{getting it} Why I Support Planned Parenthood

by Rachel on February 2, 2012

In April of 2004, at the age of 18, I got on a bus in Flint, Michigan with one of my good friends, an outspoken, proudly-liberal ally at our somewhat-sheltered Catholic school. We stayed on said bus with a bunch of strangers for a day and a half  until we ended up in Washington, D.C., where we proceeded to take part in the March for Women’s Lives, a protest for reproductive rights. Though it was put on by NOW, I had heard about it through Planned Parenthood.

Once in DC, we marched with men and women from all over the country. We saw Hillary Clinton speak and saw Ashley Judd rocking her “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt. The whole event was incredibly exciting and inspiring and I was so proud to be a part of it. It was just amazing to see what women could do when they believed in a cause.

Despite the recent news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had announced it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood — a move the organization claims has nothing to do with politics or pressure from pro-life groups — I’m actually feeling incredibly inspired right now like I was back in 2004. And proud of women. Because the backlash? Has been fast and loud and ultimately effective — according to the Washington Post, ‎“Donors reacting to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding, Planned Parenthood executives said Wednesday.”

I made a donation. (You can donate here.) It’s not just to show that I support Planned Parenthood; it’s because I just was thinking today how much I’ve benefited from Planned Parenthood and I want to make sure other people are able to do so going forward.

I don’t know when exactly I decided that everything my school wasn’t teaching me about sex was absurd, but I do remember torturing my poor history of Catholicism teacher with extremely loud tales of visiting Planned Parenthood my sophomore year at the beginning of class, and I wrote a couple passionate essays about it in health class senior year (which were, unsurprisingly, not well-received). I had my first pap smear at Planned Parenthood and went there for several years for annual exams, birth control, and STD tests. (Including the time I was 100 percent sure I had syphilis and nearly failed my summer math class because I was so worked up about it. I called all the Planned Parenthoods in the city frantically until they opened — I think this happened on their late-start day — and then demanded an appointment that afternoon, before my big exam. After a day too hysterical to study, the whole thing eventually culminated in them saying, “So…this is what an ingrown hair looks like…” Can I submit that to Planned Parenthood Saved Me? I mean, they saved me from another second of my own crazy.)

Every time I moved to a new city (which has been fairly frequent in the past seven-ish years) and needed to find a new doctor for my annual exam or for my birth control prescription, I Googled a Planned Parenthood. Finding a new doctor when you’re in a new city sucks, and I have always been able to count on Planned Parenthood. But really, I love Planned Parenthood because they make myself and other women feel just a little more secure in those moments when we have a problem far worse than not having a doctor in a new hometown: they are there for women when we are not only wondering what the hell is going on with our bodies, but when we know we cannot afford to find out or get treatment. (A position I’m basically in right now with my insurance transition and wayward egg chute, BTW.)

So I love Planned Parenthood and I’m thrilled to see that many other young women do too. But the most inspiring part of all of this was not, for me, the myrid angry Facebook status updates and tweets from young women, though that was pretty nice to see. It was actually reading about Mollie Williams, a top SGK official who resigned over this whole thing. I really want to know more about her. I mean, that must have been scary. I would have been scared; having a job is pretty nice. But damn, that sends a message. Damn, I’d love to know what was said in the meetings leading up to it. She’s released a statement on her resignation, but I’d really like for her to release a statement on how she got to be so badass.

And as for SGK…well, I’m a little disappointed, but I don’t feel all that surprised, which is actually quite sad. I mean, I’m surprised from a PR standpoint because OMG YOU MADE PINK RIBBONS UBIQUITOUS SO YOU CLEARLY HAVE A GOOD MARKETING TEAM AND I KNOW THEY MUST HAVE SEEN THIS SHIT STORM COMING but I’m not really surprised. I don’t know, there’s just something kind of disingenuous about all that pink. I wrote a couple Octobers ago about the issues I have with Breast Cancer Awareness month; it just gives me this sort of queasy feeling I can’t put my finger on. I don’t doubt that they have helped many women; I just wonder how many businesses they’ve helped in the process, and how many more women could have been helped if “going pink” had played out differently. I mean, this is the organization that partnered up with KFC for “Buckets for the Cure.” Come the fuck on.

