I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t fully appreciate just how awesome Planned Parenthood was until I was faced with not having it. No, I’m not talking about this recent BS threat from Republicans to defund the organization. I’m talking about the time that I lived in Buenos Aires and I got a text from the guy I was dating saying that he had tested positive for gonorrhea. Cue heart drop. Cue panic. Cue frantic searching in broken Spanish for a clinic, only to discover that there aren’t any for STI testing for women — or people in general — in Buenos Aires.
Luckily for me, I lived with an awesome, bilingual Argentine who happened to have a friend who worked at a hospital who was willing to walk me through the process of getting tested. I won’t go into details of just how ridiculous that process was, but do know that it involved me saying that I needed testing for gonorrhea in front of at least three separate groups of strangers, and that a very, very old man shoved a speculum and q-tip up there with no warning. Or maybe he did warn me, but my Spanish really was terrible at that point. Regardless, it was cold. And very uncomfortable.
After that experience, I did some serious reflecting on just how great Planned Parenthood really is. I’m 28, I’ve been sexually active for 13 years, and I’ve never been pregnant or had an abortion. That’s undeniably thanks to the care and education that the wonderful women at Planned Parenthood have given me over the years. They gave me free or discounted birth control when I couldn’t afford it on my own, and covered the gap in healthcare when paying for insurance wasn’t an option for me. They fitted me for a diaphragm and taught me how to use it. They held my hand through pregnancy and STI scares, never judgmental, and always warning me before they stuck that damn speculum in.
Planned Parenthood is a gift to Americans. Access to affordable, safe, non-judgmental reproductive health service is a privilege that so many people around the world simply don’t have. And reproductive rights aren’t just for women, even if we are disproportionately affected — thousands of men go to Planned Parenthood for STI testing, and thousands of others have sat in those waiting rooms as their girlfriends and wives get tested, or have an abortion, or just get their annual checkup. In this country, where healthcare somehow still isn’t a universal right, Planned Parenthood is literally a lifeline.
Here are 54 of stories about how Planned Parenthood has helped American women over the years, from providing birth control to abortions to cervical cancer screenings. Take a look at what they have to say, and then join them — and me — in saying: I stand with Planned Parenthood. Yesterday, today, and for as many more tomorrows as we have.
1. Janette, 38
Planned Parenthood was there for me when I was 17. They confirmed my pregnancy. I'm one of the few that used them for an abortion. Without them, I wouldn't have finished high school or gone to college. Afterwards, Planned Parenthood helped me when I didn't have any insurance. I was still able to get my annual pap smear and birth control. I used Planned Parenthood from ages 17-28. I'm very grateful for the services Planned Parenthood provided for me in my young adulthood.
2. Genya, 29
I started taking hormonal birth control at 24. I'd suffered years of miserable periods, and lost my mother to ovarian cancer. The pill significantly reduced my risk of developing the cancer, and eliminated my period. Win-win! A few years later, as a graduate student, I suddenly and VERY unexpectedly lost my school-sponsored health insurance due to a processing error. I discovered this when I went to fill my prescription for birth control pills and was told I'd have to pay out of pocket. Panicked, I made a call to Planned Parenthood. I was seen two days later, and the staff helped me signed up for a Washington State Program called "Take Charge" which paid for my pills. They made sure I had no gaps in pill coverage, matched my existing prescription, and never so much as raised an eyebrow at the idea that this queermo who’d never slept with a penis-bearing partner was asking for birth control pills. I guess they figured I was capable of making such decisions for myself. Imagine that.
3. Claire, 22
Years ago, I picked up my first handful of condoms at a Planned Parenthood clinic in LA. I still visit one every six weeks on the Lower East Side for routine STI screenings. Last year, I was booted from my parent’s health insurance plans. Planned Parenthood helped me navigate Obamacare and find the right coverage. As a 21-year-old, I would have been happy never going to a doctor again. Planned Parenthood taught me how to care for myself. More importantly, they taught me I’m worth caring for.
4. Jenelle Marie Davis, 33
When I was diagnosed with genital herpes at 16 years old by one of the two practitioners in our conservative, rural town, I was shamed. He told me my case was the worst he had ever seen, gave me a prescription for Valtrex, and showed me the door — no pamphlets, statistics, nothing. I thought I was a pariah.
So, in the following weeks, I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood. I had already been seeing them for birth control, but I wanted to know if I really did have the worst herpes ever and what to do about it. Upon my arrival, they were empathetic, thoughtful, and they assured me that my first outbreak was typical of all first outbreaks, and I would be OK. It was there that I found comprehensive, inclusive, and non-judgmental care throughout my late teens, twenties, and still most recently, in my early thirties. It is because Planned Parenthood was the only resource in my conservative town that did not treat my genital herpes diagnosis with disgust and disdain, and for that reason, I will always stand behind Planned Parenthood!
