A Call to Action: What has Planned Parenthood Done for You?

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.

7 replies on “A Call to Action: What has Planned Parenthood Done for You?”

I don’t have a Planned Parenthood story (because I didn’t happen to become sexually active until well into college and I was fortunate enough to have insurance…and I’ve always been careless about regular checkups), but since that bullshit House vote I’ve been seriously considering using them for my gyn exams. I’d like them to receive my insurance’s money.

I had safe sex in high school because of Washington State’s free PP program–you’re eligible for two years of completely free care and BC. You don’t even have to show financial need to be on the program; you can just say you’re afraid of bills showing up on your parents’ insurance. I think I would have had sex either way, but using condoms and depo was a WAY better way to do it at age 17.

In college I went to PP because my Catholic college didn’t offer BC (or I think even most women’s care). One night I might or might not have been had sex with while I was too drunk to know what was happening, and in deep embarrassment and fear, I walked up the street to PP (where students frequently prayed in the parking lot for aborted fetus souls and where you had to go through a metal detector before going into the waiting room because of occasional bomb threats–neither of which was AT ALL the case at my PP near my parents’ house). I was scared and I felt stupid, and I was terrified I’d see someone I knew, four blocks from my college. I told the doctor why I was in–for Plan B and an STD test because of unknown potential sexual encounter the night prior–and she told me I was smart to be there. And I didn’t feel smart–I felt fucking stupid for not knowing what had happened, and I felt embarrassed that I had to make an emergency appointment for services my school health center wouldn’t offer me–but she made me feel like I was okay and like I was taking the right steps and just… you know, better.

And I think about all the women whose problems are a lot greater than having to walk four blocks past people praying to get those kind of services, and who don’t get two years of totally free care like I did, and it makes me so sad and angry on behalf of all of us–all women who need access that we’re being denied.

I have a lot of stories with Planned Parenthood.

The first abortion I had at 16 wasn’t at a Planned Parenthood. It was at the National Healthcare Clinic in Peoria, Illinois. Overall, a crummy experience, but they gave me a pack of Ortho Tricyclen. They didn’t vary it based on body weight, or personal preference, or anything. I asked the nurse if I HAD to take it, cause my mom had had issues with oral BC, and I take after her a lot. She gave me a look and just told young, scared me “Yes, you have to”. So, I took it. My two week checkup was scheduled at the PP closest to me, which was just basically a gynecologist’s office, but cheaper. In the time between the abortion and the two week checkup, I was have terrible migraine-like headaches. They were debilitating. As well as nasty, nasty mood swings. At the check up, I told the doctor about this, and they were like “Yikes, you might have a clot in your leg.” Sure enough, taking me off the Ortho made the headache go away. They put me on Depo, which I didn’t like either, but which was better. They also took our Medicaid, because my mom is divorced and we were quite poor. I was on birthcontrol for a solid two years because of them.

My second story is linked with my second abortion. The experience at the PP over in Aurora IL was astounding, compared to my first one. Everyone was much friendlier, and completely non judgemental. When asking the requisite question of how I got pregnant (condom failure), I began to cry and say I didn’t know how I had let this happen. The nurse looked at me and said “You tried to prevent this. Your method failed. This happens and it is not your fault, sweetie”.

The people who work at these places are heroes.

In the past I’ve used PP for my yearly pap and physical (no insurance, or crappy insurance). And ditto on the UTI – I will forever be grateful to them for getting me in on a same-day appointment.. *shudder* Burned like fire, and urgent care – forget it. No way I could have afforded that at the time.

The first time I went to Planned Parenthood was a year ago (I was 22). I was seeing an abusive guy and he insisted on sex without a condom but was going to pull out every time. Even though I knew better I was in a period of my life when I had just shut down, low confidence and self esteem and just really in a bad place so I let him. It happened a couple of times and I got scared of getting pregnant and catching something. I didn’t have insurance and even though I was an adult I was too scared to tell my mom (who I was living with at the time). I called Planned Parenthood and they got me in that day. I remember being amazed by how diverse everybody in the waiting room was. Because I worked part time and was lucky if I made $800 a month they put me on the program that basically allowed for my services to be free. They immediately got me started on birth control and gave me Plan B pills.

I still go to them for my birth control pills but lately they have been a godsend when I get a UTI. Both times I have gotten one (just got one this past weekend) they have gotten me in the day I call for an appointment and provided antibiotics without charge. I don’t even want to know what I would be charged if I went to Urgent Care. I try to donate money to them when I can and I urge any woman I hear talking about how they can’t afford birth control or going to a regular doctor to go to Planned Parenthood. Community health centers like them are vital in this time when so many cannot afford basic health care

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