I’ve always supported Planned Parenthood, but not as vocally as I could have in the past couple years. So my thanks to you, Susan G. Komen foundation, for reminding me to use my voice — and my wallet — for women’s health. I know that was your mission and despite your questionable way of getting there, well, here I am. So…nice work.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jacki February 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Well said Rachel!

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2 Jordan February 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm

HOT.

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3 Erin Kaye February 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I actually don’t support Planned Parenthood because I’ve had the opposite experience of you every time I’ve been there. When I first came back to my hometown after a year abroad and was unemployed without insurance, they told me I had to pay full price for every service– so more than $250 for an annual exam just so I could get back on birth control. Once I did get a job and came back, I made an appointment for their first available spot, 3 weeks in the future. I got called the day before and told they were going to be closed that day and they couldn’t see me for another 2 weeks. I showed up for that appointment and then another rescheduled appointment and waited each time for more then 2 hours and still never saw a doctor.
After that I said screw it, and went to a city clinic, got an appointment for 30 minutes later and paid $15 for my annual and birth control prescription. That’s where my money goes!

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4 Beth February 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

Okay, but Erin? You have to understand that what you just described was a) a telltale version of disorganized office management, which can happen ANYWHERE and has NOTHING to do with Planned Parenthood, just bad luck and b) if PP received more federal support, your rates wouldn’t be that high. But alas, in the Bush era, federal funding went down, down, and even further down, as well as many other assassinations against women’s health. Imagine walking into your city clinic and being denied a written prescription for birth control because your doctor felt “morally opposed” to it. It could have happened to you had he had his way. So statements such as yours are damaging and unnecessary to this argument.

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5 jenna k February 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

yeah, i totally agree with this. i just started a full time job at a clinic, and the amount of paperwork that has to be done is a NIGHTMARE. so if there are staff problems to begin with, it will be super difficult to get an appointment, be seen, etc. they probably weren’t seeing patients because they had staff problems and had to work on bringing in all new staff (what my current employer just dealt with).

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6 Alexa February 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm

In her essay, “Welcome to Cancerland,” Barbara Ehrenreich summarizes a lot of the reasons Breast Cancer Awareness Month may make you feel vaguely queasy. Definitely worth checking out: http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/cancerland.htm

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7 Rachel February 3, 2012 at 1:26 am

This was an awesome article; thank you so much for sharing!

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8 rosy February 3, 2012 at 12:53 am

I’m glad you wrote this. I can’t jump on any bandwagons here, or find fault in charitable organizations that contribute so heavily to research, or say I knew all along. But when an organization gets to be as big as SGK, inevitably a lot of money is needed to support the growth of the organization. I don’t know if we can really vilify SGK for not supporting planned parenthood, because they’re a charity and are not really required to spend their money on any particular organizations. But we can certainly feel a little, as you say, “queasy,” about the way they do business, and perhaps not support those business practices.

One thing this issue really highlights for me is the way disconnect between foundation CEOs and those of lower socioeconomic class that take advantage of medical services provided by non-profits, or the state or federal government. Turning primary health care into a political play is pretty despicable, but unfortunately not unexpected or novel.

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9 Heather February 3, 2012 at 7:17 am

hear! hear!

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10 Emily February 3, 2012 at 8:52 am

This is fantastic. I just stumbled across your blog this week, and now I’m sold. Thank you for speaking your mind, intelligently, humorously, and for real. I’m sure I appreciate it 10x more because I happen to agree with you… but still. Fan-fucking-tastic!

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11 RAIN February 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

I am all for Planned Parenthood! When I was younger, without insurance, that is where I got my yearly exams and birth control.

I just read that about Komen yesterday, and I feel like it def was a political move…and a bad one in my opinion.

And more power to women like Mollie…that takes guts, that takes courage! Wish more women, and people in general, myself included, had more courage to stand up for the things we believe in!

Nice post, you always get me thinking!

