Support Planned Parenthood

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.

 

  • lynn

    What a great blog post. I agree completely, and I think it is a shame that some people feel that they should be able to make decisions for everyone. I want to say to them: “THINK before you open your mouth — you don’t know what she’s going through.” Pro-choice folks aren’t in love with abortions; we’re in love with FREE CHOICE.

  • PatrickInBeijing

    Thanks LaToya for doing this. When I was in the states, I often worked with CARAL and was a long time donor to NARAL. I am old enough to remember when abortion was illegal. In my high school (in VA), girls with money went to Mexico for the summer. Ahem! Ahem! No one could talk about why. One girl was said to be prostituted by her parents (she was 16), no one in authority cared about her (and in VA they still don’t!). They only cared if she had an abortion in their state. When I lived in NE, rich people sent their daughters to Europe.

    Should we debate abortion here? Perhaps males should be excluded.

    @cadagility I have a pin given to me by a friend, it says “Don’t like abortion, cut off your d**k”, perhaps Jon and Issac and I can all take turns wearing it.

    Despite being a male, I could tell horror stories from friends who had to deal with the so called “right-to-life” movement in action. We could do this all day.

    Planned Parenthood is great, CHOICE, having a choice, women having control over their own bodies, all are great.

    Women and THEIR doctors should make decisions about THEIR bodies. No one else.

    This is a personal and medical decision, not a moral decision (except a personal moral decision).

    The so-called “right-to-life” movement has hit a wall. So they are seeking new angles. In China, they have been showing their anti-abortion films to students in dorms (this is often done by missionaries), and giving one-sided presentations.

    I suspect that the billboards were less intended to stop abortions and more intended to get free publicity.

    Thanks to most of the posters who responded. I suspect we are in for a rough few years……….

  • http://twitter.com/isaaclee1 Isaac Lee

    Dear Latoya, thank you for taking the time to write this article. I should be up-front with you and let you know that you’d probably call me a right-wing conservative. I’m okay with that. You might even call me a fundamentalist. I’m okay with that too, even though it would mean something very different to me than to you. I am also male, but I hope that doesn’t mean my opinion doesn’t count. I am not an American, I am an Australian, so I think that gives me a different perspective on this whole thing as all citizens have access to free health-care.

    With that out of the way there are just a few things I’d like to ask of you and get your reaction.

    1. I hear you about PP providing more than just abortions. They obviously do much good for women in america, and I have no reason to doubt your experience that the people who work at the clinics have a genuine desire to help women. especially lower-middle class women. BUT, are they really the only group that is doing this? Will there be no hope for women in america if PP goes down the tubes? Is the health of countless women really dependent on one private health provider?

    2. If PP really were concerned with the health of women and not with providing abortion services why can they not separate the arms of their business? An abortion arm, and a women’s health arm? That way they could still receive federal funding for these vital services.

    3. You claim that back-alley abortions would be the net affect of the loss of PP but perhaps you forget that this was the argument for the legalisation of abortion in the first place. In fact the case sited occurred in a state where abortion was legal, it seems fragile women can be preyed upon despite the laws.

    4. Consider things from a conservative’s angle. What if the thing we are taking out of a woman before its time really is a baby? What if it is morally equivalent to ending the life of a 2 year old or an adult with severe brain damage? If this is the case then PP can’t outweigh this evil (and if it is a human child in there then there can be no other word for ending its life) with any amount of good that they do. It’s like saying Australia’s stolen generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Generations) wasn’t so bad after all because some children really did find better lives with their new families. If this is the case then how could we possibly support such an organisation no matter what good it does?

    5. What is it? Why is it “my baby” when its wanted and “the fetus” when it’s not? Would you fire a rifle into the bushes if you were unsure whether the rustling belonged to another person? If you aren’t sure what it is then how could you take the risk? If it would in all likelyhood end up being a person (in your estimation) would not ending its life early be the equivalent of ending a person’s life (even if it was before it began)?

    This will probably all bounce off. But maybe it won’t. I hope that I have conveyed myself in a way that doesn’t leave you thinking I’m just an internet jerk, hopefully you’ve seen some civility in this.

    Kind regards.

    Isaac

  • Jon

    I am glad that they were able to take care of you in a scary time of your life

    When you mention back alley abortions, it makes me think of the quote I heard from From Stand to Reason: the Centers for Disease Control report 39 women died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year prior to legalization, not 5,000 to 10,000 as claimed by abortion advocates for each year prior to Roe. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control Surveillance Summaries, 9/4/92, p. 33)

    How many women die per year from legal abortions? How many children die every year from abortions, each having their own unique dna?

  • cadagility

    We won’t know how much we have lost until the radical right have managed to shutter Planned Parenthood. These men (and it is mostly men) have lost sight of history. Read up on Margaret Sanger and her work at the turn of the century. This is really about MEN trying to control women. Because if men can limit women’s access to reproductive health, we won’t be able to compete in the work place and we can’t be treated as equal partners. Men of quality are not threatened by women of equality.

  • Pingback: Why We Stand With Planned Parenthood, Do You? | Parlour Magazine

  • Madhattergreen

    Planned parenthood was my primary (and ONLY) form of healthcare during college when I worked 2-3 jobs just to have enough money to pay rent and buy food. They were income based, so it was the only way I could afford to have my yearly pap smears/exams, and the only way I could afford to buy birth control pills. Without planned parenthood I likely would not have graduated college as I would likely have had several kids during the time and could no longer have been able to work 2-3 jobs AND go full time to classes. I also would have had NO healthcare or access to physical exams at all, something which is very important for a sexually active (yes, I was married if that makes a difference) person of that age. For many women in rural areas, this is the only access to these exams.

  • Grace

    I emailed my senators (I’m in NY; I already know Gillibrand will support, though I’m not 100% sure Schumer would *side eye*) and then posted that news on Facebook! :)

  • Dru322

    I’ve used their services for birth control and the morning after pill back when I didn’t have insurance. A great resources that should not be lost.

  • http://www.one3snapshot.com ceecee

    Standing with you on this, I have emailed my Senator and asked him to support Planned Parenthood. I’ve never had an abortion but use the services of Planned Parenthood for family planning and HIV testing. It’s a shame that people are painting PP as an abortion network.

  • http://twitter.com/whattamisaid whattamisaid

    Latoya-Thank you for this personal story. I, too, am a Planned Parenthood supporter. When I first visited, I was 20 years old and contemplated having sex for the first time. I wanted to ensure that I was healthy and protected from both pregnancy and disease. At PP, I was able to have an annual exam and get access to affordable and reliable birth control. They remained my provider of choice for several years.

    We claim to want people to make smart and responsible sexual choices. Why, then, are conservatives intent on making this more difficult?

  • http://twitter.com/crazygemini12 TH

    This is perfect, Latoya!