You may remember a series of illustrations and messages we shared a year ago created by writer and sexual health advocate Danielle Sepulveres, and visual artist Maritza Lugo. With the aim of promoting the importance of health screenings, especially during January which is Cervical Health Awareness Month, Danielle and Maritza brought a pop culture element to a serious and timely health topic.
The series depicted Disney Princesses going to their annual OBGYN appointment and getting the information they needed to stay healthy. This year, the duo decided to do another series, but this time with a more broader scope. In light of the Trump/Pence Presidential administration which campaigned on a platform of anti-choice, regressive policies, especially toward women’s reproductive health, Danielle says they felt it was necessary to bring back their re-imagined Disney Princesses and this time depict them attempting to get the same healthcare in a world where many rights have been stripped away.
“We’re staring down the barrel of a world where basic healthcare becomes a privilege. And being a woman could present as an uninsurable pre-existing condition. Make no mistake that the gauntlet thrown by the Republican party with these attempted measures spearheads a war on women and a direct attack on working families regardless of how often they claim their message to be otherwise,”‘ she wrote in an op-ed on Medium.
The series was originally posted on Danielle’s Tumblr in early January, but since then, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) which had specific provisions in it that mandated birth control be covered, women could not be charged more for coverage simply because of their gender, young adults were no longer allowed to stay on their parents’ coverage until 26, and prevented insurance companies for denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
The vote to defund Planned Parenthood was particular egregious to many women and men across the country who seek out the healthcare providers services every day. As Danielle points out in her piece, this decision has been a long time coming, and began with the release of a string of deceptively edited videos in the summer of 2015 which purported to show Planned Parenthood workers discussing the “sale of baby parts”. Multiple congressional and state legislature inquiries and investigations showed no evidence of wrong-doing, and in fact the video creators were indicted by a grand jury for fraud.
Yet the harmful and dangerous narrative about Planned Parenthood being “baby killers” and baby parts traffickers had been established, and it gave rise to the current GOP war on women. Since 2010 the country has sen hundreds of anti-choice and supposedly anti-abortion bills being introduced and proposed across the country (we say “supposedly” because conservatives still haven’t figured out that banning abortion doesn’t stop it, it only makes it unsafe).
In regard to Donald Trump and Mike Pence specifically, both have a long history of spouting ignorant, ill-informed statements about women’s reproductive rights, with Trump shockingly declaring “women who have abortions should be punished” during the presidential campaign, before unconvincingly walking that statement back.
Mike Pence has publicly declared many times that he wants to send Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court Case which legalized abortion in all 50 states in 1973, to “the ash heap of history”. Yet he doesn’t exactly have a track record of supporting women’s health or preventing unintended pregnancies and STDs in any other solid way.
His career as a politician has shown him to be a very regressive, ideologically-driven person, rather than someone who looks at objective, scientific data to push policy that will be most effective. He refused to pass a needle exchange law (initially) which led to a massive HIV outbreak. He was also forced to reassess a supposed “religious freedom” bill a couple of years ago which would open up legislative loopholes for businesses to discriminate and deny service to people based on their sexual orientation.
There is a lot of fear over what is going to happen to many basic rights, especially when it comes to healthcare. Danielle writes on her Tumblr account that the series she and Maritza created this year portrayed some of the fears many people now have about reproductive health.
“Between this and the GOP’s continued assault on women’s healthcare and Planned Parenthood, it’s as if this new administration doesn’t believe in preventive care at all, which poses a danger to everyone. Preventive care can be life saving. Screenings and early detections and reviewing medical histories all contribute to this fact. Vaccinations and flu shots save lives,” she said, also alluding to the fact that Trump has been meeting with a prominent anti-vaccination spokesperson for his cabinet.
Her frustration also stems from the fact that sex education in schools across America is a hodge-podge at best. Only 22 states require public schools to teach comprehensive sex education, and out of that number, only 13 require the information to be medically accurate. States which push abstinence-only education (more commonly those controlled by religious conservative lawmakers) have the highest rates of STDs and teen pregnancies. The road to a solution should not be rocket science.
A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute found that in recent years, the number of women seeking abortion has actually dropped, and attribute this mainly to birth control and contraception, especially long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs. An experiment conducted in certain parts of the country by the Choice Project found that by giving IUDs to low-income women and teen girls, rates of abortion were reduced by up to 42%, and unintended pregnancies fell by 40%.
Yet all this data is sadly ignored in favor of ideological arguments that turn a blind eye to the reality facing women and families across the US today.
“You cannot label yourself pro-life if your stance is to only teach abstinence education in schools, to take away healthcare options from women (yes say it with me, abortion is part of healthcare, deal with it) and then neglect and look down on these people as they try to raise children on government assistance because they’ve been left with no other options to break the cycle of poverty,” writes Danielle in her Medium piece.
While Danielle says she doesn’t expect her and Maritza’s illustrations to magically change the situation, she does believe in starting important conversations and spreading awareness among young women.
“Maritza and I put this project together fueled by the fear of what’s to come from this new administration. For ourselves, for all marginalized communities, for the world at large. But we also have hope. Hope that we can keep fighting against whatever they might try to throw at us,” she said.
The images show a number of scenarios at the OBGYN based on the continued rhetoric or direct legislative action that has been taken over the past few years in terms of chipping away at women’s reproductive healthcare. ‘The Little Mermaid’s Ariel on the phone with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asking him for his intervention and advice about her body. Aladdin and Jasmine being forced to pay for a funeral for a miscarriage, as a new heinous law in Texas recently passed requires, forcing shame and judgement on a woman.
If these images encourage you to start a conversation with the women in your life about healthcare, or if it prompts you to make an appointment with your GP or OBGYN, this is a step in the right direction.
“We know that Disney princesses are not going to solve the world’s problems, but using our voices will and that’s why we did this. We find the arbitrary nature in which members of this new administration dismiss marginalized voices to be frightening…Their lack of empathy, and understanding make us afraid for ourselves and we are afraid for our friends within specifically targeted communities. We stand with Planned Parenthood this month for Cervical Cancer Awareness. We stand with them every month. And we will work to take down every wall this new administration tries to erect to keep us from the basic human right to exist,” writes Danielle in her piece.