There’s been a lot of talk about birth control and Planned Parenthood in the media lately. It is an election year, after all, and what better way to appeal to the electorate than by ignoring issues of real importance (employment, poverty, education — all the boring stuff) and focusing on issues that have no place in politics; namely, sex and women’s bodies.
Last week, there was a giant kerfuffle when Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would no longer be granting funds to Planned Parenthood, an organization that has become Public Enemy Number One in this election year. With the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, America’s politicians need an enemy to fight in order to rally voters, and they’ve invented one in Planned Parenthood. Susan G. Komen for the Cure decided to jump into the political fray and, though it eventually reversed its decision, ended up paying for it with its reputation.
This week, the topic dominating the news is birth control: who has access to it, and who pays for it. It’s astounding that in 2012, with 7 billion people on the Earth, the topic of birth control being morally “right” or “wrong” — let alone available — is even an issue. But again, it is an election year, and, just like in any other form of advertising, sex sells.
When issues like these are bandied about by politicians, it’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric. But the truth is, these are not black-and-white issues. No woman’s experience is the same, and no politician should have the right to villainize any woman for the choices she has made concerning her own body.
In an effort to put faces on the subject of women’s reproductive health, we here at The Full Moxie have written about our experiences with both birth control and Planned Parenthood in order to show that these subjects are not simply fodder for a bunch of male politicians. They are highly personal subjects that affect many, if not most, of the women you know. We invite you to share your own experiences in our comments section.
I don’t use birth control. And I have 7 kids. Let me expound.
My first of many, many trips to Planned Parenthood came in college when, as an independent young woman out in the big world for the first time all on my own, I also wanted to have complete control over my body. Startlingly, while I could absolutely control if there/when there/who would be a sexual partner, the fact remained that, in this world? Not all sexual encounters are consensual. I’m a belt and suspenders kinda gal; better to protect myself from the laws of unintended consequences. On the pill I went.
From that time, and until I had health insurance of my own, Planned Parenthood was my safety net. It’s where I procured affordable birth control; it’s where I learned I was pregnant with both my sons. And to clarify: At neither time was I offered an abortion. Hearty congratulations, yes. Offers to vacuum my uterus? Nothing close. (I was, however, accosted by anti-abortion advocates with horrifying posters who, quite frankly, totally killed the joie de vivre I felt knowing I was with child. Pro life? More like Pro-Stamping-Out-the-Life. Hey-o.)
There are many, many myths about what Planned Parenthood isn’t; I’d like to be clear about what it is: An affordable, confidential resource that allows women the ability to take control over their bodies. They offer reproductive care, sure, but also general health care; pap smears; prenatal care; breast cancer, thyroid, anemia, diabetes and high blood pressure screenings. Some clinics even offer early childhood care.
Quite simply, Planned Parenthood allows women to determine for themselves when, how or if they will start a family. That’s it. The organization doesn’t have some secret agenda to get your teenager on birth control without your knowledge, or a desire to coax young women into abortions. And while I’m on it, let’s be honest about something else: If your daughter went to a health center seeking birth control and didn’t tell you about it, it’s fairly likely she’s either having, or planning on having, sex. And if that’s the case and she didn’t feel confident talking to you, wouldn’t you rather someone arm her with knowledge and the tools she needs to keep her body free of disease and other unintended consequences? Just a thought.
Anywho … I don’t use birth control anymore because I’m married and old and my lady parts are fixed. Plus, we’re a blended family with 7 kids — duh. That’s plenty. But my daughters use Planned Parenthood. They’re young adults taking responsibility for their bodies — as they should.
I was married young — age twenty. I was still in college, I worked part-time, and my husband worked two part-time jobs. We were nowhere near ready to start a family, and even with three employers, we had no real health insurance, just a temporary plan with a high deductible I bought online. The plan paid nothing towards preventative care or routine prescriptions. Planned Parenthood allowed me to receive routine gynecological care and birth control for three months at a time for the whopping fee of $10. Even I could afford $10. And definitely more than I could afford to raise a child at that time in my life.
I’m very grateful to have been able to have had access to birth control. I can’t say for sure how my life would have been different had I become a mother earlier in my life (I had my son when I was 25), but I’d venture to guess I may not have finished my degree on time (and, as the first college graduate in my immediate family, that was a pretty darn big deal).
