a love letter to planned parenthood

For the previously uninformed! Planned Parenthood is currently threatened with the loss of the $75 million they recieve each year in Federal funding.  (For perspective, we will also note that military marching bands recieve $500 million a year.) While it is unlikely to make it through the Senate and the chances of PP losing all funding and going under forever are slim, it’s still infinitely distressing that this is even being discussed.  Because I totally love Planned Parenthood, you guys, and I really need to talk about it.

Let’s first clear up one misunderstanding: PP isn’t motivated by some baby-murdering-agenda, and it does a lot more than dole out sinful contraceptives and abort every fetus it comes across. Yes, PP is an advocate of reproductive rights — but the services they provide go above and beyond that. Statistically, 90% of the care they offer is primary and preventative — which, come to think of it, is the only thing I’ve ever gone there for.  PP is a provider of reproductive healthcare, sex education and information — this means that you can go there, say, if you need any sort of healthcare relating to your vajayjay at all, or even if you have a penis and something seems wrong with it.  You can go there to get condoms if you need them, or to get a pap smear.    You can go there to get disconcerting lumps in your breasts checked out. You can go there if you find out that an ex has an STD and want a full screen of tests for yourself.  You can go there for information that your abstinence-only education did not provide, or for information relating to body image issues, or for referrals to folks to talk with if you are struggling with your sexuality.  You can go there to ask about LGBTQ-friendly healthcare.  You can go there because you don’t have insurance, or because you don’t like the doctor your insurance has told you to go to, or because you don’t know where else to go and you can’t afford a fancy private OB/GYN.  You can go there because you want to have a baby, because you don’t want to have one yet, or because your period has been off schedule lately.  You can go there because you are a victim of domestic abuse or rape and don’t know where else to turn. You can go there because you think you are dying of an extreme random immacuately contracted case of the herp or SOMETHING and then it will turn out that you are just horribly allergic to the new detergent you recently washed your underpants in, not that I would know anything about that experience.

SO. Now that that’s cleared up.  By now most of you know that I went to Vassar, and to this day I think that one of the best things I got out of four years there was that, for the first time in my life, I was no longer ashamed or embarrassed about being female.  And having my lady-specific healthcare not be an embarrassing, stressful, expensive journey into one of the lower regions of hell definitely was a part of that.   Women’s healthcare at Vassar was basically a gynecological utopia: the entire thing was run by this endearingly gruff old woman with awful dyed-red hair named Marlene who barked out words like “vaginal discharge” and “premature ejaculation” without batting an eyelash, and who despite her snippity exterior would dole out the morning after pill to weeping, terrified nineteen year olds with a grandmotherly hug and a reassurance that everything was going to be okay.  It was staffed with knowledgeable, compassionate, and nonjudgemental doctors who followed the “are you sexually active?” question with questions that no gynecologist has asked me since, such as “Are you being safe? Are you enjoying yourself, do you feel good about it? Do you want more information?”  You could get day-of appointments.  Sometimes they gave you cookies, or lube. 

This — not the cathedral-esque library, not the campus, not the infinite access to the most obscure useless publications of academia on JStor — this is probably what I miss most about college:  having easy, quick, affordable access to a women’s healthcare center which, you know, didn’t suck.  It was like living in a bubble where (fancy that!) I wasn’t, you know, somehow inconveniencing everyone by having the nerve to be female.  It was decidedly unsettling to be spat back out into the real world where safe sex supplies aren’t free and gynecologists give you their two cents about abstinence and loose women and, um, conservatives act out their personal vendetta against an infinitely useful and helpful organization in the guise of fiscal concerns. 

So by now I’ve come to terms with the fact that my four years of insta-access to a paradise of healthcare and information for my ladybits will never, ever happen again.  But Planned Parenthood is the next best thing.  I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for its existence — even with the eternal three-hour line at the Spring Street location here in New York. My health insurance has bounced around more times than I can remember since college — Planned Parenthood has, literally, been the only medical establishment that I have been able to attend regularly thanks to that.

Let us first note that thanks to my sinful, profligate homosexual lifestyle, pregnancy isn’t exactly a huge concern of mine, so I am not really down there aborting babies every few months for fun or anything.  Let us also note that while I have spent a significant portion of my adult life near the poverty line thanks to, again, my artsy liberal lifestyle and insistence upon working in artsy liberal industries, I am a white educated middle-class able-bodied healthy woman, and if I had some sort of huge medical crisis, I am lucky enough to have family who could help.  So if finding women’s healthcare that doesn’t blow is that difficult for me, I can only imagine how difficult it is when you are, say, an impoverished teenage woman of colour with a family unable to support you financially or emotionally and an abusive boyfriend and no money or healthcare who recently moved to a new city.  Where the hell do you start? The phone book under “cheap doctors who aren’t douchebags?” The ubiquity of Planned Parenthood is what makes it so useful: the comfort of  “I have somewhere to go” cannot be underestimated, whether the concern is a yeast infection, a yearly pelvic, an AIDS test, or a pregnancy scare.  Do you know five people with vaginas? Statistically, one of them has at some point in her life relied on a Planned Parenthood.  That is a lot of ladies getting a lot of help, folks.  That is a lot of ladies who thought of the same place to get that help.  

I could go on for another nine pages — rambling! I does it bestest! — but instead will leave you with this:

The U.S. House of Representatives has just voted to bar Planned Parenthood health centers from all federal funding for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other lifesaving care. 

It is the most dangerous legislative assault in our history, and it cannot go unanswered. We — Planned Parenthood and the three million women, men, and teens who are at risk of losing access to basic care — need you to stand united with us now. 

Join me in signing this open letter to the reps who voted to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding — including funding for birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, and HIV testing — and to the senators who still have chance to stop it.