When I was 15, I foolishly had unprotected sex and became pregnant. Thanks to the abortion services at Planned Parenthood, the course of my entire life was set back on track. I am eternally grateful.
When I was 24 I got a urinary tract infection for the first time. I proceeded to get one every two or three months for the next year. Each time it set in faster, and was more painful. If you have had one, you know what I’m talking about! I had no health insurance at this point—the package offered at my job cost so much that I had to choose between insurance and a place to live, and I chose to continue paying rent. I received treatment at Planned Parenthood for free: the visit, the test, and the antibiotics.
If left untreated, a urinary tract infection can spread to the kidneys and cause permanent damage, or the infection can spread to the bloodstream and lead to sepsis. This is fatal. It scares me to think that something so easily treated could have been the death of me.
Every time I have been in a Planned Parenthood office I received nothing but gracious care. And when I look around the waiting room I see so many men and women there for so many different reasons. I don’t know where else most of us would have to go without them.
One month when I was an uninsured 19 year-old college student, my period was a week late. I was too poor to even buy a pregnancy test, and the ob-gyn at the school clinic had been brusque and judgmental the last time I’d been in for a check-up, so I was too scared to go there for a test. I couldn’t afford an abortion and couldn’t face the thought of being shunned for an unwed pregnancy. I seriously considered suicide. One sleepless night I decided to email the local Planned Parenthood. I told them my “friend” thought she might be pregnant and couldn’t afford an abortion. Less than 24 hours later, I got an email from an employee there, saying that my friend could come get a free pregnancy test, and that if she needed an abortion they would help her get one regardless of financial resources. No matter what, they said, they would help. I felt so much safer, knowing that someone was on my side, and wouldn’t judge me. For the first time that week I was calm enough to leave the house and go to class. My period started that afternoon, so I never did need to go in, but I will always be grateful to PP for telling a terrified girl that someone was on her side.
I have to have my second colpo in a year. The first one I had student health insurance to cover. But I’ve graduated and still have no job so Planned Parenthood is my only option. A colpo can cost up to $800 without insurance but my PP only charges $300 and on top of that they have a loan program to cover half the charge. Guess who provides the loan program? Not the government, but a local woman’s roller derby team whose teammate died of stage 4 cervical cancer. She had suffered sexual abuse and avoided getting annual exams. The team raised money for her treatment but it was too late for her. They donated the money to PP and have held fundraisers since. When I found out I cried my eyes out. Incredibly frustrated and sad that women aren’t getting the care they need but also thankful that these women who lost a teammate and friend are turning that grief into something positive that helps women like me.
Once for my best friend in her college days, and once for my darling, dearest little sister who had made the mistake of having drunken, unprotected sex. Both women had to use the 2% of services that PP rarely utilizes but so luckily offers, as both women were in similar situation in their lives (just starting out college, accidentally getting pregnant, not knowing much about sex, having come from strict catholic upbringings where Sex Ed. was not taught, not even at home), and needing to learn about sex, the female body, the reproductive system, and of course, birth control, annual exams, and the like. I use Planned Parenthood even though I have great “regular” health insurance because I believe in them and their mission and that every person should have the basic right to basic health care and choice. Especially where reproduction is concerned. Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for giving my friend and my sister their lives back. One is now a full-time teacher for special needs children and proud mother of two; and my dearest little sister (who I want to protect from everything!) is still in school, and learning to navigate her way in the world, even the hard choices. And she continues to go to PP for her annual well-health care visits … And education about reproduction rights.
I make my donations directly to PP, and will continue to do, and encourage others to do so, so that other women may receive quality care regardless of their status. Shame on you, Komen Foundation, for saying you stand by women. You’ve merely been shamed into reversing your decision regarding PP.
When I was 16 I had to go to Planned Parenthood in order to obtain birth control, I had been having sex with I was 14 and had asked my parents for birth control but was denied. My mother cried. When I could finally drive, I got free birth control. I can’t imagine what my life would be without these tools for safe sex and sexual education. During the exam, they found a lump in my right breast. I was only 16 and was very scared, thanks to Planned Parenthood I became much more aware of breast cancer and must thank them for finding this growth and investigating it for me. I was lucky it was not serious, but it could have been. I stand with Planned Parenthood.
It was freshman year in college, and just after winter break I started to have awful stomach pains. I couldn’t keep food down, yet my pants were a little tight. I thought maybe the freshman 15, but I played a sport and didn’t drink, so what was the deal?
