Easy access to women’s health care, particularly through Planned Parenthood, has mattered to me throughout my teen and adult years.
When first I became sexually active as a reckless 15-year-old, I used condoms. But in one of my very first experiences, the condom failed. I had no idea what to do; I was not going to tell my parents, no matter what, despite the loving and stable relationship we had (and have).
Luckily, a friend told me about Planned Parenthood, where I obtained a pregnancy test, emergency contraception, and, to avoid future episodes, the pill. All of these services were provided at an affordable cost in a non-judgmental manner, and that turned out to make all the difference.
Because Planned Parenthood was there for me in a kind and respectful manner, I continued to turn to them for contraception over the years. Midway through college, after relocating to a different town, I visited a different private organization for the same services. They promised lower cost and were located closer to my apartment. I figured they would provide a similar environment to what I was used to at Planned Parenthood. I could not have been more wrong.
This other organization turned out to be a crisis pregnancy center. Once they had me in a private room, they began proselytizing to me and trying to humiliate me for being sexually active. Needless to say, as a young, liberal, independent adult woman, I was outraged and insulted. But I was also too polite to tell them my thoughts; instead I sat through it all, waiting for the results of the pregnancy test they were holding hostage while they conveyed their condescending judgment. As soon as I could respectfully do so, I removed myself from the building and never returned.
I went back to receiving fairly priced and respectful care from Planned Parenthood and was infinitely more grateful for it. But I often wonder what would have happened if, when that first condom failed, I had instead turned to a different organization. Humiliated and insulted at the outset, I fear my teenage stubbornness would have driven me to reject real care in those early years. I can easily see myself having relied on condoms alone. One ill-timed condom-failure is all it would have taken for me to have an unwanted pregnancy, and then my choices would have been reduced to quitting college to manage pregnancy and early, unwed motherhood; putting the child up for adoption in a country that fails orphaned children disastrously; or getting an abortion. None of those sound like a good option to me, and that is a big part of why I have and will continue to stand up for women’s rights including the right to choose. I thank every Planned Parenthood clinic worker I meet, and donate regularly to their organization. I owe them that and much more.