As Ginger and Jill mentioned this past week, the House of Representatives voted to eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. We’re not just talking about the Hyde Amendment withholding funding for abortions. We’re talking about cutting fundamental health care for women. Birth control, pap smears and cancer screenings, counseling, and other basic services that many women otherwise could not afford.
This upcoming weekend, hundreds of thousands are planning local rallies in protest of this move. We may not all be able to march on Washington, but we can show our solidarity in other ways all across the country. I encourage you to head down to a rally near you and stand up to show your support for Planned Parenthood. (And if there isn’t one planned yet, all it takes is a few hand-written posters and a Facebook group encouraging people to join you. Remember, if you keep moving and stay on public property, you don’t need a permit.) The more voices there are shouting the same message, the easier it is for the Senate to hear.
I’ve had a lot of experience working in politics, on all different sides of the table. At various points, I’ve been a staffer for a political party, a community organizer for a voter education campaign, a professor of political science, and a staffer for an elected official. Throughout all of this, both as the listener and the one doing the selling, I’ve learned that personal experiences and narratives are more likely to change someone’s mind than spouting off a list of facts and figures. Stories about real people allow the person making the decision to put a face to something that’s abstract. On Saturday’s rally in my hometown, I will be sharing the story of how the nurse at my women’s health clinic saved my life.
Several years ago, I was a graduate student with not a lot of time or money for doctor’s appointments. When I went to the clinic for a refill on my birth control prescription, the nurse noted with alarm that my blood pressure was very high. Not just “a little on the high side for a 26-year-old” but 160/108, which made my med school friend’s jaw drop when I told her about it. The clinic nurse sent me off immediately for various follow-up appointments with other doctors and specialists. After being passed from one cardiologist to the next for a few months, I ended up needing open heart surgery (twice) to correct a valve blockage related to the heart murmur I’ve had since birth.
I learned later that it was this blockage (subaortic stenosis) that caused me to pass out when I got too hot or exerted myself too much. It was something I had run into throughout my entire life, but no one made the connection to my heart murmur. I certainly didn’t go for regular checkups with a general practitioner after I got out of high school and they were no longer required. In the meantime, there was some damage to my heart valve because of the ongoing strain that had been placed on it. I now have annual visits to a cardiologist to keep an eye on it, and I will probably need a valve replacement at some point in my life. But if I hadn’t been able to go to my local women’s health clinic, if that nurse hadn’t been there to notice that something was wrong, I would have gone about the business of my life with a sky high blood pressure. How long it would have taken for a catastrophic failure of some kind? A catastrophic failure of my heart valve. It is a terrifying thought.
For many women, their local Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider they see. They either can’t afford doctors who don’t offer sliding scales, or there’s literally nowhere else for them to turn. If we cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, where will they go? My story is certainly dramatic, but it’s not unique. So many women in this country rely on Planned Parenthood for even basic medical care. We cannot allow Congress to take away funding for such a critical service.
So, Persephoneers. What’s your story? Don’t just tell it to me. Tell it to your Senator, your Congressmember, your Governor. Let them know how important Planned Parenthood is to the people they are elected to serve.