All photos by Anne C. Savage. Please do not use without permission. For more photos, click any image.
Lizz Winstead kicked off her “Planned Parenthood, I Am Here For You!” tour (aka, the “WTF” (What’s the Fuss?) tour) in Pontiac, Michigan on Saturday and I was privileged to be there to cover it. Lizz Winstead is the co-creator of the Daily Show and co-founder of Air America radio. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s her name — “Lizz Winstead Co-creator Of The Daily Show And Co-founder of Air America” — because that’s how she is always introduced.
After Saturday night, I think she should be renamed:
“Lizz Winstead, Heroic Supporter Of Planned Parenthood”
The purpose of the tour is to bring attention to Planned Parenthood and the efforts by those on the right who will stop at nothing to prevent them from helping women across the country. Lizz said she had intended start the tour in Wisconsin — Madison and Milwaukee first — because that state is at the epicenter of the right’s drive to strip away the rights of women and unions. Unfortunately, because Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin has had to spend all of its money on litigation, attempting to keep their doors open so that they can continue to provide reproductive health services to women, they literally didn’t have the resources to bring Lizz there. (Hopefully that will be rectified before she’s done touring. HINT, HINT to any potential Wisconsin benefactors that might be reading this.)
My wife, Anne and I were invited to attend the first show of the WTF tour because Anne had snapped a shot at a Planned Parenthood rally in Ann Arbor earlier this year that is now being used to help promote the tour nationally.
At the VIP reception before the show, we heard from a variety of Planned Parenthood folks including Community and Media Relations Director Desiree Cooper, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM) Lori Lamerand, as well as Congressman Gary Peters.
Desiree Cooper with her son and Lizz Winstead. Visit Desiree’s excellent blog HERE.
Lamerand gave us some of the facts about PPMSM:
- Nearly 55,000 patients visited in 2010
- Over 50,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases
- Almost 16,000 pregnancy tests and options counseling
- 14,000+ emergency contraception dispensed
- More than 16,000 Pap tests.
- Only 2% of the patients ended their pregnancies with an abortion
- Over 45,000 women in their service area need subsidized health care
- One in five women in the USA will visit Planned Parenthood at least once in their lifetime
- 60% of the visits to Planned Parenthood are for contraception
- For 75% of their patients, Planned Parenthood is their only health care provider
Asked why she was supporting Planned Parenthood, Lizz said, “Any organization that 97% of what they do is to make women healthy deserves my support!” When blogger/journalist Bruce Fealk asked her why she thought those on the right were so determined to shut down an organization for which abortion services are such a small component of what they do, she replied, “Well, it seems like they never let facts get in the way of their opinion.”
And, yes, of course there were protesters. While Planned Parenthood supporters dressed in pink, carried pink signs and held pink balloons, the anti-choice protesters carried giant yellow balloons with word “Life” on them, most of which were released by the end of the night to pollute the environment.
Their group seemed to be composed of about one-quarter angry, mostly white, older people — many of whom were carrying giant signs with bloody fetuses on them — and three-quarters Glee-inspired teenagers dancing to the sounds of Queen and various pop music songs. The juxtaposition of the kids, few of whom were old enough to even need reproductive health services, dancing to pop songs with lyrics dripping with sexual references, some quite explicit, with their parents and grandparents standing around them holding anti-choice signs, shouting angrily and scowling gave the street in front of the historic Eagle Theater in Pontiac a circus-like feel. All that was missing was a few elephants and giant clowns on stilts. Looking at the teens and preteens dancing, oblivious to the realities faced by so many women across the country every day, my wife commented, “It’s all fun & games until YOU are pregnant or have an STD.”
Representative Gary Peters started the show off with an impassioned defense of Planned Parenthood. Through their services, he told us, abortions are actually reduced. “If you cut off funding for Planned Parenthood,” he said, “You’ll have another half-million abortions every year.”
U.S. Congressman Gary Peters warms up the crowd
When Lizz came out to the crowd of over 400, she was greeted with raucous applause. I don’t want to ruin her show by revealing too much, but here are a few of the lines that tickled me the most.
On Republican candidates for president:
“I watched the 1st GOP debate & chose “science” as my drink word. WORST. PARTY. EVER.”
On Michele Bachmann:
“Michele Bachmann says ‘Clean water is killing jobs…’ and the media doesn’t call her on it.”
On Sarah Palin:
“Listening to Sarah Palin is like listening to that lady talking to herself in the yarn store.”
On the failure of the mainstream media:
“The only way we’ll get the media to report on ANYTHING is to print it on Anthony Weiner’s penis & email it to Sarah Palin.”
On the GOP’s lack of focus on job creation instead of attacking women’s access to health care:
“The last time I checked, my uterus hasn’t created a single job.”
On the incoming group of tea partiers in Congress:
“Freshman tea partiers are like fire ants on John Boehner’s testicles.”
On the GOP men’s fixation on denying women reproductive freedom:
“The last time GOP men spent this much time on women’s health was Terri Schiavo.”
On President Obama’s efforts to work with the Republicans:
“If Obama was in the Lord of the Rings, he’d be like ‘How do we deal with the Orcs?’. Dude, YOU DON’T DEAL WITH THE ORCS!!!”
“Any time you tell a woman ‘You can’t’, we’re all fucked.”
By the end of her stand-up piece, I think everyone in the crowd had side-aches from laughing so hard for so long. Then Lizz sat down and became serious. She spent the next 15 minutes telling us her story — how she became pregnant at the tender age of 16. Her boyfriend fled, uninterested in playing a role. She couldn’t tell her parents. She couldn’t tell her friends. She certainly was in no position to have a baby, being only a child herself. She could only hear the drumbeat of “stupid whore, stupid whore, stupid whore” ringing in her ears. She had nowhere to go and no money even if there had been a place.
Then she heard about Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood helped her understand her choices and helped her through what is a terribly difficult decision for any woman to make: to have an abortion. They were there to listen, to help and to give her the medical care she needed while she was in a nearly impossible situation.
When her story was over, I could sense a difference in the room. Many of the women were very quiet. Some were crying. What was obvious was that Lizz’s story is one shared by many women in Pontiac that night. It’s a story of Planned Parenthood being there for women when they have no other choices; of being there to ensure that women make the right choice for themselves and that they come out of it healthy. Whether it’s carrying a baby to term and receiving adequate health care during and after the pregancy or if it’s ending an unwanted pregnancy with dignity and under the care of physicians who care deeply about their patients, Planned Parenthood plays an essential role in our country. They help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. They help to prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies. They educate women and help keep them healthy even when they have few health care options.
Below is a list of Lizz Winstead’s tour stops. For the more information with links for tickets, etc., click HERE. I understand that more shows will be added later.
Thursday, July 14th at 7pm
Venue: Bricolage at 937 Liberty Avenue, Downtown
Sunday, July 17th
Venue: The Smith College Conference Center
Monday, July 18th
Venue: Coolidge Corner Theatre
Wednesday, July 20th
Venue: The William Way Center
Friday, August 19th 7pm VIP / 8pm Main Event
Venue: Cultural Arts Center
New York, NY
Thursday, September 22nd
Venue: The Living Room
If you can go, I strongly encourage you to do so. You’ll have a fantastic time, laugh yourself breathless, and you’ll be helping a most-worthy cause. But, if you do, bring a couple of extra tissues. I have a feeling you’ll need them.
Here is Lizz, talking about the Pontiac kickoff show:
For an excellent interview of Lizz Winstead by Michigan blogger, Bruce Fealk (aka, “bfealk”), click HERE.