I've spoken here before about my abortion experience with Planned Parenthood. But I don't recall having talked about the other times and ways PP has helped me. Right now, it seems we need all the stories we can get about what Planned Parenthood really does. You know. Aside from the all-important abortion services which comprise a whole 2% of their operations.
Let's start in high school. At 16, I was sexually active, as were several of my friends. Most of us, for varying reasons, weren't comfortable with our parents knowing that, but we all knew (thanks to a couple of us having gotten actual good educational materials in one place or another - thanks, Mom! - and passing them around) about things like STDs and condoms. But in the eternal dilemma of semi-privileged teens, affluent enough not to have to work but not so rich that we had much money of our own, most of us couldn't afford condoms, at least not in the quantities we needed. So one friend went to Planned Parenthood and asked if she could get some condoms. They gave her a big paper bag full of an assortment of sizes, colors, types. For free. She kept them stashed in her car or in her backpack, and everyone knew that if we needed a condom and couldn't afford any, we could ask Sam. PP kept our broke asses safe with condoms all through high school.
After high school, I moved away to college, where I was living when I got pregnant and decided I needed an abortion. Planned Parenthood was my first call when I got that pregnancy test, because I knew that even if they didn't do abortions - not all centers do - they would refer me to someplace that did, without giving me hassle over it. As part of the pre-abortion exams, I was tested for STDs as well.
After my abortion, I talked to the doctors at PP about my birth control options. The doctor recommended an IUD, since I wasn't planning on having children in the next 5 years. But IUDs are expensive, so a nurse helped me to get enrolled in California's sexual health public assistance program, which allowed me to get the IUD for absolutely free.
Just this past year, I had some weird girl-bits symptoms. At this point, I'm uninsured and at the time, was unemployed, too. So who did I call? Planned Parenthood. I went in, got an exam, got a prescription for antibiotics, and was offered STD testing as well - all for about $10. Again, PP helped me re-enroll in the public assistance program, so I would be covered for any other exams I might need. And during the intake portion, when the nurse asked if I had any other conditions mental or physical, and I said I had unmedicated depression and couldn't afford to get therapy for it, either, she gave me the phone number for the counselor who works with their clinic, and told me I could probably get a few free or low-cost sessions with her if I needed it.
This year is the last year of my IUD's 5-year lifespan. I'll need to replace it this summer. Take a guess where my still-uninsured self is going to go for help with that?
So over the course of a decade, I've received services via Planned Parenthood for two types of contraceptives, STD testing, enrolling in public assistance, an exam and a prescription, and was offered a referral for counseling. And that's really light usage, since I have the privilege of being fairly healthy and not needing services very often, plus I just don't go to doctors unless I absolutely have to. Otherwise, I could probably add on yearly well-woman exams and Pap smears when necessary. Yes, PP provided my abortion as well. But that's one abortion to six other services I've used. Without PP's help, I could not have afforded my IUD. Without PP's help, I have no idea what I would have done when I had that infection last year. They were able to offer me free and low-cost help because, in large part, of the funding they receive from the government to provide those services. As I said, my usage of those services has been light; just imagine the impact it will have on millions of people, primarily women, primarily low income, which given the demographics and institutional racism endemic in this country means primarily people of color, who need and use these services even more than I do.
Now. With that in mind, go forth and cosign the open letter to Congress on this travesty. This, as so many other things in this new Congress' brief time in power, is nothing less than class warfare. Right now, I'm genuinely unsure how helpful any action we can take will be...but teaspoons ahoy, nonetheless.