I recently caught on to the change in policy (effective August 2012) that will ensure women will not be expected to pay out-of-pocket costs for birth control. When I saw that, I have to admit I was very relieved. Personally, it has taken me years since having my son to find a good birth control that works well with my body. In recent months, this has become monumentally important. I’ve been pregnant four times since the age of 25. Once with my son, and three times with babies we lost. Each miscarriage occurred later in pregnancy, and each was more difficult to deal with. The most recent occurred this past summer, and I required a D&C (dilation and curettage). Unfortunately, one of the risks with a D&C (the surgical procedure is required when the body doesn’t fully miscarry on its own) is infection, and I did become very sick and was hospitalized. Having experienced three very difficult losses (the last one being the most traumatic), we sought answers and discovered I have a condition that likely will not allow me to carry a baby to term. My body actually fights the developing fetus and attacks it as if it were a virus. Because of this condition, I do not want to become pregnant again. The physical and emotional toll are just far more than I can continue to take.
My birth control costs $57 per month out of pocket. There are 24 active pills in a pack, which means I pay more than $2 a day for birth control (this is with private health insurance). I am grateful that my OB/GYN has been awesome in helping me with this cost by providing samples whenever available, however, knowing that a low supply of samples in his office will not mean I get gouged at the pharmacy beginning this summer is a relief. If you’re thinking “Why doesn’t she or her husband take permanent measures to avoid future pregnancies?” well, the answer plain and simple is our health insurance has a $2,500 per person deductible. But, that’s a rant for another day.
Three and a half years ago, I was laid off. With the end of my full-time job came the end of my health insurance, which at first wasn’t a giant concern to me (I rarely am sick) until I realized it also meant the end of my birth control. This was when I panicked.
I use birth control. I use it in the way it’s intended because children are not in my plans. But I also use it for a reason many other women use it, a reason that gets lost amongst all the talk of morality, and the slut-shaming: it makes my periods a breeze.
I remember being a junior in high school when I found out a friend of mine had gone on the pill. She was the first of my friends to do so (that I knew about), and I reacted in the most mature way I knew how: I judged her and called her a slut. Not to her face, of course. But my friends and I knew what she’d done, and we knew the b.s. reason she gave us for her decision: she had cripplingly bad periods and the pill helped mellow them out. Yeah right, we all said to each other. We all have periods, too. Slut.
Years later, when I’d find myself sitting on the toilet, crying and clutching my abdomen in pain, bracing myself against the bathroom wall whenever a cramp gripped and twisted my insides into a knot, I thought about high school and told myself, You are a huge b***h. You deserve this.
No matter what I deserved, I didn’t put up with the pain for long. I, too, went on the pill. And it was a miracle. The pain dramatically lessened. My skin cleared up. I could pinpoint down to the hour when my period would start. So, you can see why, when the threat of my birth control going away came up after I lost my job, I lost my s***.
And that’s when a friend of mine told me about Planned Parenthood. She said that Planned Parenthood was a place for low-income, or no-income, people like me. People who needed birth control. People who needed breast or pelvic exams. People who needed STD tests. People who needed pregnancy tests. People who needed education. And yes, people who needed abortions.
Initially, I was a little apprehensive about visiting Planned Parenthood. Like most people, my only knowledge of the organization came from what I’d heard on TV: that it was an evil, evil place where babies are killed for sport. But eventually my need for birth control outweighed any concerns I had about the perceived stigma of using Planned Parenthood — thank god.
Since getting my Planned Parenthood card, I’ve visited the local office numerous times for birth control refills, breast exams, pap smears, and even for antibiotics when I once got a traumatizing infection from douching (seriously, do not douche — not ever). If it was not for Planned Parenthood, none of these services would have been available to me. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude (and a sizable donation whenever I have the means).
If one good thing came out of the mess with the Komen organization, it’s that those of us who have depended on Planned Parenthood for years are finally coming out of the woodwork to share our stories, and to help combat the damage that is being done to women everywhere by a bunch of talking heads in Washington who have no firsthand knowledge about the subjects on which they’re pinning their campaigns.
If you’d like to learn more about Planned Parenthood, or make a donation, visit Planned Parenthood.org.