role in helping me at a time when I was vulnerable. You didn’t arrogantly assume that you knew what was best for me. You didn’t tell me what to do based on your own notions of right and wrong. You acted as a resource for unadulterated information and you respected my right to reach the decision that was best for me and my family.
I stopped needing your help decades ago, but you have continued to work tirelessly every single day for millions of people who have come after me. And while I’ve always loved you, Gingrich’s comment made me realize how I haven't always done a good job of showing it.
I'm ashamed to admit this, but I have a couple of outstanding pledges to you from when I promised to make donations but then never got around to actually writing the checks. You’ve been really nice about it, but Gingrich’s threat made me realize I need to walk my talk for you today just like you walked your talk for me on Feb. 12, 1984.
So, as soon as I finish writing this, I am going to write those checks and put them in the mail. Then, I am going to get to work on another lifelong relationship I have neglected recently — my relationship with the Catholic Church.
I owe this awakening to another GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, whose ridiculous statements on a whole host of issues — but particularly those concerning homosexuality — have caused me to renew my vow to speak up as a Catholic so that hateful, ignorant and fearful Catholic voices don’t drown out all of the inclusive, intelligent and reasonable ones.
And just in case you’re concerned about my being in more than one relationship at a time, don’t worry! Newt Gingrich is totally cool with multiple relationships and open marriage! And since it looks like he could end up being the presidential nominee for the party known for a lot of big talk when it comes to family values, I think we should take his word on these relationship issues. After all, if his past behavior is any indication, words without deeds are all we’re likely to get from him, anyway.