For Turner, Women's Health Depends on Education and Choices

Actress stumps for Planned Parenthood while in town at Cincinnati Playhouse

Oct 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Even when she's saying something that's been heard before, one can’t help but listen when Kathleen Turner speaks. The Academy Award-nominated actress won her fame through a mix of stage prowess, femme fatale looks and a deep, sultry voice that's as unforgettable as it is bewitching.

Turner, who just completed a month of performances at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in Matthew Lombardo's drama High, also made time to stump for Planned Parenthood's local branch. As chairwoman of the national Planned Parenthood Board of Advocates, Turner spoke to local residents about the importance of sex and contraceptive education.

“One of the most basic tenets of Planned Parenthood is that a woman should have all the knowledge that she needs to plan her reproductive life and 95 percent of our budget, our work, goes to education about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptive measures for men and for women,” Turner says. “One of the things I don’t understand about these rabid anti-choicers — because I won’t call them anything else, simply that’s what they are, anti-choice — we have so much common ground, all of us. Surely the goal, the hope, is to not have unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

“We believe that women should have all the choices available to her, and that includes abortion. But primarily the idea — what we stand for — is to plan your parenthood, is to plan when you want to have a child. And make that part of your life decision rather than simply have it happen to you.”

Turner is mystified at how those opposed to abortion can also be against birth control.

“So many sexually transmitted diseases are very much on the rise in this country,” she says. “And, of course, the simple use of a condom is very helpful in that sort of a situation. I just don’t understand why one wouldn’t approve or support clearly practical measures to protect your health.”

Across the nation, Turner adds, people have begun to understand that Planned Parenthood isn’t just an abortion clinic but an important health resource for women and men in a time that the healthcare industry is increasingly difficult to access for those with limited resources.

“What’s been happening in the last 10 years or so is that so many women cannot afford their own private doctors,” Turner says. “Of course, at Planned Parenthood, you pay what you can and we offer a very high standard of healthcare for women. We’re the only real standard healthcare for women in the country. We are treating more and more people not just for pregnancy issues, but across the board.

“I was in Naples, Fla., in January to show up at a clinic and we had all these marchers, all these anti-choice people out, and of course the real irony was that the majority of our clientele there are older women who are past reproductive years. So I really don’t quite understand what their problem is there.”

Turner, 56, is best known for her roles in films like Body Heat, Peggy Sue Got Married and Prizzi's Honor and for playing Chandler's drag queen father on the TV series Friends.

She also sits on the boards of People for the American Way and City Meals on Wheels in New York City. She says she's deeply committed to women’s issues, the First Amendment and guarding against the Religious Right.

“I have a daughter who is 22,” she says. “I’m concerned that some of our basic rights, for example the right to choose, is threatened now. So many young women take it for granted that we will always have it. But within my mother’s lifetime we didn’t. But on the whole, I think women are doing damn well.”

Becki Brenner, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, is thankful for Turner’s visit and believes the actress helped increase the group’s visibility to locals who might need its services.

“I think it’s also very important to let our donors know we have support not just locally but nationally,” Brenner says. “We were excited that Ms. Turner was here, and I think it broadens our message.”

Brenner hopes to build a dialogue with those in the opposition, adding that Planned Parenthood began in the basement of a church.

“I have challenged the people vocal against us to meet in the middle and work on prevention. but no one will,” she says.