I need to say something about Planned Parenthood. I’ve seen many friends in my Facebook feed re-posting both meme-d opinions and non-factual information against Planned Parenthood. I know that I can’t change their thoughts on the clinic but I do feel that maybe I can help them understand what Planned Parenthood is and what it means to people.
I think these friends, they probably never needed services from this particular healthcare provider. I’m not talking about abortion services, I mean any of the services.
There are many websites that give Planned Parenthood’s statistics. You can look them up. This post isn’t a fact-giving essay and I’m not here to argue politics or numbers. This is an anecdote. It’s my story, my reason for supporting this place that helped me get to where I am today.
My mom used to tell me that I was the reason she didn’t have a college degree. On her bad days, she let me know that I had kept her from fulfilling her dreams simply by being born. Yes, as an adult, I can understand why she said things like that when she did. She’s just a human, she was a frustrated woman who had children she maybe shouldn’t have had, children who had been thrust upon her and I mean that literally. None of us were by choice and three of us were by coercion at the very least. I don’t imagine it’s easy dealing with a passel of offspring you never wanted.
She told me she would have aborted me had it been an option. I think she said something similar to all of us. She would have aborted Chris and Noelle only her husband wouldn’t have let her. She had to go to the doctor to find out if she needed to abort Bedot because having Noelle had nearly killed her and she needed to know if she was facing the possibility of leaving three kids with a less-than-nice father should she not survive the pregnancy. The doctor said they’d get her through it so she didn’t have to choose between one child and three others. Yay. Still, abortion had played a role in each of her pregnancies, if only as a background thought.
Maybe I’m airing dirty laundry; this isn’t exactly my part of the story to tell. However, I think it’s important because that knowledge is what informed my own later decisions.
For instance, I didn’t have sex until I was married, at least not the type of sex that leads to pregnancy or STDs. I was incredibly responsible with my body because I had a plan: I wanted to go to college and get a job and support myself. That was my goal. I would be the first woman in my family to do that and it was important to me. As I understood it, given my mother’s story, I wouldn’t be able to do that if I got knocked up and the easiest way to prevent babies is to not have sex at all.
I was in college when I married the first time. I didn’t have health insurance. I was working two jobs and going to school and planning a wedding. I didn’t have any spare cash and certainly nothing in my savings account. I was poor. However, my soon-to-be husband had been sexually active prior to our relationship and, being the responsible young lady I was, there was no way I was going to let his bodily fluids into my bodily cavity without him getting checked first. More important, though, was birth control.
I know there are those who feel women should not have access to birth control. But let me tell you, abstinence isn’t much of an option on one’s wedding night. For many couples, it’s not an option inside the marriage at all. I didn’t want a child and I didn’t want abstinence so birth control was my choice.
My fiance’s choice was the same. He wasn’t ready to be a father. That was a responsibility that neither of us wanted while we were young and full of plans for buying a house and getting ahead in the game.
I need to back up for a moment.
When i was 15, I started having migraines, the kind that make you black out and throw up, the kind that send shock waves of pain through your whole head and your neck and your shoulders just because you took a breath. The kind that make you need to kill yourself to get rid of the pain.
Mom took me to the doctor and the doctor decided the only way to manage this head torture was to put me on the pill. I didn’t want to go on the pill because 1) I wasn’t sexually active ; 2) my period was just beginning to normalize and I didn’t want to mess with it ; 3) I understood that my hormones were completely out of control but that they needed to do what they were doing and that trying to force them to do something else at that point was probably stupid, maybe dangerous.
But it wasn’t my decision.
So I had my first PAP smear at 15 and my doctor, a woman, was violent about it, bordering on cruel. I already had hangups about sex so having someone wield their sharpened fencing sword inside my vagina and uterus was both painful and horrifying.
You might be able to empathize with the terror I felt knowing that I would go in willingly and let someone hurt me again simply so that I could get birth control pills so that I would not have a baby so that I could go on and earn my degree so that I could get a job and become a contributing member of society.