I finally felt so sick and weak that a friend brought me to the ER. I had a pelvic scan and they found a huge cyst in my uterus. “The size of a grapefruit” the doctor told me, as if it were a thing to behold. They removed the cyst, and prescribed birth control pills to help keep a new cyst from forming. There’s where the trouble started.
I went to the local Walgreens to fill the prescription. I was on my parent’s insurance, and didn’t know the ins and outs of what was and wasn’t covered. When I went to pick up the prescription, it rang up at $80. For a one month supply. “What about insurance?” I asked. The heinous woman behind the counter said, as loudly and as self-righteously has she could, “insurance doesn’t cover BIRTH CONTROL!!!!” She didn’t say “you SLUT” but I know that she was thinking it.
There was no way I could afford to spend over $800 a year on this prescription. I was horrified by the way the woman spoke to me. I was going to just have to take my chances that the cysts didn’t return. Thankfully, someone, I don’t know who, told me that there was a Planned Parenthood on campus.
I went there, and the people were so kind that I cried with relief. The pills to help keep me from getting cysts— which also happen to keep me from getting pregnant if I were sexually active— were free.
I will never forget that experience. It taught me a lot about the importance of having access to women’s health care, for my whole body. It taught me first hand about the stupidity of self-righteousness.
Thank you PP!
When I was in college, and without insurance, I began to have extremely heavy periods. I was bleeding for 10 days straight, such heavy bleeding that even the heaviest pads would last only a couple of hours, and the cramps I had for the first two days were debilitating. I began to have dizzy spells, and had trouble concentrating during those times. Then I started to pass out occasionally. When I passed out walking across the quad between classes, one of my classmates carried me to the university clinic (which at that time consisted of a nurse who gave out aspirin and band-aids), and waited with me until I gained consciousness. He was a gem! I related to the nurse the trouble I was having, and she called the Planned Parenthood chapter in the nearest larger town. Those wonderful people came and got me and took me to their clinic. They had tests run on me and discovered I was severely anemic, and that if I didn’t control my periods, I could die. So they put me on the Pill. My periods never became normal, but the time was cut in HALF, and my flow lessened quite a bit. I still had bad cramps, and they were the ONLY people who listened to me about the cramps. Every other male gynecologist I talked to told me that I “just needed to take a couple of Midol and get used to it because I was a woman.” 25 years later, when I had my tubes tied, the surgeon told me that I had the worst case of endometriosis that she had ever seen.
Thank you Planned Parenthood! You have my lifetime support.
In 1974, I had just graduated from college and was using PP for my gyn needs. It was inexpensive, convenient and they were really nice. It was during one of these visits that a PAP smear was done and found to be positive. And on the repeat it was also positive. They referred me to a great local OB/GYN practice and it was taken care of. I was so thankful that I volunteered for over a year at their clinic.
I always knew college was my life priority. I am 21 and have been sexually active since i was 16 and have received all of my birth control needs from Planned parenthood. I have never had health insurance and the take charge program has covered everything. Before I got on the pill i was strictly using condoms which used to break on me regularly. Then I tried oral contraceptives and would often miss days, the program provided free plan B for just this kind of incidence. Then PP suggested to me something more long term, so they put in an IUD for me. I am now in college and able to live my life with my boyfriend without fear of pregnancy, or the financial (or environmental) burden of latex condoms
I was 21 years old when I got married to a woman who hated children. She had been deprived of her childhood after her father died, her mother went to work, and she was made responsible for taking care of her younger sister and brother at the age of 10 years old. Her goal was to be an only child. An understandable emotion, but this was extreme. She swore she would commit suicide if she ever got pregnant.
Unable to use the pill, and ot satisfied with the protection of others, she resorted to the diaphragm, plus foam, plus a condom. But even still, every month she would be petrified as the days apprached and often went by her red-star day of 28 since her last period. It got so bad that it became impossible to enjoy sex together because of her fear.
So we decided that I would have a vasectomy. We were poor and couldn’t afford the operation, so we went to Planned Parenthood. Because I was only 23 years old, they counseled us to make sure we knew of the severity of our decision. We did. So one Friday afternoon, I went in to the Planned Parenthood office, had my vasectomy, and took the elevated train home to rest for the weekend. Back to work on Monday.
The vasectomy worked and we could enjoy each other without fear. Not only did Planned Parenthood save my wife’s life literally, but it also save mine metaphorically.
I grew up in a relatively small town in Upstate New York. When I was 14 and entered high school, a friend asked if I’d like to join a peer education group called “Teen View”, which was sponsored by the local Planned Parenthood affiliate. The group was composed of 20-30 teens ages 14-18 from three counties and diverse backgrounds, who performed educational theatrical skits for middle schoolers, high school peers, adults, parents, and teachers. We educated on a wide variety of teen-centered topics ranging from birth control, contraception, sexual orientation, and sexual violence to bullying, healthy relationships, respect, and drug and alcohol abuse. After our skits, we led discussions and engaged with our audiences to help teach and promote sexual and personal health.
