I grew up in a poverty-stricken city, and went to a severely underfunded school. Planned Parenthood taught me* not only facts on reproduction, STIs, and contraception, but also respect for my body and the bodies of others. They taught me that no one had the right to pressure me into doing something I felt uncomfortable with. They taught me that sex had consequences, both physical and emotional. They taught me that any excuse a guy could come up with for not using a condom was a load of bullshit. They also taught me that if I was ever in trouble (physical, emotional, or otherwise), I had a place to turn to.
*The "me" in this paragraph also refers to a large group of young teens, many of whom were so poor they wouldn't have been able to eat were it not for the school's free breakfast and lunch programs.
14 years later, those lessons are still with me. I have never had an abortion, unplanned pregnancy, or STI. I didn't even lose my virginity until I was almost 20. When I did, it was with someone I trusted, in a smart, safe fashion with properly utilized condoms.
When I was 19, I got sick. I had just lost the coverage of my parents' health insurance, and even though I was working, my job did not offer health coverage. All of a sudden, my period wouldn't stop. I bled continuously for weeks. (Just so everybody's clear, a period is supposed to last 5-7 days max.) The same thing had happened to me when I was 13, and it didn't stop for 3 months. No one ever figured out what was actually wrong with me. (That story is another giant can of worms.) I couldn't even try to blame the issue on some kind of STI or sexual issue—I was still a virgin, remember? I didn't even know what to call such an illness, I just knew I was terrified. Imagine the kind of thoughts that run through your head when something like that happens: Do I have cancer? Does this mean I'm unable to have children (if I ever decided to)?
I asked my mom for help. She reminded me that I didn't have health insurance, but said she'd try to find someone who could help. A few days later, she got me an appointment with Planned Parenthood.
I had never been to Planned Parenthood, nor gotten any kind of reproductive exam before (virgin, in case you forgot), but they made me feel comfortable the second I got there. When I told the nurse that I had been bleeding for so long, she quickly allayed my worst fears. Apparently that can happen when ovulation is skipped, which is a relatively normal occurrence and no reason to freak out. They gave me my first pelvic exam, the nurse explaining everything as she went, checked my breasts, and taught me how to give myself breast exams. She also asked if I wanted my smear sample to also be screened for STIs, just in case. And if that wasn't enough, they gave me a Hepatitis B vaccine on my way out.
I was prescribed birth control to stop the bleeding and regulate my period. (Surprise! Birth control has other uses!) They didn't ask for a dime. Just like that, I went from a terrified mess to someone who had taken control of her health. I'll never stop being thankful for what Planned Parenthood has done for me, and what I know they will do for me in the future should I need them again.
To anyone who insists that Planned Parenthood does nothing but abortions, to anyone who doesn't believe that women should have control of their reproductive health, to anyone who doesn't give a shit that most of the time, being poor means constantly praying that you won't get sick: if you are against Planned Parenthood, you are an enemy to women, children, and basic human rights. EVERYONE has the right to domain over their own health. EVERYONE has the right to not have someone force them to act according to someone else's beliefs. EVERYONE has the right to see an unbiased doctor when they need to. Fuck anyone who says otherwise.
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