But maybe you can’t. Maybe none of that makes sense.
Regardless, I scheduled a PAP smear for me and I scheduled testing for my fiance so that we could both enter our marriage feeling safe and secure in our sexual congress.
Of course, I remember that day well. The woman at the intake desk was young and brusque and unpleasant. My fiance was in and out in no time and he left to go do whatever he was going to do that day, probably work. I sat in the waiting room alone and waited. I tried to do homework but I was terribly nervous. The woman at the desk was glaring at me. I was scared, intimidated. Would the doctor be mean? Would it hurt as badly this time as it had last time?
No. The answer to those questions were no. There was a nurse and a doctor in attendance, both female. They were kind. They were supportive. They understood that I was there now so that I would not have to go in later to make use of their other services because, yes, I do believe that I would have strongly considered abortion had I gotten pregnant at 20 during my junior year of college. I suspect my then-husband would have driven me to the appointment. That is how badly we did not want children. These women understood my fear. They understood the judgement I had put myself through just to enter their clinic. They were lighthearted about the whole procedure, they made me laugh and assured me I was doing what was best for my body and my future. It was just a PAP smear and some pills but to me, it was my first step to taking control of my life.
This is why the clinic is called Planned Parenthood. It’s so you can plan to be a parent when the time is right for you. It allows people – people who don’t have access to nice OBGyn offices, people who are ashamed and worried that their family and friends may see them at their own doctor’s offices getting birth control to keep from reproducing, people who don’t want to find a doctor for wellness exams or STD tests, people who are young and who are scared, people like me – to PLAN their futures, their family’s futures.
Why is that bad?
I used Planned Parenthood throughout that first marriage. It’s where I got my birth control. It’s where I got my annual check-ups. They were the only doctors I saw for over five years. Planned Parenthood kept me healthy, and not just sexually. If I had laryngitis when I went in, they prescribed something to help me get better. If I seemed stressed over school, over my new marriage, over the death of my grandmother, they told me I had to take care of myself. They told me to drink more water, to take vitamins, to try to let everything go even if only for five minutes a day, to make room for helping myself heal. These people took care of me, better care of me than I would have at that time. Better care of me than my husband or my family or his family did.
After I divorced and I started dating, every time I became serious about a new relationship, I went to Planned Parenthood. He could get a check-up and so could I. Peace of mind, health of body, and all at an affordable price.
I got my college degree. I got jobs. I have a career and another degree. I’ve traveled the world. I am remarried. I bought my own car. I have friends, family, cats and a dog and some fish. I have a house. I’ve succeeded. I met my goals and I’ve had to make new ones.
I have healthcare now. I have access to a lot of services I probably couldn’t have received at Planned Parenthood, such as my Essure implants and my Novasure procedure. I have an OBGyn whom I adore; she’s incredible.
I don’t have children because I chose not to and I 100% fully realize I was able to make and follow that choice because of Planned Parenthood.
I’m not going to get into an argument over Planned Parenthood selling fetuses and baby heads on the sly or whatever other awful thing media has accused them of doing because there’s an election year coming up. I don’t believe they’ve done anything illegal but you might. You have your sources and I’ve got mine. I haven’t fact-checked mine and I doubt you’ve fact-checked yours, either. Face it. We’re lazy and we want to be fed that which will rile us up or make us cry or make us laugh and we want it in short bursts over the internet. We’re not going to do any deep digging into this and that’s on us. I’m not willing to bolster my defenses so I can’t take you on since I have nothing backing me. I suspect you’re in the same position.
However, I can stand here and tell you that Planned Parenthood is not the evil corporation you may think it is. I’ve had plenty of experience with them and I can unequivocally state that the doctors I encountered there helped me, took care of me, were compassionate and kind. They are there for people who can’t afford or may not have access to healthcare, otherwise, and it seems that would be an important component of society, no matter your personal beliefs.
All I ask is that you please think of your friends and maybe your family who have benefited from their services before you vilify Planned Parenthood on your social media sites. You might be condemning something that has helped people you love.