Planned Parenthood, at least in my corner of the world, is deeply misunderstood as a veritable abortion factory that claims to exist for women’s health but doesn’t really do much else. Don’t misunderstand me, I completely honor a person’s right to hate abortion–and that is a service that is provided at a lot of Planned Parenthoods (though not all). I also think that it’s important to know that if our strong convictions are rooted in truth, then they can withstand research, accountability, and honoring the lived-in experiences of others. I believe there’s space for both.
You know that I believe more than anything that stories make change. Facts and figures are crucial and important to understanding an issue. Also, I believe that our hearts are changed and moved when we hear about the lives of others. Because of that, I’m going to share with you the stories of five women that I know and their experiences with Planned Parenthood. Take a listen:
I went at 20 for my first pregnancy to get a pregnancy confirmation to be able to get on Medicaid. They were super friendly. I felt CRAZY self conscious walking in there knowing their reputation in my circle at the time. The biggest thing I remember is how surprised the lady helping was when I expressed happiness about my pregnancy. That didn’t seem to be her norm (she said as much). I think I made her day. They were great and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. I was treated with dignity there, I wasn’t lectured, I wasn’t spoken down to. This has NOT been my experience at the health department when I have gone there for subsequent pregnancies. –Mary-Dawn
Planned parenthood and I are old friends. I went there to get birth control for the first time. After I was raped, I had an abortion. I was tested for STDs. I went there for family planning after I got married to protect my marriage and my life from unplanned pregnancy. The doctors and nurses and volunteers I met saved my life more than once. They educated me and reminded me of my right to be educated and aware about my body and my sexuality. They comforted me through what have, so far been the most trying times of my young adult life. I went in young and afraid and alone and I came out a confident, educated, prepared adult. I trusted planned parenthood with my life and they proved me right. They continue to show me that I did the right thing. I will fight for them the way that they fought for me. -Kristin
I was in my early 20s, unemployed and without health insurance. There is a history of breast cancer in my family, so when I thought I had found a lump, I was terrified. I knew I couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit, so I started looking into options. Planned Parenthood was my best choice. I was still a part of the world of Christian fundamentalism and was so scared going into the clinic. I prayed I wouldn’t see anyone that I knew outside protesting (as pro-life protests often happened there) for fear of their assumptions. Thankfully I didn’t. I got a quick manual exam and they decided to refer me for a mammogram. They didn’t cover the cost of that (my PP visit was free though) but put me in touch with a partner organization who would pay; I just had to submit a bill. The staff at PP wrote the referral and made the appointment with a specialist, but that was the extent of their involvement. Still, as someone who was young and scared, I was thankful to have someone guiding me through the process. -Elena
I was having pain in my pelvis and since I just recently moved to Cincinnati, I didn’t have a gynecologist to call up. I decided to go to Planned Parenthood because the only other option I saw was to go to the emergency room or urgent care. When I got to Planned Parenthood,I was seen by a midwife named Gwynn. She did a thorough examination, complete with my pregnancy history. When she discovered that I had two miscarriages in the last year (which is not the reason I had made the appointment) and she told me that she was sad that I hadn’t reached out for medical support for the most recent miscarriage. You could tell that babies and birth were her passion. After discovering that I had a cyst on my ovary, she referred me to a doctor who would focus on my infertility struggles and would also be able to treat and diagnose my cysts. I had an INCREDIBLY positive experience at that time.
My second experience with Planned Parenthood was when they were calling for volunteers to canvas the neighborhoods on Election Day to offer rides to people who were unable to get out and vote. We weren’t asking people to vote republican or democrat. We were simply asking them to VOTE! I went with my son and we were teamed up with a Planned Parenthood employee and it was a wonderful experience for my son and I. -Sarah
When I moved to my small, Western Kansas town, I didn’t have health insurance, and my husband and I were so broke, I couldn’t imagine getting pregnant. I looked for a PP, and found one in Hays. The PA there was amazing. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, and I got my birth control prescription for cheap. I continued to go there even after I had insurance because I liked her so much. She came to recognize me, and when I decided to start to try and have children, she recommended me to an OB. I noticed a year later that my PP was shut down, and six months after that a Catholic Charities had taken its place. I wonder where young women out here can get exams and birth control now without going to the hospital. I wonder where they go when they need help. My PP made me feel like I was taken care of, and I still wonder how on earth they could get shut down in an area they were so desperately needed. -Alyssa
Are you hearing these things?
Everyone was so helpful; I was so young and scared; we were so broke; my visit was free; they referred me; babies and birth were her passion.
“I went in young and afraid and alone and I came out a confident, educated, prepared adult.”
I just put out a quick call on Facebook asking friends to send me their stories and a few did. This is every story that I received in just a few hours’ time. I didn’t hunt and find the best or most flattering ones–this is it. I’ll bet that if you asked the same question, you’ll receive similar stories.
Yes, you can get care in a doctor’s office, if you can afford it. Yes, you can get inexpensive care at the local health department, if it’s a place that you feel safe and cared for. Also, yes, you can go to Planned Parenthood, too. You deserve quality care and you deserve options. It is an option. It is an option that is fighting hard to continue to serve the underserved in your community.
In honor of these women (who were brave to share these stories at a time when the internet is particularly hostile), and for other women and men (yes, men use Planned Parenthood, too) like them who desperately need healthcare and can’t afford it, I make contributions to Planned Parenthood and if you feel so inclined, I hope that you do, too. Your gift will be shared equally between your local Planned Parenthood affiliate and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
I welcome your comments, but I ask that you honor the real human beings that wrote these stories, today. You’re always wonderful, though, so I know there’s nothing to worry about.