When I was 18, in college and becoming sexually active – take note, Lizzie: I said EIGHTEEN and IN COLLEGE – I had no health insurance, no doctor and the student health center did not offer birth control. Those were the days of in loco parentis (in place of parents) when universities assumed a protective, care-taking role in the lives of their students (which translated into curfew – but only for the women – and no birth control information or help of any kind). Going to my family doctor (even if I had not been 1000 miles away from my family doctor) was not an option. The guy would have given me a stern lecture and then called my mother and ratted me out That’s if I had had the guts to go to him in the first place. In the city I found myself living as a college student, I knew no one in the medical community. At 18, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “medical community.”
But there was Planned Parenthood. You could take a bus there, and you could walk through the door with your head up, and you could talk to people without embarrassment and tell them the truth about who you were and what you were doing. They listened. They did not judge. They gave you information, lots of it. The information was clear and straightforward. The people were no-nonsense professionals who also managed to be attentive and caring.
And so that’s what I did. I took the bus and walked through the door and got a free gynecological exam (my first) and information neither my high school’s sex ed class nor my parents had given me.
After reading everything and talking to a counselor for almost a half hour, I got a prescription for birth control pills. Later, when I wanted to make a change, I went back and got fitted for a diaphragm. Because of Planned Parenthood, I did not get pregnant. Because of Planned Parenthood I did not have to become a psychologically, emotionally and financially unfit mother or make that choice that none of us who so fervently believe in choice want to make. Because of Planned Parenthood, I made it through school and into the work force and into a strong stable marriage before I had my children.
When I took a job as a minimum-wage caregiver at the place I called Maplewood during the research for one of my books, Finding Live in the Land of Alzheimer’s, I worked with a crew of second- and third-generation working poor women. Many had dropped out of high school, pregnant, and never got the education I was able to get. Many of their children had children in their teens, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Federal defunding of Planned Parenthood offered as a budget-saving measure would be laughable if it were not so tragic. Any reasonable person (ideology aside) has to know that unplanned pregnancies, especially among teens, cost us as a society many many millions of dollars more than the trickle of funding that goes to Planned Parenthood. Of course, it is not about saving money. It is about depriving mostly young mostly poor women of the information they need to make good decisions about their lives and their futures. The information I got. The information that made it possible for me to be an educated, gainfully employed, tax-paying mother of three.
The anti-Planned Parenthood amendment to a stopgap spending bill passed the House Friday in a 245-180 vote.