5. Sophie, 27
I needed an STD test while out of state so I didn't have a doctor to go to, so I went to PP to get tested. Wonderful, kind, bilingual staff (English/Spanish, in California).
6. Laura, 29
They have never judged me, they talk openly with me about my fears, they have fit me in timely, they have provided a safe space.
7. Jenna Lam, 40
I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam, birth control prescriptions and STI testing when I didn't have health insurance. I wouldn't have had healthcare without Planned Parenthood. They are an indispensable resource.
8. Ella, 29
Planned Parenthood has been invaluable to me despite the fact that I have never actually been to a Planned Parenthood clinic in my life. I've used their online resources to research symptoms for what was eventually diagnosed as dysmenorrhea and to learn about my birth control options when I was first sexually active. When I was considering an IUD, my primary care doctor referred me to a PP because "They are the best at what they do. It's where I would go.”
Far more importantly, I have been an indirect witness to the way Planned Parenthood puts their trust in women choices into action, from the professional and compassionate way my friends have been treated when they made the difficult decision to terminate pregnancies to the thoughtful and dedicated service other friends received when they decided to carry pregnancies to term. And when a close friend had a late stage miscarriage and lost a much-wanted baby, it was Planned Parenthood's incredible doctors, nurses, and staff who provided her D & C with tenderness and love. Like me, her OB-GYN referred her to them because "They are the best at what they do.”
Planned Parenthood doesn't have to have done anything for me directly. Their vocal and powerful belief that women's bodies are our own, that our voices matter, that we can be trusted, that our stories and experiences are important, and I am proud to stand with them today and every day.
9. Kate, 24
The pill was not working for me. I'd tried five or six in three years and all of them had significant side effects. I was curious about an IUD, so I booked an appointment at PP. They were amazing about answering all my questions, letting me know pros and cons, and when I decided that I wanted to get Mirena, they were able to schedule me for an insertion two days later. When the insertion affected me a lot more than anticipated, they let me stay at the facility and brought me water and snacks until I felt better — not until they thought I SHOULD feel better, but until I said that I felt good enough to leave. I LOVE PP.
10. Katie, 26
I started having sex when I was 14, and became a patient at Planned Parenthood almost immediately for birth control, pap smears, and STI/HIV testing — not to mention free condoms. For the next five years, my access to my local PP clinic allowed me to not become a young mom like many women in my family and community. Unlike many health care providers since, they never made me feel ashamed of my sexuality, never took advantage of me financially (because of their sliding scale, I received all my care for free as a high school student from a working class family), and always respected my agency.
11. Jenna, 40
I found out I was pregnant on three separate occasions at PP. In every instance, the staff was kind and never pushed for any particular outcome, but they did ask what I needed and listened. Two pregnancies went to term, but in the middle I had a rather traumatic miscarriage at 14 weeks. I experienced heavy bleeding and since my husband worked long-distance at the time, it was terrifying to be home in a rural area with only a seven year old in the house. PP was fantastic about being available to answer questions and provide genuinely kind care during that time. I will forever be grateful for that. I'm 40 now, and I have fantastic health insurance and I STILL rely on PP for all my reproductive health care. My daughter is a young teen, and when the time comes that she needs reproductive health care, you can bet your boots Planned Parenthood is where I'll be taking her.
12. Krista, 37
I went to PP in California for wellness checkups and STI screenings. They serve all genders, which I think is something people seem to be overlooking. In California they are amazing at providing timely, nonjudgmental care at little to no cost. I went to PP for a general checkup / screening and they found a lump in my breast. PP recommended me for a mammogram and connected me with a free program for screening. This is what healthcare should be.
13. Maren, 29
I got a much overdue pap at Planned Parenthood, which was a critical screening for me to become more aware of my cervical health and monitor it to prevent cervical cancer.
14. Lyndsey, 33
I have always worked in the freelance world. Unfortunately, that means I am out of pocket for all of my healthcare. PP was somewhere I knew I could go to get most of my medical needs. I got birth control, annual paps, std screenings and breast cancer screenings done there. I never had to forgo my health just because I couldn't afford it. They were always there for me, even reminding me that I was due for a checkup. They create a safe and anxiety free place to talk to a medical professional about anything you many need or have questions about.
15. Giulietta Markman, 24
Before I had health insurance they gave me cheap doctor's appointments and birth control.