It was a life-changing experience to learn about these important topics, relay the information to my peers, and be able to have open, candid discussion about topics that many viewed as taboo. When a topic such as teen sexual health is swept under the rug, all potential for safety is lost. If we cannot discuss these things, and get accurate information from experts (such as the community educators at Planned Parenthood, who advised the group), how are we to know how to protect ourselves from disease, unwanted pregnancy, and unhealthy relationships?
My four year involvement in this group taught me everything I needed to know about sexual health, healthy relationships and friendships, and the importance of equality. It has been six years since I graduated high school and moved on in my life, but the lessons learned stay with me. I came to understand and accept my own sexual orientation, and make healthy choices whether I was involved with a man or a woman. The knowledge I gained from being trained to educate others has helped to keep me and my sexual partners healthy and safe. I understand the importance of getting tested before engaging with new sexual partners, I was able to weigh birth control options and decide which was best for me. When a condom broke, I knew how soon and where I needed to go to get Plan B. When a friend had unsafe sex and came to me unsure and worried, I knew what questions to ask to help her decide what her next step should be.
I continue to work every day to promote frank and open discussion of sexual health questions, and to educate my friends and acquaintances about the importance of healthy sexuality. Many of my Teen View peers have gone on to serve as nurses, advocates, and some even continue to work as Planned Parenthood educators. Sure, Planned Parenthood provides abortions - they have provided life-saving care to a number of my close friends and family. But they do so much more. The best way to prevent anyone from ever reaching that point is to educate them, and promote prevention and safety, and Planned Parenthood does that.
Thank you Planned Parenthood for saving lives through EDUCATION!
About 11 years ago, when my kids were around 8 and 10 years old, I had an abnormal result on a Pap test that was done as part of my annual exam at Planned Parenthood. The test showed that there were pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. This was about 8 years after my aunt had passed away from ovarian cancer. I was a single mom at the time and, even though I had insurance to help cover all of this, it was one of the few times in my life that I did have it. Even if I didn’t, they would have helped me anyway which is more than I can say for a private doctor’s office. And I went to Planned Parenthood because I had gone to them so many times before, for exams and birth control, when I didn’t have insurance. Not only did PP discover these pre-cancerous cells from my exam, they also treated/destroyed them with the use of cryotherapy, a procedure that was done at another PP location, and then followed up with me every 6 months to make sure the cells had not returned.
Part of this was posted on my blog earlier this week, but I’d like to share it here as well — this is a great site.
At 19, I was stupid. I smoked, drank heavily, avoided sleep, and refused to waste time or money going to a doctor for something as unnecessary as a check-up. Then I decided I wanted birth control. Lo and behold, when one wants birth control, one must undergo an exam. Lucky for me, Planned Parenthood was right down the street, and they sold birth control pills for $5 a pack if you bought in bulk—the only catch was a yearly exam. Thus, the nurses and gynecologists of Planned Parenthood became my only doctors, and those annual exams my only check-ups, during my college years. The same was true for many other women I saw in the waiting room, many of whom were not college students, and weren’t lucky enough to have health insurance under their step-father’s plan.
During a routine annual exam in 2005, a nurse practitioner pressed her thumb to my neck and said, “What’s that?” “What’s what?” I said. “That.” She rolled her thumb around on a hard little knot just beneath my Adam’s apple. “You need to get that checked out. I think it’s a thyroid nodule.”
I totally ignored her (What lump? Bodies are lumpy, so what?), and when I returned the following year for another exam to keep the cheap birth control coming, a different nurse practitioner noticed the same lump. Okay, I thought, I guess I should get it checked out.
By 2008, after being diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, I’d had two surgeries to remove my thyroid gland and some lymph nodes in my neck (the cancer had metastasized), as well as radioactive iodine treatment. While I have a slow-growing and non-aggressive type of cancer that rarely spreads beyond the surrounding lymph nodes, I don’t like to think about the parts of my body it could have reached if gone unchecked—that is, if those two nurse practitioners at Planned Parenthood hadn’t been so observant, hadn’t been insistent, hadn’t been there at all.
Planned Parenthood not only saved my life, but that of my girlfriend.
We were each 20 year old college students and sexually active, but one
day we made a poor decision and had unprotected sex. A little over a
month later we found out she was pregnant.
