Fair and Feminist is hosting an “I STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD” blog carnival today, on the eve of Walk for Choice events in more than 50 cities around the country. As regular readers know, I have been organizing the Rally for Choice Las Vegas event tomorrow (noon @ Planned Parenthood on West Charleston).
So, it’s no surprise that I stand with Planned Parenthood. But let me elaborate a little bit more why I care so much.
It is vital that women across the economic spectrum and across all color lines have access to not just family planning resources — like pap smears, breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraceptives, all of which Planned Parenthood provides. (And not to beat the drum too much on this, but only 3 % of their total services are for abortions, according to their annual report. More than 80% of their services are for the above-mentioned family planning related services.)
I’ve been repeating these stats a lot in recent posts and as I’ve organized the Rally for Choice Las Vegas. I would say that these things goes without saying, but as the House GOP has shown us, it is beyond imperative that we keep reminding America of the basic facts of what Planned Parenthood does. They provide low-cost health care! And not just reproductive health care but also “regular” health care (as if the reproductive system is not part of our bodies, but that’s another post).
But all that stuff aside, Planned Parenthood has been there for me personally. And this is where the personal meets the political. I needed Planned Parenthood and they were there for me.
As I already shared, Planned Parenthood helped me get low-cost (and sometimes free) “regular” health care when I was in high school. Mid-way through high school, my mother became a single mom. We moved to a…let’s just say “economically depressed” part of town. (There were drug dealers in my apartment building and kids brought guns on the school bus. Yeah, it’s not all icicles and igloos in the Great White North.) My mother worked full-time but couldn’t afford to sign up for medical benefits. We started a maid service on the side; I worked two part-time, after-school jobs. And the ends still never quite met up. We prayed to not get sick. We just couldn’t afford it. We certainly couldn’t afford emergency room bills. But at one point, I did get really sick. So I borrowed money from my neighbor and made the cross-town, mid-winter trek by 2-hour bus-ride (the city bus system in Anchorage wasn’t that great back then). And Planned Parenthood was there for me.
But that is not the only time Planned Parenthood was there for me.
In June I will celebrate 14 years of marriage with my high school sweetheart. When my husband and I got married we were both in college. (We didn’t want to wait for my husband to finish grad school. Can you blame us?) We were both in our early 20s and very broke. My husband got a puny stipend from his research and worked as a bartender (we paid our rent with his tips). I was finishing school and then transitioned into working as a preschool teacher after I graduated. As much as we loved each other, the idea of having kids at that point in our lives was not ideal and potentially damaging to our future plans. My husband and I wanted to finish our educations and start our respective careers. And this was not just vanity. Like I said, we were broke.
I grew up poor. I knew what that childhood was like. I knew about the sacrifices that you learn to endure even at early ages. I knew about the neglect of parents working double-shifts and multiple jobs just to pay the bills. I knew about food stamps and welfare and thrift stores and one-gift Christmas. And I knew the fear of no health care when someone got sick. I didn’t want that for any potential child of mine. Like so many, I wanted a better life for any child I might have. And I wanted the liberty — the very liberty promised me as a citizen of these United States — to make the choice of whether or not I wanted to have a baby at all. And so did my husband. So we knew that we needed to use contraception until the time was right for us to decide if we wanted to have a baby. And isn’t that the essence of family planning? We wanted to plan our family. What could be more responsible than that?
But…we were broke. Enter: Planned Parenthood.
There was a Planned Parenthood clinic in Eugene, Ore., where I went to college. (Go Ducks!) Because Planned Parenthood was there, I could learn about my contraceptive options and I could afford the option I chose. And because I didn’t have to worry about an unintended pregnancy, my husband and I could live our goals. We finished college. We made careers for ourselves. We traveled. We had many adventures. And when we were ready — 12 years into our marriage — we embarked on our wildest adventure yet: having a baby. And that could happen with joy and love as well as financial stability and emotional preparedness. (Well, as much as you can prepare yourself to be a parent!)
I believe in God. And I believe in paying it forward. I believe that part of my responsibility as a member of a community and a person of faith is that I need to make a difference where I can. I know unequivocally that Planned Parenthood provides vital services to real people. It empowers women to understand and take control of their health care. It saves survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It’s there for the student who needs birth control. It’s there for the mother of three who can’t afford to have another baby. It’s there for those who need HIV testing; prenatal care; diabetes screening and so much more.
In fact, all this talk in the House about “those kind of women” who use Planned Parenthood services… well that’s me. So I take it really personally. Rep. Smith, are you saying that my husband and I are bad people because we used family planning services rather than having a baby before we could afford to? Are you saying that it would have been better to perpetuate the cycle of food stamps and welfare I had already lived as a child? I thought you were against those things! Guess what? Family planning enabled me to break that cycle!
Planned Parenthood isn’t perfect. But it’s been there for me. And it’s been there for a lot of you. And it needs us now.
I stand with Planned Parenthood. Do you? Donate! Sign the petition! Call your Senator! Show your love by coming to the Rally for Choice Las Vegas!