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My Planned Parenthood

July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood: raise your voice. tell your story. July 7.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been a patient at a Planned Parenthood – without counting exactly I think it’s been about 7 years or so. I went to the local Planned Parenthood in Oneonta, NY for my first-ever gyn exam. I was nervous, and they were nice, but I don’t really remember having my life changed. I just remember that they were accessible for me when I didn’t know where else to go, and I knew I had to do something for my health. The same Planned Parenthood was a big help when I put on The Vagina Monologues on campus the next year – their resources were invaluable to me at the time (a copy machine! with color paper!). A couple years later, I went to the local Planned Parenthood near Fairfax, VA, when as a graduate student I decided I needed a more reliable form of birth control. Again, I didn’t know where else to go – and I didn’t have health insurance at the time. I was less nervous this time, and they were just as nice and thorough and knowledgeable as the people in NY.

Although I didn’t see protesters at either location, the threat of them was apparent at the clinic in Virginia – I had to announce who I was and what time my appointment was before I could even be buzzed inside the building. To be honest, that was a bit off-putting. It was disconcerting to be reminded that my healthcare provider had to take these kinds of security measures. It was scary to think that things were this way because someone might show up with a gun – or a bomb – or just with intentions to harass, threaten, and intimidate.

My Planned Parenthood today is the one that employs me – Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. I hope that my brief, totally-not-inspiring remembrances of being a patient points to one of the main things I know that Planned Parenthood is: a mainstream healthcare provider.

We don’t change women’s lives every day, only sometimes. For most women, men, and teens, we are here because they need basic, preventive health care. Do you think your primary care physician (PCP) has changed your life? Perhaps. And I think we probably do that more often than PCPs. But most of the time, we’re just your regular medical provider.

I also know these truths about my Planned Parenthood: We are proud to provide abortion care to every woman who needs it. We are proud that in New York State, we can help women in need sign up for Medicaid coverage for prenatal care – or for abortion care – whichever type of pregnancy care she needs – and I’m proud that it’s part of my job to make sure the regulations stay that way in our state (not to mention get expanded to others!). We never turn anyone away, for any service.

And when someone we never expected to help us stands up against extremism on our behalf, it can make the staff here smile and jump for joy. Yesterday, the regular protest presence was joined by two counterprotesters – two young white guys – just graduated from the local high school – who got pissed off that no one ever visibly stands up to these people who have nothing better to do than spend two mornings every week standing outside a health care center trying to dissuade people from coming in. My coworker, who’s been here 11 years, has never seen the medical staff so excited – to have someone in the local community stand up to defend us.

My Planned Parenthood is not every Planned Parenthood. But the basic mission is always the same. We don’t judge. We don’t deny. We stand up in the face of extremism. We don’t engage the opposition, because that would be totally pointless. But, we grin and giggle and feel so excited – I mean those big, stupid, all-encompassing grins – the kinds my toddler is capable of – when someone else stands up to the opposition for us. Like yesterday, when those two teens told the protesters that they should be ashamed of themselves. Inwardly, I cheered wildly. Outwardly, I walked calmly back into the building to do my work – my small contributions to empowering every person to be in charge of their own sexuality, their own reproductive futures – my small contributions to justice. And my coworkers do the same thing, every day. That’s my Planned Parenthood.

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