by Alison James and Nik Griffith
On September 16, the Helena Independent Record ran a letter to the editor written by Helenan Joe Morgan, headlined “What did Curtis Need Planned Parenthood For?”
In a debate with Steve Daines in 2014, Rep. Amanda Curtis of Butte recounted the critical services offered by Planned Parenthood and stated that she accessed health care there as sixteen-year-old.
Two years later, Mr. Morgan is still thinking about this and wondering why Daines didn’t inquire further into the reasons why a young woman would need to access health care at Planned Parenthood. Morgan uses some rough prose to imply Curtis probably got birth control or an abortion and therefore is not fit to run for office or have an opinion. You can read the entire appalling letter here.
Let’s stop for a second to play the following public service announcement for the seven millionth time: Planned Parenthood does more than abortion.
In 2013 alone, abortion made up approximately 3% of the 10.6 million services offered by Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. Other services offered that year consisted of:
– 4.5 million tests and treatments of STDs and STIs,
– 3.6 million contraception (condoms, IUDs, birth control, etc.) related services,
– 935,573 cancer screenings including breast exams and pap smears, and
– 1.1 million pregnancy tests and other prenatal services.
But it doesn’t matter if Amanda Curtis used Planned Parenthood for an abortion, a cancer screening, or the bathroom. As a Montana woman, it’s her right to make private healthcare decisions at any time in her life without being pilloried in the public square.
Regardless of how big a case of the sads Mr. Morgan and others get at the thought of a young woman exercising agency in her healthcare decisions, the Montana State Constitution (Article II, Section 10) guarantees all Montanans the right to privacy that “shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.” Additionally, multiple decisions by the Montana Supreme Court and actions by sitting Legislatures and Governors alike have reinforced that those privacies explicitly mean a woman’s decisions in healthcare are between herself and her medical provider(s)–and that includes minors.
For now, let’s ignore the obviously creepy undertones of an adult man still wondering after the one-time healthcare choices of a female senate candidate two years after her candidacy. Let’s even set aside the troll-ish attempt by Mr. Morgan to divert attention from the point of Rep. Curtis’ original letter (Melissa Romano’s qualifications for Superintendent of Public Instruction). We’re left with the lingering question: “Why would the Independent Record publish such an asinine letter?”
Surely the IR receives ugly, rude, racist, sexist, homophobic letters to the editor all the time.But the IR published this letter and gave credence to the views expressed by featuring it in print. Mr. Morgan’s letter should have hit the trash can the moment it was received, based on the truly offensive material it contained, directed at a public figure who’s done nothing worse than support a fellow teacher running for office and go to the doctor as a teen.
It seems to us that there are two explanations, and either or both could be true (it’s probably both). First, editors at the IR share Mr. Morgan’s views and don’t mind vulgar, sexist attacks directed at female public figures. Second, the IR was trying to stir up controversy and get more hits by publishing the offensive letter. Either way, the IR has once again failed in the ethics of journalism by legitimizing a sexist attack and undermining the voice of a hardworking public servant simply because she’s a woman.
The good news is that Amanda Curtis and Planned Parenthood are accustomed to dealing with wingnuts and sexist attacks and this one won’t faze them. They will both continue serving the people of Montana, in spite of the vitriol of bullies and the clickbaiting of editors desperate to remain relevant, no matter the cost.
If you’d like to demand that the Helena Independent Record apologize to Amanda Curtis and start publishing news, not sexist clickbait, you can email the editor atmailto:email@example.com
To donate to Planned Parenthood, who continues to provide necessary, comprehensive care to thousands of families a year–including, but very much not limited to abortion services, you can do so here.
To help elect Amanda Curtis to House District 74, donate to her campaign here.
Alison James occasionally accesses women’s health care, because she is a woman, in Missoula.
Nik Griffith is a Helena-based consultant with a chip on his shoulder and a need to share.