Why I Stand with Planned Parenthood

I’m a young, 30-year-old woman scheduled for surgery on March 10. You can bet I’m scared. You can bet I’m feeling vulnerable. And you can bet that sharing my story in this public space has added another level of anxiety. But until women’s health care is no longer a “political issue” and under routine attack from politicians that have no right to interfere and no medical background or expertise in women’s anatomy or our unique health care needs — I won’t stay quiet. And neither should you.

Every year — 2.5 million people rely on Planned Parenthood for health care — for many, it’s the only doctor they see. So when people talk about “defunding” Planned Parenthood what they really mean is blocking women (particularly low-income women, women of color and those in rural and underserved communities) from seeing their provider of choice for preventive health care screenings. We’re talking about putting barriers between women and their doctors for much needed clinical breast exams, Pap smears and STD testing. We’re talking about preventing Planned Parenthood from getting reimbursed for such services just like any other provider would — and telling the estimated 1-in-5 women that have relied on Planned Parenthood at some point in their lifetime that they don’t matter. It’s putting up more barriers to expert and affordable health care — when we should be knocking those barriers down.

This issue hits particularly close to home for me — as I recently got a call from my gynecologist that a routine Pap smear came back with medium to high-grade precancerous cells. Cells that could turn into cancer and hinder my ability to have children had I not been at the doctor for a routine check-up and renewed prescription for birth control so that my husband and I can begin our family when we’re ready — on our own terms. There were no signs. No warnings. It’s a call nobody wants for themselves. For their partners. For their daughters. Their sisters or their mothers. And it’s one that would have been much harder to receive if I’d been uninsured or my network of health care providers was limited.

These same cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood save lives. In fact, in a single year, an estimated 72,000 women had their cancer or abnormalities caught through routine screenings at Planned Parenthood and were then able to get the affordable care they needed to get healthy. I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with some of these women. Women like Lori from Wisconsin who went to Planned Parenthood while she was an underinsured teacher at a catholic high school and had abdominal pain. Her family has a history of cervical cancer and she was able to get an appointment quickly with a local Planned Parenthood health center. Lori credits Planned Parenthood with preserving her health and her ability to have children. She is now a proud mother of two.

I come from a place of privilege. I’m a white, college educated woman with a successful career. I was born into an upper-middle-class family that embraced independence and sex education — without stigma and without shame. Not all people have that same privilege and support.

Still — I depended on Planned Parenthood as a student and then when I was an unpaid and uninsured intern and needed vaccines and routine health care screenings. From my small hometown in Vermont to the city of Washington, DC, those doctors and clinicians were always kind and made me feel safe. They do this in the face of violence, hostility and a slew of legislation that has been widely condemned by the medical community. And yet, they persist and come to work because like me, they believe reproductive health care shouldn’t be a privilege — it should be a right.

I’ll be joining many of them in DC this week with patients from all corners of the country to share our stories and educate members of Congress about the incredible work Planned Parenthood does to keep communities healthy and safe. Now is more important than ever — as House Speaker Paul Ryan has vowed to block Planned Parenthood patients covered through Medicaid from getting preventive care at the organization’s 650 health centers nationwide — 50 percent of which are in rural and medically underserved communities. He’s tucked it into the ACA repeal bill in the hopes that we wouldn’t be watching. Well Paul Ryan: I’ve got a message for you. We are. And we won’t be silent.

And for those of you reading this post that don’t support Planned Parenthood because they provide abortion. I ask you to please consider that you are not the majority and that abortion accounts for just 3% of the organization’s services. I ask you to consider that since birth control and abortion became legal: the infant and maternal mortality rates have dropped significantly. I ask you to show compassion for the women that might disagree with you — and remember that nobody is telling YOU what to do with YOUR body. We’re simply asking that you show Planned Parenthood patients that same respect.

And I remind you that nobody has done more to prevent the rate of unintended pregnancy than Planned Parenthood has through accurate sex education for more than 1.5 million people of all ages and family planning information and birth control for 2 million people in a single year. And that federal law (the Hyde amendment) already prevents federal tax dollars from paying for abortion. So when we talk about “defunding” Planned Parenthood — it’s about lifesaving cancer screenings and other preventive care that Planned Parenthood provides.

Here are just a few of the incredible “Stories of Care” videos we’ve captured throughout the year of Planned Parenthood patients and providers from all across the country.

If you’re one of the 1-in-5 women that have relied on Planned Parenthood at some point in their lifetime, please share your story. If you’re one of the 1.5 million people that rely on Planned Parenthood for sex education a year, I ask you, please share your story. Or if you are one of the 72 million that visit the website annually for accurate health care information… I encourage you too, to share your story.

This is my personal story. Not endorsed by Planned Parenthood or affiliated groups.