COHOES — The name Planned Parenthood has become rife with commentary.
Both sides of the political aisle use the organization — a mainstay in women’s healthcare, especially in areas of poverty and lower income — as a bargaining tool. While Planned Parenthood does more than abortions, the hot-button issue is automatically uttered at any mention of the organization.
Guthrie Bell Productions has recruited some of the top women musicians in the area to fight that stigma.
Greg Bell, owner, and Kim Neaton, Guthrie Bell’s jack-of-all-trades, have teamed up with Girl Blue, The Sea The Sea, Bear Grass and Zan and the Winter Folk were to play a one-night benefit for the Troy Planned Parenthood branch on Saturday, March 21, at 7 p.m. The benefit, named the Women’s History Month celebration, will bring the power of the female to Cohoes Music Hall.
The event has been canceled.
“Originally, it was Kim’s idea,” Bell said. A big supporter of women in music, he’s always pushing for more representation in the scene. Bell is known for his showcases and festivals where he pushes for more women headliners. When a touring act is in town, Bell and Neaton will try to find a good local opener — in many cases, they’re thrilled to put up a strong, female artist.
“I sometimes feel like women aren’t taken as seriously as men are in this industry,” Bell said, “and I try to do my part in changing that. I’m always trying to get our women artists on the bill. I’m always pushing for them to get through whatever door we have.”
March is Women’s History Month, the inspiration for the show’s name. Bell and Neaton put their heads together and decided there is no better time for the show. A week later, Neaton told Bell she wanted to make the show a benefit for Planned Parenthood.
“I’ve been a patient of Planned Parenthood for over half of my life,” Neaton said. “They provide wonderful services. It isn’t just your physical health, either. They will ask how you’re doing and how you’re feeling in your relationship. It’s full service and extremely beneficial.”
According to statistics from Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood chief experience officer Katherine Bruno, 15,449 people visited one of three centers: Albany, Troy and Hudson in 2019. Statistics show 2,185 abortions were provided. It shows 11,356 visitors received information on birth control and other preventative measures. In the three offices, 21,764 tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases were administered. That includes almost 5,000 HIV tests.
Women received 1,591 breast exams and pap smears. Of those exams, 145 were sent on for abnormalities. Statistics show 966 visits were for transgender health care services.
Like Neaton mentioned, Planned Parenthood does look for more than sexual wellness. Three-hundred and ninety two wellness counseling sessions were performed, with 14,051 anxiety and depression screenings administered.
“Many of our visitors are below the poverty line or without insurance and have nowhere else to go,” Bruno said. “We are always so grateful for fundraisers like [the Cohoes Music Hall one] because donations and benefits help us offset costs for those who need the assistance.”
Neaton said picking the acts for the benefit was easy; she and Bell are fans, and now friends, with the artists. When Neaton began putting the benefit together, she was quickly able to gather a strong bill of talent and passion.
“What makes this work so well is how everyone is rallying around a common cause,” Neaton said. “Keeping these conversations going and continuing to host events like these is how we continue to make a difference after Women’s History Month is over.”
Zan Strumfeld, the namesake of quartet Zan and the Winter Folk, faced a bit of a challenge while picking out her band’s setlist. Neaton asked each act to perform two songs, followed by a cover of a selection from a female songwriter. Strumfeld, a “huge supporter” of Planned Parenthood, was stumped as she dug through the files in her brain.
“I kept thinking how I was so inspired by so many people and how I didn’t know how to narrow it down,” she said. “I kept saying we have to cover the right song, which was hard to pick.”
Bear Grass’ lead singer, Katie Hammon, is also hard at work on her set. Hammon, one of the friendly faces associated with the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District, is adamant to continue the support for women’s rights long after the show is over.
“You have to look at the businesses that support women every day,” Hammon explained. “Where are the women in leadership? Where are women valued? You follow those examples.”
While the show is the work of many people, Bell said Neaton holds the honor of the person in charge of making the show happen. As he continues to delegate more responsibility to Neaton, she’s taking on an organizational role in Guthrie Bell.
“Some people are uneducated on this cause and the fact that she thought of this, and put it together, is amazing,” he said. “Kim truly deserves all of the credit.”
Neaton is just as determined to keep the conversation going.
“The beauty of this area is so many different types of people are work together,” she said. “We need to continue the collaborations and educating about the causes that matter to us.”