I’ll never forget where I was when she called me sobbing. She was
devastated and I felt the pit of my stomach fall out when she told me
the news. I had no idea what to do next, but we both knew we weren’t
mature enough or financially capable of raising a child at that point
in our lives. It just wasn’t the right time. Fortunately for us the
professionals at Planned Parenthood were there to help us through the
difficult decision of having an abortion.
We didn’t end up staying together, but because we had a choice we both
were able to graduate from college and have gone on to be successful
individuals. She pursued a graduate degree in physical therapy and is
engaged to a great guy. I was able to finish my biology degree and am
an Army Officer married to the woman of my dreams. Thanks.
I am now a successful Masters prepared nurse, but I have been a struggling student. I received counseling, contraceptives and exams from PP during those years. It helped me to be responsible and educated and I remain grateful.
A high-ranking official resigned Tuesday from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity after a dispute over whether the group should give funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Karen Handel, the charity’s vice president for public policy, told Komen officials that she supported the move to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She said the discussion started before she arrived at the organization and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.
“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” Handel said in her letter. “I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve.”
I still find Komen’s apology statement from last week dubious — it doesn’t say it will continue funding PP, but that it will honor existing commitments.
A young woman, struggling with “high-functioning” alcoholism and a panic disorder, unable to seek treatment for either disease because of her inferior health care package covers neither mental health nor women’s health care, finds herself pregnant by her boyfriend of six months. Her boyfriend makes the right pledge, to stand by whatever decision she makes, and to support the child, if need be, or to help pay for an abortion procedure. He is unemployed and living with his parents in rural Georgia. She gets an offer to go to graduate school with a fellowship designed to support a young single person with very modest needs. She can keep the kid, move the guy across the country, and attempt to begin graduate school with a child and a yearly income far below the poverty level, relying heavily on expensive state and federal programs, and running her parents into debt. She can keep the kid, stay in Georgia with no prospects beyond managing a small restaurant, and force the guy to remain immobile, too, again drawing on expensive programs and her not-wealthy parents. In either scenario, what would that child’s life be like? The pregnancy was caught early—six weeks—but substance abuse problems take years, even a lifetime, to get under control. Even if she was able to quit cold turkey for the sake of the child, there would be no guarantee that the child would turn out healthy, or even go to term. If, by some miracle, the child was healthy, her mental illness and the financial straits of both parents would hardly give the child a stable home life. She wasn’t even that young. At 23, she had already surpassed that milestone her mother had set for her since childhood: just wait until you graduate college. So, here she was, with a Magna cum Laude to boot. Should she woman up, grip her ovaries and pull herself into parenthood by her fallopian-tube-bootstraps?
I think the adversaries of PPH and women’s health initiatives would probably argue that she should. And maybe she should have. But she didn’t, and she is, of course, me. Call me weak, call me selfish, call me irresponsible. If you’ve ever been in the throes of an addiction, you can probably understand how hard it is to get out of it, especially when you’re being hit with the hormonal bludgeon of pregnancy. If my anxiety, panic, and depression was controlled before, with the pregnancy hormones flowing through my veins it became almost unbearable to leave my house. Thankfully, I had incredibly supportive friends, including a next-door neighbor who didn’t let me fall to pieces. My aunt, a 30+-year supporter of PPH and now a staff member, also supported me from across the country. My boyfriend at the time did what he could, from two hours away and between his odd jobs. I wasn’t ready to be a parent. I was still drinking heavily, too, mainly out of “OH F***” anxiety. People will say “No one is ever ready to be a parent!” but I don’t think they mean this level of unfitness.
You know, a part of me wonders something: I have always been pretty sexual, but I have been made to feel fraught about that sexuality thanks to growing up in small, conservative towns. I had a supportive, open-minded mother and aunt (the one mentioned above) who both taught me that my body and my urges were neither shameful nor something to remain ignorant of. Imagine the cognitive dissonance created by being surrounded by friends wearing pro-life shirts in the halls, praying in school, and regularly being “saved” at sleepovers (because we sometimes went to a Catholic church). Maybe if basic human feelings and needs hadn’t been so morally pathologized in my formative years, I could have escaped some of the issues that made me anxious as a teen, and eventually drove me to self-medicate through drinking. Anxiety issues run in my family, so it may have found another manifestation, but here’s one topic it should never have had to become caught up in.
I didn’t end up going to PPH, but instead went to a local version of that organization that was much closer (Feminist Women’s Health Center in ATL, for anyone in the region who can’t get to the PPH locations). So, maybe in this situation it wasn’t exactly PPH that saved my life, but it’s like saying I got my cat from the Humane Society when it was really an almost-identical animal rescue that only exists in my town. PPH helped me out on a number of other occasions, and in my new town I have been using their services. I just submitted a volunteer application!
