Planned Parenthood atmosphere changes mindset

Alyssa Piecko

Photo by Paige Kiehl.
The Planned Parenthood for Kansas and Mid-Missouri is situated in Columbia. Photo by Paige Kiehl
A camera slung on my back, the scene in front me played out like a silent movie.
A few picketers parked outside of Planned Parenthood waved their signs up and down; their eyes bore holes in my back as I walked past. Their judgmental stares almost made me turn back, but knowing I had to get an interview, I continued toward the single, glass door.
For her story on teen pregnancy, my broadcast journalism producer, senior Laurel Critchfield, had asked me to go to Planned Parenthood with her and control the camera and other equipment while she got an interview, and I had agreed.
Suddenly, the harsh, demeaning shout of a man’s voice broke the silence as he drove past in his pick-up truck. No matter what he screamed, yelling out of his window at us wasn’t necessary. How could someone feel the need to scream nonsense at us?
The pressure to enter the building heightened. I felt if I stayed outside any longer, someone would attack with more than words. I was being insulted, bullied and hated for entering a place that I didn’t intend on entering that day. Upon being inside of the building, all the terror went away and exiting the building was simple as well. We departed without another scream at us, but the uncomfortable, horrifying experience made an imprint in my mind.
What if I actually were pregnant and chose to go to Planned Parenthood for help? The uncomfortable feeling would have been a thousand times worse. I would have felt ashamed for even trying to get assistance. The cruel looks and the yelling would make me want to hide from society and run away in embarrassment. I can’t even consider the amount of anxiety someone might feel entering that building for an appointment and then the shock of being harassed would just heighten that fear.

The Planned Parenthood institution‘s goal is to help any woman regarding pregnancy, whether it involves keeping the baby and learning to live life with a child or aborting that pregnancy when the woman has made a clear and educated decision. As stated on the website, the institution is in place to “provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual” and “provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality.”

The institution is not a bad corporation, and it should not be a scary place to enter for any pregnant woman. There should not be fear that you would be attacked for going into the building. The association should make this apparent as an area to assist women in working out their lives and to help them move on, with or without their baby.

The experience did not just frighten me, but it also changed my perception of peer pressure. Peer pressure is not just in high school; it’s everywhere. Any person or situation can make you change your mind based on what everybody else thinks. Like in high school, someone could pressure you into not doing what you think is right. The picketers outside could compel a woman to change her mind because she feels judged or embarrassed in her situation.

The peer pressure I experienced made me want to turn back and not get the interview because I was scared of what people thought of me. Peer pressure is intense and can affect anyone because it hits solely at a human’s weakest emotion: fear. Fear can affect immense decisions and make you change your mind in a moment. The uncomfortable feeling I got was fear of the unknown and fear of what people thought of me. This feeling is not just solely mine but others’ as well.

Before my experience, I would walk down the hallway, not noticing my constant nitpicking of people and my judgmental stares. I could move on, care-free, because my thoughts were contained in my head and no one else could hear my comments. Such stares, I now realize, are as powerful as any comment. The stares can make someone feel pressure to run and hide because of embarrassment. A stare can convey hate and harm in a way comments cannot. And leaving the experience in my past, I can say that it changed me as a person and negatively impacted my view of  society and the judgement that comes with living in it. I became wary and self-conscious of people’s opinions of me and I now have a lesser view of humanity because of my experience.

By Alyssa Piecko

This opinion piece is labeled as such on the desktop version.

When have you ever faced peer pressure, in school or in society?