There are only a few (very important) things about my life that I can't imagine not having. My career is high up on that list. So is my partner of almost four years, and my 2-year-old son. I also can't imagine living without safe, affordable, comprehensive reproductive health care from Planned Parenthood; the kind of care that has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my career, find my partner, and have my son. I also know I'm not alone. So, I asked women what their lives would be like without Planned Parenthood, especially now that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has stated that the GOP will work to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding as part of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Ryan's comments came Thursday afternoon at a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. “Well, the Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our reconciliation bill,” Ryan said, speaking about the provision that would be included in the GOP's repeal of Obamacare. As I read Ryan's comments, I started thinking about what my life would be like without Planned Parenthood and the essential services they provide. It was a thought that also crossed my mind in 2015, when the Republicans led the fight to defund Planned Parenthood in a massive government spending bill. A thought woven into the overwhelming anger, fear, and sadness I felt when a man opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing police officer Garrett Swase, a father of two; Army veteran Ke'Arre Stewart, a father of two; and Jennifer Markovsky, a mother of two. It's a thought that's sure to remain as women (and men) across the country gear up for a fight to protect Planned Parenthood and women's reproductive freedom.
I was 23 years old, a recent college graduate, in a horrible relationship, and living paycheck-to-paycheck when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. It was at a Planned Parenthood in Bellingham, Washington (a few miles from where I lived), that I had a safe, legal, and affordable abortion. It was also at that Planned Parenthood that I realized I had the right to be in control of my body and my future. That realization was life-changing. A week later, my unhealthy, unfulfilling, and dead-end relationship ended, and my future essentially started. I started writing, I started demanding better from those around me (and myself), and I started believing that I deserved more than the bare minimum life has to offer.
Three years later, I met my partner and (little did I know at the time) the father of my son. When we found out I was pregnant, I knew that not only could I be a mother, I wanted to be a mother. A little less than 40 weeks later, our perfect son was born, and a little over a year after his birth, my family of three moved to New York City so I could take my dream job as a writer and editor. None of the amazing things that make my life what it is now would have been possible without Planned Parenthood and their care. I wouldn't have met my partner. I wouldn't have had my son. I wouldn't have had the freedom to follow my dream to the other side of the country, building a better life for myself, my partner, and my son.
My story, of course, is not unique. Planned Parenthood provides countless services — from STD testing, to providing birth control, to administering cancer screenings, to offering counseling for sexual assault survivors — to a reported 2.5 million women and men in the United States each year. This care is paramount, and without it, the lives of countless women (and men) would be drastically altered.
Women deserve the right to make their own choices about their own bodies. Women deserve the right to write their own stories. Women deserve health care providers like Planned Parenthood, because they've helped people, like the following women, in countless ways:
"Without Planned Parenthood, I would have a child with a man that doesn't want children. I would've never left [my hometown] or met my husband. I'd also probably be on chemo for cervical cancer, as they were steadfast about early detection."
"When I was 19 and in college, the condom broke as my boyfriend climaxed inside of me. I was stunned, and I remember crying in the shower for an hour, not sure what to do or how to proceed. At a Catholic university, I knew our health services department wouldn't give me the support or help I needed.
"I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to get a prescription (it was required then) for Plan B. Everyone there was kind, thoughtful, helpful, and willing to listen. Most of all, they were calming and authoritative. I walked out with the prescription and, just as importantly, with peace of mind. They really saved me. I don't know what I would've done without them."
"When I first moved to New York City, I used up all my savings to get there. I had an internship that didn't pay me and I was barely making rent. So, you can probably guess that I did not have healthcare (this was pre-Obamacare). I needed a new birth control prescription not only for my health (painful, irregular periods) but also because having a baby would not have been a great thing for me to do at the time. So, I went to Planned Parenthood and got an affordable appointment and they showed me how to find an affordable prescription so I could live my life. The work they do there is essential."
