Sitting in the parking lot, I wondered what it would be like. Would anyone see me and judge me as I walked in? What kind of people would be inside? Would the staff judge me for my lack of insurance, my choices? Although I consider myself a Liberal Sex-Positive Feminist, the stigma that much of society has placed on Planned Parenthood made me wonder if I belonged there.
2009 was an important year for me. I graduated college, I started substitute teaching, I proposed to my now husband… and I lost my health insurance coverage. As per my father’s health insurance policy, when I turned 24 or graduated college, I was no longer covered. As an unmarried woman, I didn’t have the option to simply go with my husband’s health coverage. As a substitute teacher, I was not offered any medical benefits from any of the schools I substituted at. I was working at a grocery store as well, but to make myself available to substitute during the day I no longer held the minimum hours needed to maintain health coverage through them. My income was not steady enough that I could afford my own coverage. Thankfully I am a fairly healthy person, in that most medications I need I can get over the counter. Everything, that is, except my birth control pills.
Which led me to making an appointment with Planned Parenthood, where my prior knowledge of its existence told me I could get my annual exam and birth control pills for a discounted price, or maybe even free. When I finally went in, I quickly realized how wrong my assumptions that I would be judged would be. I was given paperwork to fill out, and when I told them I didn’t have health insurance, the woman behind the counter did not even bat an eye. The exam itself was business as usual; the examining nurse practitioner was friendly, professional, and just as thorough as the gynecologists I had seen in the past. Then, my birth control pill options were discussed with me.
Though they did not have the one that I had been on (due to budget constraints), they gave me one that was similar in terms of hormones and dosage. I truly appreciated that they cared to try to match the birth control that my body was used to having. She topped off my bag of pills with a handful of condoms and told me to have a nice day. My exam and birth control were significantly reduced in price, based on my limited income. I left with a much more positive view than I had when I drove up, and I felt guilty that I ever doubted the professionalism of the staff, or even my own motives for needing birth control.
I have been on the pill since I was 16. Back then, it was because I was on Accutane, the prescription acne medication, and they required that females who take the pill are using two forms of birth control (which I did, because I was in fact in a sexually active relationship). But birth control pills did so much more for me than protect me from having deformed babies (one of the possible side-effects of Accutane) – it gave me a regular cycle, and it significantly reduced the debilitating cramps I would get each month. I stayed on the pill, both as my standard form of birth control and as a way to maintain my cycle – it really is liberating to know when, exactly, I’m going to start each month. When I was 19, I started a new sexual relationship. As my body changed, so did my birth control needs; when I was just barely into my 20s, I was put on Yaz, because I believed I had PMDD (PMS-like symptoms, but much more severe and life-hindering). And, of course, it prevented me from having babies, which althought would not be deformed, I certainly could not afford and did not have a desire to have.
And now, as a married 25-year-old woman, my reasons for being on birth control are almost the same as they’ve ever been: I like that my cycle is regulated, I do not get painful cramps, and I still cannot afford nor do I want to have children. I am still without major medical insurance, because my husband’s insurance decided not to cover me. Therefore, I still go to Planned Parenthood at least once a year. I am always treated with respect, I am treated like a woman who is allowed to make her own life decisions, and I am always grateful for the support that I receive.
The fact that there was any doubt in my mind about the legitimacy of Planned Parenthood says much about society’s views on women’s sexual health and freedoms. Considering that much of the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood has to do with a service that constitutes only 3% of its services rendered, there is clearly a disconnect between the truth and what is being said about Planned Parenthood. When the concern about women shifts from health and safety to that of the morality of her decisions, something has gone wrong. Denying me (or any one else, for that matter) birth control because it supposedly makes me an immoral person for using it denies the health and life benefits I have gained from being on the pill.
I have shared my story because I was asked to, but the truth is, I
shouldn’t have to. Women shouldn’t have to justify their reasons for
going to a place like Planned Parenthood to receive medical care and
services. Women also shouldn’t have to justify their reasons for using
medication that helps them. Because at the end of the day, that’s all
the pill really is: a prescription medication that ensures women are
healthy, safe, and protected. Your particular sense of morality need