16. Monica, 30
Planned Parenthood helped me find the answers to why I was always in so much pain. I worked retail at the time and didn't have insurance; Planned Parenthood gave me options to end my lifelong pain, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.
17. Justine, 26
They provided me with birth control that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise!
18. Holly, 29
I was unable to get into my university's health services in time to renew my birth control prescription (which, in addition to preventing me from having a baby while $125,000 in student loan debt, also helps me with severe acne problems), and Planned Parenthood got me an appointment with an OB/GYN so I could renew the prescription on time. They identified worrisome cells on my pap smear, which got me to get a biopsy to be safe. I was lucky, but if those cells had been cancerous, Planned Parenthood would be responsible for helping me spot it early. I am intensely grateful for their professional, efficient, kind, life-saving services.
19. Jae, 27
I have endometriosis. They identified it and got me the care I needed. I've gotten two IUDs from them and they have always been responsive to my concerns and needs. I love my IUD, but I know if I had a problem they'd be there to help me sort it out and find another birth control method. They've helped me not get pregnant, and when I want to get pregnant, I'll go to them then too.
20. Amanda, 29
Testing for STDs/STIs to make sure I'm healthy in every way possible.
21. Alison, 29
At my high school, Health class was comprised of the male teacher polling the boys on which condom feels best, and why girls look "hotter" at certain times of the month. Then Planned Parenthood came in for one session in Girls PE, and I learned more about my body in that half hour than I did in an entire year of Mr. B.'s "Health" class.
22. Alyssa Morasco, 31
There have been many times in my life that I have relied on the services provided by Planned Parenthood, including free annual screenings and birth control pill perceptions. I've needed these services while I was a student in college and also later in life when I was between jobs or without health insurance. The fact that women's health and reproductive rights are being slowly stripped away in AMERICA in 2015 is absolutely ludicrous, and I fear for the millions of women who will be denied proper health care if Planned Parenthood is not supported.
23. Kristin Dearborn, 33
After graduating from college in 2005, I was without health insurance until 2012. Medical care cost too much. I let the dentist slip. I didn't have a primary care physician. The one thing I didn't have to let slip were my annual visits to Planned Parenthood. I could afford the visits and my birth control, including an IUD. I would have been totally lost without them, and have no idea what I would have done. Thank you, Planned Parenthood!
24. Gabi Sorice, 29
Planned Parenthood has been an incredible resource for me. As soon as I became sexually active, I started going to Planned Parenthood to get regular check-ups. The fact is, I couldn't afford private health insurance, so Planned Parenthood was the only affordable option available. Without their existence, I would have been left without any health coverage. I can't imagine how bad it would be if Planned Parenthood were to lose funding. I don't know what I would have done without their services.
25. Breanna Liggan, 27
Pink Out for Planned Parenthood! PP has been a huge support for people in need of medical attention and information. Such vital care should be protected rather than constantly threatened by changing tides in Congress. #StandWithPP for the millions of women like me who need to know it will be there in the future.
26. Catie D, 26
Planned Parenthood has been my reproductive health provider since I was a teenager. They provide me with my annual check-ups/PAP smears, and were the ones to find AND treat high grade cervical dysplasia cells that would likely have turned into cervical cancer within the year. They were also the ones to go over every kind of birth control option that was possible for me, and provided me with a *free* Paraguard as I was too poor at the time to afford to pay-out-of-pocket. They have provided me with information, comfort when necessary, and always friendly and professional care.
27. Crista Anne, 33
Hyperbole free, I don’t know if I would still be here without the health care I’ve received there. The magical antidepressant that finally worked after decades of failures came from the brilliance of my GP, who operates out of our local PP clinic. Without that, there would have been no #OrgasmQuest. Without the actual relief of my worst depressive symptoms, it’s impossible to tell if I would have made it back out from that horrifically dark place I was in.
Planned Parenthood treats my fibro, my GP uses me to teach students about the condition and how to perform the pressure point test. Cured my monthly Cramps of Doom that were knocking me completely out of comission for a week at a time. Does not bat an eye at my career, my relationship dynamic (we’re poly), number of partners I’ve had. She treats me like a person with complex medical problems, never dismissing me as drug seeking, faking, or anything else I’ve become so accustomed to.
Yes, two years ago my local Planned Parenthood also performed my second abortion. I’m not here to argue the morality of abortion or tell that story right now. The fact is abortion is health care and they were there when I needed that form of health care.
(Check out the rest of Crista Anne's story here.)