"Planned Parenthood is where I turned when I contracted herpes after the first time I had sex. I was living with my extremely religious grandmother who didn't know I was even having sex, let alone had gotten an STI. I never could have worked up the nerve to tell her why I needed to go to the doctor, so I was so glad I was able to schedule my own appointment at Planned Parenthood and get the diagnosis and medication I needed for a relatively low cost — which was essential, as I was barely making any money at the time and had no health insurance."
"Without Planned Parenthood, I likely wouldn't have been able to afford the birth control pills I take to prevent pregnancy and to manage my migraine headaches until very recently. My first gynecological appointment also would have come at a much older age than it did — which, as I found out in that first appointment, could have lead to medical complications due to an undiagnosed uterine condition."
"I have used Planned Parenthood since high school. I was able to get birth control anonymously as a minor and through college. It allowed me an affordable option that didn't leave me with an empty pocket, so I could afford tuition. Many years later, I used their services and funding, again. I would have been left in a bad life situation, as well as financially burdened, had they not helped."
"Planned Parenthood got me through college. They gave me one year of birth control and enough condoms to last me a lifetime without question or judgment. It was at a time when I was being young and irresponsible, as I think a lot of teenagers and young adults tend to be. To take that right away from those that can't afford it, or those in dangerous situations, makes reproductive health a privilege and a luxury.
"People like to blame underserved communities for being reckless when they really just want ownership of their bodies, as though taking control of your reproductive health is easy. To rob 400,000 women of that control is to bind their hands in a way that is racist, sexist, classist, and wholly without compassion. I challenge the Right to tell me what they want their daughters to do if they find themselves in the position of needing emergency care, disease screening, or preventative measures without the funds to acquire them safely."
"I'm already a mother of two unruly, small children. I have a 1-year-old and a 4-month-old, and I'm pregnant. Again. It's not always as easy as, 'Let's make an appointment and situate our situation before it's un-situated in a monumental way.' I have anxiety and depression as well as a bipolar disorder and, on a ridiculously scary level, the outside world terrifies me the majority of the time; the stares, the snide comments, the perpetual feeling that people think they know me and have a right to look down their noses at me.
"I'm on Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Welfare, and Food Stamps, and I'm a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for crying out loud. Walking into the free health clinic to be put on birth control is absolutely embarrassing. It's quite unfair; I endured a year's worth of school only to find out I wouldn't be able to work because daycare expenses are so freaking ridiculous. Still, I 'chose this' because I chose to keep my first child when I wasn't married and technically homeless (and don't get me wrong — I do love my children to death and they make me who I am, but I'm just a child myself). When I found out about my first pregnancy, I was in despair, but I had no choice but to step up because I was afraid I'd be the 'monster' everyone made me out to. All because I wasn't ready.
"Followed by a second child, and losing the job I had by the grace of God landed at a nursing home, came more depression. I'm in a severely abusive relationship with a drug addict, and I'm broke because our funds go to his habits. I'm wearing the same pants I've been wearing for three years, because my kids come before me. I haven't bought a new bra in three years. I cry myself to sleep every night because I'm 22 and [in this situation].
"So, where would I be without Planned Parenthood? Well, as nauseous as the thought of abortion makes me, the thought of bringing another small, innocent life into such an unbearable living situation makes me even sicker. We sometimes get ourselves into situations that are beyond our control, sometimes we lose our grip on things, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. I'm not in a position to have another child any time soon. I just absolutely can't. Planned Parenthood has given me a saving grace and a one time pass and a 'Hey, you made a mistake and we understand and we're here to help.' Planned Parenthood has literally saved my life. No question."
"Without Planned Parenthood, my entire life would be completely different. When I decided to go to law school in 2005, there was no law that allowed children to be on their parent's health insurance until age 26. Because of Planned Parenthood, I was able to get safe and necessary annual checkups while pursuing my degree. Without Planned Parenthood as an option, I'm not sure I would have gone to law school knowing I wouldn't have an affordable option for reproductive healthcare for three years."
"I would not have had access to the care I needed when I became pregnant. Prenatal care, pamphlets on genetics, various tests, urine testing for abnormalities and high white blood cell counts to be prepared for any stresses my son might have been under, access to prenatal vitamins that I couldn't afford. The help I received from their staff, pointing me in the direction of receiving lactation support, who to contact for help from domestic violence, and so many more situations that we face as women and especially as new parents.