My mom and my aunt were pioneers in middle America, the heart of Santorum-esque anti-woman attitudes, but in their quiet, behind-the-scenes way. Sites like this, and the HUGE reaction to the recent Komen Foundation action are proof that times are changing.
When I quietly turned to my older girlfriends for advice when I found myself pregnant, I was surprised to find out that several of them had had abortions, including one who had been a lesbian most of her adult life, and one who counts herself as a conservative. We have to stop letting political groups step on our voices. Pregnancy is dangerous, parenthood is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly, and sex is an instinct hundreds of millions of years old. Suggesting sexual abstinence as a solution is like saying anorexia is the solution obesity: accessible, responsible, low-cost management of normal human needs is the answer, and that’s what PPH offers.
This was very rambling, but I hope some people find some gems in there. I love PPH and like-minded associations. We, as women (and men, too, surely my ex-boyfriend is happy to not be a dad!) who have used their services, need to be more vocal about it. The more normal it becomes, the better. I long for a day when anti-PPH and anti-women’s health advocates are regarded with the same kind of cult status as religious sects that refuse all kinds of medical treatment: wackos (with religious freedom protection for the adults).
I was so happy to see the outpouring of support for PPH in light of the Komen thing. More people need to speak up. Health issues should be kept private, but it doesn’t hurt my professional career to say that I’ve personally benefited from several of the many of their 97% of non-abortion services.
Some people seem to have this idea that PP is some speakeasy where you walk in and the staff pushes a handful of birth control (BC) pills into your mouth while encouraging you to have an abortion. My experiences as a client and a counselor have led me to view it as the most capable, compassionate, and respectful visit to an MD available.
In the 70s I became a client at PP at 15, and worked at age 16-17, as a peer counselor (cuz the teens were scared to talk to old chicks) at a PP in Philadelphia. Everyone came in nervously, automatically asking for ‘the pill’ back then. But girls and women were encouraged during the counseling/intake interview to open up and talk about why they thought they needed it—so many of us were not sexually active enough for full-time birth control like that and had no idea there were other methods and devices; others were feeling pressured to have sex but didn’t know how to say no. PP offered support to get to what YOU really wanted and needed instead of blindly handing out pills.
After the intake, to get any BC or procedure you had to do a session on what all the BC methods (including ‘rhythm’) were, and the (at the time shocking) “how to do a breast exam” demo on Sally-the-lifelike-silicone-torso, and then have a breast as well as pelvic exam from the doctor. That was often the only time girls and women had seen a doctor since they got their immunizations in grade school. As a middle-class girl I had received care from the family doctor, but a visit there only happened if you had a fever and, then, if your throat was sore that must be the culprit, medicines were prescribed (and you could not ask questions about them without the doctor acting angry or insulted), and the ‘exam’ was over. At PP I was asked about my whole body and any symptoms or concerns, not just boobs and vagina, and encouraged to ask questions about any and everything.
PP taught me that I was a consumer of health care, not a passive patient, and I had rights. People were told every visit to read the notes counselors and doctors made in their chart to make sure it was accurate—that mistakes can happen even by the best; and you could come back and read your chart any time —it was about you so it was yours. What a gift! Good freakin’ luck trying to explain that to most health care practitioners. But I have insisted on that level of access to my medical records ever since. and, had I not, the errors and misinterpretations would have led to treatments (or the withholding of treatments), negatively impacting my health and life.
Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for teaching me by body is mine, to care for my whole body, and stand up for what I know to be true from inside of it.
I’m almost 22 now. Last summer, I started birth control to regulate my cycle and get my hormones under control. I honestly started the pill simply to find a way to manage the ridiculous amounts of pain I experienced during my periods. I was in for a surprise. My family has a history of anxiety issues that had spiraled out of control and turned into depression for a short period of time. I went to therapy for the depression, but the anxiety never truly went away…
…Until I started birth control. It turned out my anxiety and depression were strongly connected to my cycle. The difference between who I was and who I am today is like night and day. Friends who came back to my college after the summer break even commented that I was much happier and wanted to know what had happened.
I took control of my health, is what happened. It all started with the simple goal of eliminating my extreme monthly pains - and since my family had no idea where any gynecologists are in my area, I never would have been able to start taking birth control if it wasn’t for Planned Parenthood. They are the reason I am able to smile every day, and they are the reason this last year of my life has been free of physical pain and the pain caused by major anxiety. Thank you, thank you, thank you Planned Parenthood.