One woman shares her experiences visiting Planned Parenthood over the past two decades.
This article originally appeared on HelloGiggles.com.
I'm 35 and I’ve known forever that motherhood is not for me. Thankfully, I’ve never had an abortion.
My first experience with public reproductive health services was in the (non-Planned Parenthood) women’s health clinic in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. I was 18, barely sexually active, and was there to take my first morning-after pill. (I was being responsible, the condom broke. Shit happens!) The emergency contraceptive pill wasn’t available over the counter yet, and it wasn’t yet known as “Plan B.” That same visit, I had my first pelvic and breast exams, STI and HIV tests, and general exam by an OBGYN.
A product of a Catholic upbringing, I wasn’t really given too much information about reproductive health. I hadn’t ever seen a gynecologist until I hopped on a bus and took myself to that clinic.
As a teenager in Appalachia, I was given a cursory but not terribly thorough sex education course in high school health class. Many of my friends gave birth during high school, or shortly thereafter. Most of them weren’t ready. Some couldn’t afford abortions, some didn’t know how to get them.
Most of my education came from the media. I came of age in the late ‘90s, a time when MTV and other pop culture outlets were encouraging everyone to “wrap it up.” People talked more about HIV and AIDS back then—there weren’t the same preventative resources and treatments that there are today. I considered myself pretty well informed. But when I went to the clinic, I learned quite a bit that I didn’t know about preventing pregnancy and different STIs/STDs. I even got information about what abusive relationships look like.
In the nearly two-decades since my first exam, I’ve visited Planned Parenthood countless times. When I’ve been lucky enough to have fancy health insurance through my employers, I’ve been a patient at private OBGYNs.
I can honestly say that my visits to Planned Parenthood have been of equal, and often better quality and comfort to those doctor’s offices.
When I was going through a period of unemployment while I was also in a long-term committed relationship, I was able to get the Paragard copper IUD, free of cost. The nurse practitioner who inserted my IUD was about my age, and we shared similar interests and world views.
She talked me through the entire process with respect and honesty, and I felt incredibly informed, empowered, and free afterwards.
It was painful, but I’m guessing not as painful as childbirth! My IUD will take me nearly to the end of my childbearing years, and certainly through the next four years. My wish for people who want to avoid pregnancy is that they can have affordable and safe access to this tiny little weird bobby pin-sized doodad that’s preserved my sanity and freedom.
I’m so angry and scared for women and girls who will need reproductive care if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Planned Parenthood doesn’t just serve women—men and gender nonconforming people also receive services.
It’s NOT just abortions—Planned Parenthood provides STI testing, exams, birth control, condoms, and counseling.
Ironically, my last visit to Planned Parenthood was the afternoon of the election. That morning, with tears in my eyes and Beyonce’s “Girls (Who Run The World)” in my headphones, I voted for a female presidential candidate for the first time. I was wearing my “I Voted” sticker as I darkly joked with the nurse doing my exam that “hopefully it wasn’t my last visit to Planned Parenthood!”
By the next morning, I was terrified that perhaps it could have been. I really, truly, hope it was not.