For all the women who Planned Parenthood has helped throughout their 100-year history, hearing about all the efforts to defund the organization must physically hurt. Most recently, Texas moved to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding. This will mainly affect the approximately 11,000 low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care, but that's apparently not a big deal for the Texas legislature. Update: On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans will aim to strip PP of its federal funding.
When it comes to the effects that Planned Parenthood has across the country, though, 11,000 Texan women is really just a drop in the bucket. 2.5 million people go to Planned Parenthood annually, both men and women, for all sorts of health care services. According to Planned Parenthood's own records, about one in five women has been to one of their clinics, which equals about 32 million women.
Republican politicians' favorite thing to ignore is that the grand majority of those women did not come to Planned Parenthood seeking an abortion. A full 97 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are not abortions, and those services run the gamut from pregnancy tests to treatment of urinary tract infections. "Pro-urinary tract infection" doesn't have the same ring to it as pro-life, though, so anti-Planned Parenthood activists rarely bring that up.
Here are just 15 of the services that Planned Parenthood provides and the real life stories of women who have taken advantage of them:
1. Providing Abortions
This one gets the most play, so I'll tackle it first. Planned Parenthood provides abortions, in the form of both in-clinic abortions and the abortion pill, to women who have decided that they need them. At the same time, they take the time to educate women who come in about their options, so everyone gets the coverage that they need.
2. Anonymous In Oakland
An anonymous 18-year old wrote an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, telling the story of how her adoptive father had repeatedly molested her and then raped her, which resulted in a pregnancy. Worried about how her assailant would react to her pregnancy or the eventual children, she went to Planned Parenthood. Not only they were able to give her an abortion for free, but she was also able to donate the fetal tissue to research efforts.
3. Birth Control
Not only does Planned Parenthood educate women about literally every method of birth control that you could possibly imagine, but it also provides them to women either for free or at a low cost. And as you know, making birth control easily accessible is the best way to lower the abortion rate.
4. Jamie In New Jersey
Jamie told Cosmopolitan that her periods caused cramps so bad that she couldn't attend school while she was having them, and this was putting her in danger of not graduating on time. She comes from a low-income family, and her parents didn't have health insurance. When she went to Planned Parenthood, they were able to take care of her anyway and get her periods under control so that she could get her schooling back on track.
Everyone should know by now that mental health is a key part of your health overall, and Planned Parenthood centers offer counseling for many situations. Some of this is focused on helping women choose how to approach an unplanned pregnancy or how to deal with the mental and emotional after-effects of an abortion, but they also offer information and help for people struggling with other issues, like abusive relationships, gender, and sexuality.
Amanda tells Huffington Post that she came to Planned Parenthood pregnant, her ex having pressured her to get an abortion and then left her at 15 weeks pregnant. When she was able to talk about her situation with a counselor at Planned Parenthood, the counselor helped her come to the decision that was right for her: not to get the abortion.
7. General Health Care
Need a physical, a flu vaccine, or an anemia test? Planned Parenthood offers those ad more as part of their general health care coverage.
Tiffany, 41, tells Huffington Post that when she was younger, there was no doctor she could afford to go to — so she went to Planned Parenthood. Eventually, one of these physicals found evidence of ovarian cancer, so Planned Parenthood literally saved her life.
9. Men's Sexual Health Care
Women aren't the only ones who need gender-specific health care, and Planned Parenthood also extends the same services to men who need things like cancer screenings, condoms, and infertility treatment.
10. Rhys In San Francisco
Rhys tells Cosmopolitan that she came to Planned Parenthood with a big issue — she knew that she had been living in the wrong body for her entire life, but at 62 she felt too old to transition. The staff at Planned Parenthood guided her medically and emotionally through her transition, and now she can live in a body that she recognizes as her own.
11. Woman-Specific Health Care Needs
I don't need to tell you about all of the specific health concerns that women need to tackle all the time, and Planned Parenthood is there to help with all of them. Breast cancer screenings, menopause and menstruation issues, and yeast infections are just a few of them, but there's basically nothing that they won't be able to address.
12. Lili Loofbourow
Loofbourow writes in Al Jazeera America that after being shamed and misdiagnosed for her entire life about her serious vaginal pain, a doctor at Planned Parenthood was finally able to tell her what she had: a rare condition called lichen sclerosus, which can result in the vulva sealing itself shut. Now, thanks to that doctor, she's able to treat it the best she can, and her pain is no longer invisible or unbearable.
13. STD Testing And Treatment
STDs are an unpleasant, if sometimes unavoidable part of life — and Planned Parenthood provides both treatment and testing for pretty much anything you can think of. And, importantly, they also have all sorts of free information on safer sex so that fewer people have to worry about STDs in the first place.
Cassandra writes in the Grounded Parents blog that she used to go to Planned Parenthood for all of her checkups, and on the results of one Pap smear, they found that she had contracted HPV and would need surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells. She hadn't heard of the virus before, and she didn't know what to do with the information — but of course, they did.
15. Help Before, During, And After Pregnancy
It's no secret that pregnancy isn't exactly easy on you, mentally or physically, and Planned Parenthood is there every step of the way, whether it means helping to get pregnant at all, dealing with miscarriage, or simply providing information. For the politicians who say they care about protecting life, this should a pretty good reason to keep the organization functioning at full speed.
If you talk to your friends or scour the internet, you'll no doubt be able to find hundreds of stories about how Planned Parenthood has helped people. There's a good chance that if you're reading this, you're one of the people who has benefitted from their services. Whether you are or not, it's time to stand up and protect a truly valuable organization that's constantly under attack.