Hey, Chelsie! We’re so lucky to have you on our canvassing team. Could you introduce yourself to our Planned Parenthood supporters?
Hi! My name is Chelsie. I use she/her pronouns. I’m originally from the Upper Peninsula. I first got involved in activism with Planned Parenthood as a student at Michigan State University. I was a patient of PP and some extreme bills came through the house that would have shut down clinics all around the state. I experienced a call to action to protect my own and others’ access to health care. After college, I worked in a Planned Parenthood health center as a medical assistant for a while. This summer, I have been happy to get involved in the movement again as a canvasser.
What has your canvassing experience been like with Planned Parenthood?
Canvassing has been surprising. I have gained a lot of unexpected insight into how broad a range of perspectives there are on issues like abortion. It becomes explicitly clear how much assumptions can get in the way of meaningful dialogue when you’re canvassing.
Were you nervous the first time you went canvassing? How did it go?
I was nervous, but once I had worked with the script for a while, I got more comfortable. With practice, you learn to read people and learn where there is room to make small changes with the language to meet people where they’re at while still getting the information across.
What’s the best conversation you’ve had with someone while canvassing?
I had a very impactful conversation with an older man who helped me understand a perspective I had honestly never really considered before. He explained to me that, practically speaking, he is pro-choice, however, he is deeply spiritual and is against abortion for religious reasons. He said he understands the value of the work Planned Parenthood is doing and he does not want to go back to the days when women were dying from unsafe abortions. However, how can he actively support an organization that performs abortions when, according to his religion, it is wrong? I simply tried to listen and offer validation that this is not a simple question. Reproductive health is complex and multifaceted. However, for so many people Planned Parenthood isn’t ideological. It really is as simple as “I don’t have health insurance, but I have a lump in my breast.”
We so often paint a picture of the people who disagree with us, but in reality, they exist on a spectrum just like we do. So, when we assume that all people who are anti-choice do not value the work Planned Parenthood does, or even when we assume that all people who do not support Planned Parenthood are anti-choice, we shut down any opportunity for a conversation that might inspire growth and understanding in both participants.
Why is it important for people to go out and talk to their neighbors about reproductive health and justice?
To the point I mentioned before, when we don’t talk to each other about reproductive health and justice, we end up otherizing each other, which allows us to write off people with different perspectives. This is a huge barrier to progress. A lot of people have made comments to me about their neighbors when I was canvassing, like “You’ve probably had a hard time in this neighborhood.” Often times, they would have been surprised to learn how many of their neighbors were very receptive!
Has anything funny happened to you while canvassing?
There was a cat sitting in the mailbox of a house I canvassed once. It was ADORABLE.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to volunteer for a canvass for the first time?
Keep an open mind and hang onto the reasons you are doing what you’re doing.