by Latoya Peterson
The first time I walked into a Planned Parenthood Center, I was seventeen, afraid, and in a lot of pain.
I had just started having sex for the first time, and every single time I had intercourse a persistent, stinging sensation lingered long after the act was over.
I remember panicking – did I have an STD? Am I allergic to latex? Am I allergic to sperm? (My views on contraception back then were fairly loose and really depended on mood. Later on, more life experience would cure that stupidity.)
I came into my local center alone and scared. Luckily for me, the clinicians were kind, figured out what was the problem (a really aggressive yeast infection, the first I had ever had) and put me on a plan for oral birth control, since my relationship with condoms was a little distant.
I am 27 now, and Planned Parenthood has been my health care provider of choice for the last decade. Every year, I trek over to the center, and sit in the waiting room, surrounded by other women. Some have children, some do not. Some have partners with them, some do not. Some are seeking pre-natal care, some looking for honest advice about sex that they can’t get at home, some are seeking abortion services,* others need STD testing – there is always an array of women streaming through the doors because so many of us need care.
Planned Parenthood has always been there for me. Insurance or no insurance, back when I was making $8 to now, I could always receive high quality care, that accommodated my budget, and respected me as a person. (One year, with insurance, I went to their recommended provider for my annual – one glove snapping, five minute spread ’em, finger in and out, no-you-can’t-talk-to-the-doctor exam later sent me flying back to Planned Parenthood.)
However, Planned Parenthood is in trouble.
Learnvest, a financial planning site geared toward women, recently published a discussion on what is at risk if Planned Parenthood goes under.
How defunding Planned Parenthood could affect you:
- 4.7 million Americans may lose access to reproductive and family planning care, particularly middle- and low-income women.
- If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay for a doctor’s visit to receive a prescription for birth control and pay full price at the pharmacy for it.
- Be careful! Without easily available screenings, counseling and treatment, the transmission of STDs and HIV may rise.
- Your daughter, niece, or younger cousin (and her boyfriend) may lose their safe, confidential, and free place to receive counseling, birth control, and testing.
- If you are low income and/or without insurance, you may have to pay the full price of STD screenings, which can cost $85 to $220 for each type. That doesn’t include the cost of the doctor’s visit, which can be another $200.
- You will have to visit a private practice for prenatal health care and, if you don’t have insurance, pay full price.
- Depending on the location, you may lose access to free or reduced cost general services like anemia testing, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, physical exams, flu vaccines, help with quitting smoking, high blood pressure screening, tetanus vaccines, and thyroid screening.
- If you are an OB/GYN, your number of patients may increase.
Here are three reasons to stand with them in their time of need.
Sliding Scale Payments for Health Care are Few and Far Between
U.S. Congressional Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood based on the most controversial service they provide, abortion.
However, almost nothing has been said about how for many women, Planned Parenthood is their primary care provider. I can go to my neighborhood clinic or the emergency room, and walk out with hundreds of dollars in bills for a cough that still won’t go away. But at Planned Parenthood, I can let them know that I am low on cash, and they will normally find a way to help me that stays in budget. When I was a teen, that meant cheaper visits and subsidized birth control for a few dollars a month. Sometimes, I even got oral contraceptives for free. (Condoms are always free, and generally sitting in a jar on the way out.) As an adult, with a varied work history, it meant cheaper annual exams, and low cost screenings for cervical and breast cancer. I am not a parent, but I do know that Planned Parenthood offers both pre and post natal care.
I can’t think of another national organization that can boast of providing all of these services at or below cost.
Planned Parenthood Respects All Choices
The right wing has taken pains to paint Planned Parenthood as some sort of ghoulish “Abortions R Us” factory. And yet, little is mentioned of Planned Parenthood’s extensive counseling services, particuarly for women who are on the fence about their pregnancy. A close friend of mine visited the clinic for an abortion, at the urging of her mother. Her mother, a teen parent herself, told my friend she would be ruining her life if she moved forward with the pregnancy, and that she would be forced to move out if she chose to keep the child. My friend later told me she began to cry when the clinicians prepped her for the sonogram. The staffers asked if she was sure, and she said to them “I can never really be sure about something like this.” They sent her home.
Bint Alshamsa also talked about how Planned Parenthood helped her to realize she wanted to go forward with her pregnancy:
If it wasn’t for Planned Parenthood, I might not have had my baby. When I thought I was pregnant, it was the only place where I could go and see a doctor to find out for sure. They also provided me with my first gynecological exam. When I told them that I wasn’t comfortable with having an abortion, but I didn’t know what I was going to do, the nurse there gave me the best “You can do this!” pep speech I have ever received. She told me that if I really wanted to have this baby that I wasn’t as hopeless and clueless as I felt. She told me just what to do next to get pre-natal care. I left there with everything I needed to start my pregnancy off right. Thanks to them, I have my wonderful and precious daughter that I dote on every single day–as if you’ve missed all the bajillion blog posts I’ve written about how amazing I think she is.
And one of Alshamsa’s commenters, Rootie-Toot, talks about the difficulty around choice by explaining while she regrets her abortion, she doesn’t regret the experience:
Planned Parenthood was kind, compassionate, and gave me ample opportunity to change my mind. They made me wait a couple of weeks to think about it, then asked me many times while I was there if I was absolutely sure that this was what I wanted, right up to the minute before the doctor did the procedure. Like I said, I regret my decision, but am thankful that I had a place to go to where everything was handled safely and cleanly. Women are going to have abortions, no matter what. The need a place they can go where it will be done safely.
Now, consider for a second, the alternative. As we saw earlier this year, Kermit Gosnell was indicted on murder charges for the shop of horrors he ran masquerading as a medical clinic. He performed abortions that were unsafe, took extravagant amounts of money from women who were desperate, and didn’t even provide them with the most basic of care. Not only are House Representatives cutting the funding for preventative measures to reduce the number of abortions performed, but they are also delivering women into yet another era of dirty back alley clinics and unlicensed people preying on desperation.
Planned Parenthood Puts People First
Many folks were swayed by videos and audio recordings released by conservative activists, who posed as a pimp and a prostitute and sought services from Planned Parenthood. While the general intent was to showcase how federal dollars were used to fund unscrupulous activities, what the videos (likely doctored) really highlighted for me was Planned Parenthood’s commitment to privacy and building trust with their patients. The activists stopped at the initial intake center, posing a hypothetical. But from what I know from experience – both myself and friends – is that the objective of a lot of PP staffers is to get you inside the clinic and to get you to safety. The clinic area and examination rooms are plastered with posters about sexual health and domestic violence, and for years, I can recall that I was softly asked if I was afraid of my partner, if he ever was violent toward me, if I felt forced into doing things I didn’t want to do. Abusive relationships, either romantic or financial in nature, work because a person is willing to protect and lie for the abusive partner. Getting the person away from that partner, in a space where they feel comfortable enough to talk, is paramount before they will accept assistance. A pimp can follow his prostitute into the clinic, but only patients are allowed behind the doors. I can’t speak for what was going on inside of the employee’s head when she was delivering the information, but I would wager it is the same rationale for why Planned Parenthood fights for minors to have autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices.
Ready to help?
You can go here to the Planned Parenthood Site to figure out how to help, sign the open letter, and raise your hand.
And you can go here to email your senator. If you are on the fence about sending the email, then please, do it for me – when I moved from MD to DC, I lost representation in the Senate.
*Many planned parenthood clinics do not offer abortion services. Mine does. Back when I picked up birth control directly from the clinic, I used to trek past angry anti-choice folks screaming for me to “think about your baby!” Honey, I already had. Hence the family planning.