28. Amanda, 36
When I first got to college I was in a new town with new people and no references for a health care provider. Planned Parenthood was in walking distance of my classes and I knew it was a safe location for women's health. Free condoms, annual visits, STD counseling… All were at my fingertips. Many years later, I was able to go to Planned Parenthood for care I needed that my regular GYN could not provide. I will forever be grateful and will be a lifelong donor. I support Planned Parenthood. THANK YOU for fighting for all of us.
29. Kelly, 27
In 2010 I had a new partner and we both agreed to get STI tests done. In the pre-Obamacare era, I had crappy insurance that I was still paying over $300/month for, and they wouldn't cover the testing. A panel of basic STI tests were going to cost me hundreds of dollars, if performed by my PCP. So, I went to Planned Parenthood and had them done for next to nothing. Moral of the story: people of all financial means deserve to be able to get STI testing done and practice safe sex. This is why we need Planned Parenthood.
30. Jeanne Keller, 64
When I needed to explain sex to my stepdaughter, age seven, I went to Planned Parenthood and asked for advice. They gave me "talking points" to get the conversation started, and loaned me books to go through with her. In other words, PP helped me have do this education myself, keeping it a family responsibility. Thank you PP for being there for so many needs.
31. J, 27
Planned Parenthood helped me get on birth control when I was becoming sexually active and too scared to talk to my mom about it. Planned Parenthood gave me morning after pills when I needed them and never shamed me for being young and horny.
32. Siobhan Climer, 26
My mom became pregnant at 18 and was fired from her job. PP provided her prenatal care — and that's why I'm here today!
33. Liz, 29
I was recently married and back in the US waiting for my visa application to the UK to process. Because of immigration restrictions, I hadn't worked in a year and was flat broke. I was also wildly overdue for a pelvic exam and STI panel and in desperate need of better birth control. Planned Parenthood got me checked out, tested, and inserted an IUD for me free of charge. I donate every year to repay the kindness shown to me in my time of need. I was healthy and they ensured that I stayed that way. I stand with PP because they stood with me.
34. Rana, 33
They gave me my first ever gynecological checkup. They helped sign me up for Medicaid when they heard I was uninsured, rather than just sending me a bill. This allowed me to get all my healthcare needs met. Now my mom works there as a nurse practitioner after her other job laid her off at the age of 60. She loves her job and the patients at PP and the organization has been very good to her, even giving her two months off to care for my sick 91-year-old grandma.
35. Kathryn, 32
When I was 16 I couldn't talk to my parents about sex, but I knew I needed to do something to not get pregnant. PP gave me a safe place to go to get my first gynecological exam and be prescribed birth control at a price I could afford. They asked how they could maintain my privacy when contacting me by phone or mail. I felt well cared for and really valued how my privacy was honored. I wish I had had the kind of parents who were comfortable talking with me about these things, but I didn't. PP was their for me when my own parents weren't able to be and I'm still grateful to this day.
36. Rose Huttner, 27
Planned Parenthood helped me get affordable ob-gyn visits before I had health insurance.
37. Dianna Black, 33
Planned Parenthood was the only place I knew to go for gynecology. My very first pap smear came back with squamous dysplasia. PP did the exam, my colposcopy and biopsy, and kept up my semiannual checks till my tests came back clear. I am whole and well because Planned Parenthood was there for me.
38. Sam Benson, 27
When I was in college and had only catastrophic health insurance that covered no birth control, they helped me get birth control and later got me an IUD, which my old primary care doctor said was "only for married women." (Thankfully things have gotten a little easier now for young ladies looking for IUDs.) And the IUD cost me less than $500 including all my appointments and the device.
39. Oliva, 30
I first went there when I was out of college, had terrible insurance and a super low-paying job. I went to get birth control pills and my annual exam. A year later, when I needed to go back to get a refill, my trip there saved my life. Because I had been experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia, depression, OCD and had no idea what was wrong with me. There was a little check box on the form I was filling out that asked if I was experiencing anxiety. It clicked then. I checked yes. The practitioner I saw got me a referral for low cost mental health treatment. My life had gone from fine to destroyed in a matter of weeks. I credit Planned Parenthood with linking me to the help I desperately needed.
40. Steph, 40
As a '90s teenager with parents who didn't talk about sex, I knew that once I started having sex I would be able to go to Planned Parenthood for a thorough exam and contraception. I did, and they were great.
41. Sophia Sutcliffe, 22
I have always relied on Planned Parenthood for my OBGYN including screening for breast cancer, which runs in my family. It provided long term birth control. They are overworked and need more funding, if anything.
42. Elizabeth, 35
When my 16-year-old sister in law was becoming interested in being sexually active, I took her to Planned Parenthood to get birth control. She was too afraid to tell her own parents. I talked to her and had a doctor talk to her about STD's, condoms, what happens during sex. She is now 24 years old, never had an unplanned pregnancy, and never had an STD.
