Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thank You, Planned Parenthood

After hearing that the House of Representatives recently passed a bill to restrict federal funds from Planned Parenthood, I about lost my mind.

Of course, most people (read: conservative people) assume PP is just an abortion-performing machine (News flash! All kinds of doctors perform abortions outside of PP). I also think a lot of people who are against PP have never stepped foot in one. So this is why I felt compelled to write this blog. It does go into my personal story a bit (sorry, family members! I'm 25 and have been in serious relationships before, so the jig is up), but I feel like it's necessary to hear how such an important organization has touched the lives of many different people, including regular ol' me.

In high school, I first learned what Planned Parenthood was from my sister. I was lucky enough to have an older sister who knew about this stuff - I don't know how other teenagers would learn about this, especially in such a small (and small-minded) town as the one I grew up in. We were not low-income by any means, so my parents could easily afford to get me on the pill. And therein lies the rub.

What teenager would willingly and openly go to their parents to get them on birth control? I could barely tell my mom when I got my first period. I remember sitting in the living room with her after dinner, watching "Wheel of Fortune" or something. In my head, I was pressuring myself over and over, "Do it, Tracy! Just do it! Just tell her!" I finally blurted it out, but because of my nerves, it came out almost as one word: "Mom-I-started-my-period!"

Of course, she feigned excitement because this is the lie women have been telling younger girls for years - that it's the sign of "becoming a woman," when really it's a shitty, monthly inconvenience that we women would trade with men any day.

So, my point is this: if I could barely discuss normal, run-of-the-mill body issues with my mom, there was no way in hell I was going to ask for something that implicitly stated I wanted to get down to business with a guy.

Thankfully, I had friends and a sister I could talk to about this, and on our own, we figured out where to go (in the biiiiig city of Reno, Nevada) to find this hidden little clinic. I was nervous beyond belief to go there. I thought I would instantly be thrown out or that my dad would somehow know where I was and find me. It was terrifying, and it didn't get much better once I got there and had to answer personal questions about my sexual health. I couldn't talk to my parents about this, and now I have to tell some stranger if I'm sexually active or not?

I remember the nurse that helped me like it was yesterday. She answered every question I had without judgment and without making me feel like I was doing something wrong (because heaven forbid I take my health into my own hands). She explained everything clearly, about how the pill worked and how I needed to come back in 3 months to see if it was working well for me.

I went back to PP every few months to get birth control (FREE birth control, mind you. How much can a minimum wage-earning teen afford?). I remember one time, after waiting a good 2 hours (which was normal), the nurse told me she was being told to only give out 1 month's worth of pills to people because of funding cuts. I was horrified. Then you know what she did? She gave me 10 month's worth because she knew how vital it was. That lady is an angel! I will never forget that.

And that was the beginning of my years on birth control. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I have not been knocked up by an asshole boyfriend. Thanks to them, I didn't have to deal with mind-numbing cramps or worrying about if my period would come unexpectedly and seep through the back of my cheerleading uniform.

And thanks to being on the pill, I did not have to face the decision to have an abortion or not to have one. The idea of going to my dad as a teenager and telling him I'm pregnant was the equivalent of committing suicide.

I quickly spread the word to other friends about PP, and even accompanied a couple of them in the waiting room. I know other friends of mine used their services for STD testing, too. Gasp! Young people taking care of themselves. Yes, we must defund such an awful organization that respects young people's privacy and choices.

I know the idea of abortion and young people having sex are scary thoughts to adults. When I look at my cousins who are now in high school, I still view them as the little kids running around at Grams' house. So I understand that mentality of wanting to protect young people in any way we can.

But defunding Planned Parenthood is not the way to go about it.

If anything, talking to a nurse about peeing in a cup so that she can check for chlamydia is enough to scare a lot of kids straight.

Young people are going to have sex - and as countless studies have shown, abstinence-only education is ineffective and even dangerous. Areas that promote it actually see higher rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

And really, how realistic is it to wait until marriage when people are putting that off until their 30s?

So, I just want to say thanks to Planned Parenthood. Their employees always treated me with respect, which is hard to come by as a teenager. Most people brush you off and assume you don't know anything because you're young. But Planned Parenthood let me make decisions for myself, for which I will be eternally grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Tracy,

    Let me tell you! I have been so upset over this. I almost cried, literally. Thank God the Senate has since fought back, but still... Beyond your experience, and ones like it, it cost MUCH less to give women birth control, cancer screenings, paps, pregnancy tests and abortions than it does to pay for a birth and a child on the welfare system for 18 years and the surgery and chemo that go along with cervical cancer. PP holds a close place in my heart. They've done more for me than most people who know me even know. When I was 19 I found out I had HPV. It was one of the strains that can cause cancer. Through the years I've tracked it with PP. Last year around this time it came to the point that I has so many precancerous lesions on my cervix that I had to have the top layer shaved off. It's worse than it sounds. Luckily, the job I had at the time provided insurance so I was able to get that procedure done at a private office, but I still use PP today. Without them who knows what I would've done for my womanly needs. I could've had cancer in five years! I understand the GOP not wanting government funded abortions, that's fine, but the other services they provide are necessary! I'm very sad for PP.