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12 Erin February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

AMEN!

You put into words exactly how I feel about this entire thing.

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13 Marie February 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

When I had my first serious boyfriend, I confided in my overly religious conservative mom that I probably needed to go on birth control. She refused to take me or help pay for it under their insurance (under the misguided notion that that would somehow prevent me from having sex?). I got my BC from Planned Parenthood instead and probably saved myself from popping out a few bastard children in my formative years.

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14 Lindsey February 3, 2012 at 10:30 am

I’ve given the side-eye to the Susan G. Komen and Breast Cancer Research Fund for years. I think the height of my annoyance when when they partnered with the NFL and had the players wear pink uniforms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Something about 300-pound professional athletes pummeling each other IN PINK really didn’t do it for me. Perhaps if we ask professional female football players…. oh, wait. I hate the juggernut that SGK has on women’s health fundraisers and research. I mean, there are more cancers and dangers to a woman’s body than her breats.

I think what bothered me the most about this event is that it wasn’t until ‘breast cancer’ rhetoric was introduced into the fight for Planned Parenthood that a significant increase in funding and support was noted. To me it seems that the only part of the woman’s body worth fighting for is the boobs? What about cervical cancer screenings? What about STD tests? Are they not worth reaching into our pockets to protect? No one donated when Planned Parenthoods were being defunded for allegedly performing abortions and therefore leaving hundreds of women without any form of affordable health care in those areas. I didn’t see this much outrage when the Right to Life bills were being discussed and there was a possibily of all forms of birth control being made illegal. There is more to womens health than breast care. There is more to our bodies than our breasts.

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15 Heidi Nicole February 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I have also had good experiences with PP. I first started going because I wanted to get smart about birth control before an awkward conversation with my mom. They were completely understanding about the confidentiality and although I was completely terrified of my very first visit I survived. They talked me thru spastic phone calls when I discovered the pain of a UTI.

Personally I think it is extremely important for this country to have an organization like this – at least let women and teens be smart about their decisions to have sex, be safe and be healthy! I love the fact individuals are showing all the support after SGK backed out.

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16 Cindy February 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Well stated Rachel. I have always been a huge supporter of Planned Parenthood for their services provided to all women. I have been blessed enough that I’ve never had to use them but I like that they are there in case I ever need to go there.

BTW, my BFF won’t buy Girl Scout cookies because PP partnered with the Girl Scouts. I just shut her up every time she goes on about how evil PP is.

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17 rachel February 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm
18 Marie February 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm

P.S. Just heard they reversed their decision. Nice to know that public outcry sometimes makes a difference!

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19 Chrissy (The New Me) February 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for posting this! I am an adamant supporter of PP and they have saved my life, more than once. I mean that quite literally.

I also have a hard time with the Breast Cancer Awareness hoopla. I am pretty sure we’re all aware of it, and I’m wary of any organization that accepts consumerism as a form of activism. Also, the biggest killer of women in America isn’t even breast cancer – it’s heart disease. But I guess our boobs are more important than our hearts.

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20 Nicole @ Giraffelegs February 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Hell yeah!

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21 Mish February 4, 2012 at 12:45 am

I took a break from blog, and have re-found yours..and I’m so excited. I’m loving your posts..or the 10 then went into my reader..so excited to read your stuff again.

I went to a catholic uni in Oregon. I didn’t need birth control at the time, but the health centre and not give out condoms or birth control..because it was not ok with the Catholic admin. Thus, so many girls when to Planned Parenthood to get birth control and condoms. They had to, oftentimes because their parents wouldn’t have approved.

As a future nurse I see people ALL the time who make choices I wouldn’t make, which to me are not moral or just. HOWEVER, it is NOT my right to ever deny people medical services. Ever.

Thank you for being a feminist in a culture in high school that would do everything to stifle it. I love it.

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22 Elizabeth @TheBareMidriff February 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

Thank you for reminding us that Planned Parenthood does so much more than fund the (apparently dreaded) “A” word. I am so happy that they’ve been able to help you when you needed them the most!

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23 Caroline Leigh February 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm

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