When I was 19 and with my (now) husband, I became pregnant. I did not have insurance and could not afford the doctor trips. PP was there for me. I eventually lost the baby, not due to anyone's fault. But the doors were open to me and I got the medications and help I needed.
43. Miri, 31
When I was 23 and an idiot, I got pregnant by accident. I had no money, knew no one, and had just lost my job. Without Planned Parenthood, I may have genuinely jumped off a bridge; with Planned Parenthood, I was able to pay for my abortion with my credit card (I had NO money), learn about the misinformation that had gotten me pregnant in the first place, and got the affordable birth control that kept me from getting accidentally pregnant ever again. I do think I owe my life to Planned Parenthood; I certainly would not be able to have the good life that I have now without them.
44. Stacy, 28
I've gotten birth control, the morning after pill, yearly health exams, and pregnancy tests at Planned Parenthood all through college when I didn't have health insurance or any other options.
45. Emily D, 29
I went to PP when I was about 15 to get FREE Depo Provera shots (three months of birth control per shot) when I was afraid to talk to my parents about my personal life. I think without that I may very possibly could have easily become pregnant. At this moment in time — just starting a graduate degree — I can't imagine my life, my education, my mental health, would be intact whatsoever if I also had had a child when I was a child. Thank you Planned Parenthood! Keep on keepin' on keeping girls safe, healthy, and getting to experience a full, independent life full of options.
46. Amanda Mollner, 27
Well, I was fitted for a diaphragm and was having a hard time purchasing one. My clinic was closed and I thought... who can I call? PLANNED PARENTHOOD of course! They helped me out a lot. It may not be a huge deal but knowing they were available and willing to help me felt good. I wouldn't hesitate to go to them for other health care needs.
47. Savannah, 22
I have had and continue to have partners that get their STD and STI testing there.
48. Salena, 28
When I was in college, my OB/GYN wouldn't give me an IUD because I had never had children. I went to Planned Parenthood, who very helpfully gave me one. Now, years later, and no pregnancy scares!
49. Charlene, 48
I got pregnant at a very young age. Despite my intense belief in a woman's right to choose, abortion was not the right choice for me. Planned Parenthood put me on the right path to having a happy healthy baby and my husband and I are still together to this day. Thank you, Planned Parenthood.
50. Lynette, 32
I thought I was pregnant. I'm married with several children, but my relationship is in trouble, and I did not want to be pregnant. I was not ready to discuss it with my husband, as we are religious and even though he was with me in not being ready for more children, he is firmly against abortion for any reason. I was desperate. I called Planned Parenthood and they made me feel better just by being a calming voice in the phone. They described my options, the costs, and scheduled an appointment for me. No judgment. I was incredibly relieved to discover that I was not, in fact pregnant, so I did not end up needing their services, but I'll never forget how, when I felt trapped and desperate and overwhelmed, PP was ready to be there for me. It was a safe space during a crisis.
51. Alyssa Benedetto, 27
It was a year since my last pap smear and I had also been sexually active and all I wanted was an STD test and a pap smear. I was a freelancer and had no insurance. I didn't know where to go because I wanted to continue to be active, safely, and couldn't do so until I got tested and knew I was clean from my last partner. I went into Planned Parenthood and they set me up with an appointment for both things, and also gave me health insurance for as long as I continued to make the low wage I was making at the time. I knew I would make money with my next contracted job, but I just didn't have it now. PP doesn't just help those in perpetual poverty, but it helps those who come from a different background with everything they needed to survive, and they helped them to, because they understood that sometimes, everyone needs a little help. Without PP, I could've been having unsafe sex and doing the exact opposite of what the haters say they will do. People don't understand what they can't see, I wish we could help more people truly see.
52. Sally, 52
When I was in college I used PP for birth control-private and low cost. First generation in my family to attend. Graduated on time, got married, stayed married and raised happy, healthy middle class family.
53. Melanie, 29
Every time I have moved to a new city, and faced a probationary period before my new job's health insurance kicked in, I have used Planned Parenthood for annual well woman exams (pap, cancer screening, STD/STI testing, breast exam). Women and men absolutely need this community anchor, especially during transitional times when we haven't established doctors and/or insurance. The doctors and staff are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and welcoming.
54. Sarah, 28
Coming from a very religious family, I turned to Planned Parenthood for birth control in college. I was still on family insurance so I couldn't get it from a regular pharmacy without my family finding out. It was a discreet and affordable way to stay safe while working on my education.