Thursday, February 24, 2011

Planned Parenthood

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way qualified to talk about this, having never actually been in a position to utilize the services of Planned Parenthood, but I have great respect for the organization and I just have some things to say. That's what a blog is for.

"Planned Parenthood" is a phrase that goes right along with "Family Planning"--you know, that aisle in Wal-Mart where they stock the condoms, lubricant, and other birth control. Somehow, Family Planning always gets shoved in the same aisle as what I still think of as "feminine products": tampons and pads and, occasionally, adult diapers, though those are not in that category. Family planning, and to an extent Planned Parenthood, is not about planning for parenthood or a family; it's about preventing it. Not indefinitely--just until you're actually prepared to have one.

In this aisle at the store there are condoms, which can be seen as a male responsibility (although I know many women who carry them in their purse for when their partners inevitably forget to purchase them), as well as many types of female "protection" in the form of spermicides. And of course, we're the ones who get the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, or whatever newfangled method of prescription birth control is available. (The little under-the-skin implant is creepy. I have a skin thing.) We are responsible for our bodies, at least when it comes to how they interact with other bodies. We get a cervical cancer vaccine because there's this extremely common disease called HPV that, in some cases, can turn into cancer. If we mess up and miss a pill, we either hope like hell that there's a morning-after pill available in our area or we agonize until our periods come and we can visit that aisle at the store for more tampons, because we've inevitably run out and forgotten to buy more and RUINED another pair of underwear.

I did not intend to get pregnant last year, but I was in a position where it was okay that I did. It ended up working out really well. I can't imagine what would have happened had I gotten pregnant in high school or even college, and as a teacher I interacted with students who were managing to balance their children and their schooling, or failing miserably at one or the other, and the biggest game-changer was whether they had a decent family support network or a loving partner. Sometimes the responsibility of parenthood forced them to drop out or miss out on many of the moments of high school that define the experience; sometimes they started slipping and had to try again; and in a very few cases, I might not have even known that they had a child had I not shared stories or seen photos.

So many of the girls that got pregnant told me that they had either been using protection sporadically or not at all, and the most common reason was because they didn't want their parents to know they were sexually active. I was lucky enough to have a mother who was very up-front and nonjudgmental about sex, and started telling me at age 14 that if I was going to have sex, to get her to make me a doctor's appointment and get the pill. We had the kind of relationship that, at 17, I did. But here's the conundrum: unprotected sex is risky, and there's a damn good chance that something will happen and then they're going to know anyway. Like getting pregnant. Or getting an STD. It's tough to hide things like that.

That's why Planned Parenthood is important. Yes, one angle of family planning is abortion, but it should be a last resort in a lot of cases. Planned Parenthood provides a lot more than just abortion. It provides a place for girls who can't talk to their parents to get information, learn to protect themselves, and make responsible decisions. As GI Joe says, "Knowing is half the battle." And if you don't know how to protect yourself, you're taking a big risk.

And that's why I'm disappointed that Planned Parenthood is, itself, at risk, as a result of a House resolution that strips it of all federal funding. I have a feeling it won't become law, or at least I hope that it doesn't. Women need Planned Parenthood. It's already been neutered by protesters frightening away women who are there just for routine medical care; it doesn't need to be euthanized.

I promise not to skew into the political often on this blog, but I really do feel strongly about this, and this is as much a women's issue as a political one. Thank you for reading, if you still are.!/event.php?eid=189887001044118


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry: this neck pain makes my brain mush so I wanted to organize my thoughts a little better.

    It's really true...I think EDUCATION about conception and birth control methods are much more important than one's political stance on abortion. I came from a very conservative family that did not approve of pre-marital sex or sexual education school programs. Luckily, I was in an education-oriented environment and self-savvy (and also neurotic about about not getting pregnant), that when I was ready to have sex, I knew how to prevent pregnancy.

    I actually got on the pill for hormonal reasons like many girls in my class. I remember there were girls who were not sexually active who were on the pill to help their cycle pain and things like that. And when I was ready to have sex at 18, I was such a neurotic and anatomy freak, that I actually went to my gynecologist first and asked her about it. (And she's still my gyno today and I love and trust you read on my blog, I have HPV and she used to be a womens' oncologist, so she's been supportive in that area too.)

    And this is a little tangent, as someone with HPV, I know how important regular pap smears are. Adults are not immune to sexual education either. Cervical cancer is SO SO SO preventable. All you have to do is go to the doctor on a regular basis and get your paps. I have had "suspicious" cervical cells scraped off me. Can you imagine what would happen if I avoided the gyno for 5 years? Those cells could have mutated into cervical cancer. So yes, get your regular check-ups ladies! (Okay, soap box done.)

    So yes, it's so important for young women to be educated about sex and have mentors who can help, despite your religious or political beliefs. The thing is, be it disease or pregnancy or other things, sex affects our bodies a lot more than it does mens.

    Wow that was a long post. Go Amy...I am right there with you.