"I would not have had access to birth control when the cysts on my ovaries were bursting while I was self employed.
"I would not have had an advocate."
"My freshman year of college, I was being intimate with my boyfriend (of, like, three years, for what it's worth) and the condom broke. We were always incredibly careful, and I was on birth control, but random sh*t happens that you can't control. My cycle had been strange, probably due to stress, but I was terrified. I was 18 and going to school full-time (at a $45,000 a year school) and working part time for $7.00 an hour. I am against abortion and could not handle the idea of accidentally getting pregnant. I went to CVS for Plan B but, based on my circumstances, could not afford the $50.
"I broke down in nervous tears to a friend, who let me know that there was a Planned Parenthood in town. I was able to go there and get the pill at a prorated rate. I have not needed the pill since and honestly probably still would have been fine without it, but the peace of mind that Planned Parenthood supplied me with in that moment has stayed with me, seven years later (and will continue to). So, essentially, Planned Parenthood helped me prevent the potential need for an abortion."
"I waited much longer than I should have to get my first Pap smear. I was completely terrified, and upset beyond all reason — and the more time went by, the more difficult it seemed for me to do it. Eventually, I scheduled an appointment with Planned Parenthood to get birth control, and the doctor there was so comforting and reassuring that I ended up having it done, and it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I had imagined. She was incredibly kind, and made me feel like not only was I going to be OK, but really talked to me about the importance of annual Pap smears in a way that didn't terrify me. I went there for many years in my late teens and early twenties, before I had health insurance because it was all that I could afford, but I would strongly recommend them to anybody for women's preventive healthcare."
"Shortly after I had [my daughter], I was pregnant again. I decided an abortion would be the best for both [my daughter] and I at that time. I went to Planned Parenthood and they were like family to me. They made sure I felt safe and comfortable and I didn't feel any judgment from the start of my appointment to the end of it. They went above and beyond to help me. Without their help I have no doubts that I wouldn't be at the place I'm at today."
"My life without Planned Parenthood would likely be one without sex and with seriously deformed genitalia. I went to Planned Parenthood when I had recently gotten married (2 months in, maybe?) because I had developed a Streptococcus infection on the interior portion of both sides of my labia minora. That's right, I got strep throat on my vulva. The infection developed rapidly over about 48 hours to the point where my both of the 'inner' faces of my labia minora were covered in a white plaque (like you see on tonsils with a strep infection.) I literally fainted when I tried to pee because it hurt so bad when the slightly acidic urine hit the wounds (that was messy, fainting while peeing).
"Because [I got married] I was booted off my mom's insurance plan (I was only 22). I didn't have any insurance for the first time in my life, and I had this insane plaque of mystery microbes literally eating my vulva (flesh eating bacteria did cross my mind). Not only did Planned Parenthood treat me with compassion and listened when I said I had not been recently exposed to STIs and that my then-fiancé and I got tested when we started dating each other, they also literally saved my vulva and vagina and figured out what this crazy bizarre infection was.
"The infection could have robbed me of both of my labia minora, and left behind scar tissue that would have complicated childbirth or resulted in severe tearing. So yeah, Planned Parenthood is the sh*t and they saved my body from what we now affectionately call the zombie vulva incident. All for $100, I might add."
"In college, when I was home on break, I noticed a painful herpes-like sore on my vagina. I couldn’t go to my parents about it because they were super religious (didn’t know I was having sex), and I was scared to go to my doctor because we live in a gossip-heavy town where the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t hold much merit. My only option was to go to Planned Parenthood and get tested for an STD.
"As it turns out, I had herpes. But rather than write me a prescription, send me on my way, and silently judge me as I walked out the door (like my doctor would have), the doctor there made sure I was OK. She took the time to dispel any myths I believed about herpes, answer any questions I had, and comfort me as I cried.
"Had it not been for Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t know how to manage my herpes. And worse than that, I would still carry around some sort of shame for having it."
"Without Planned Parenthood, I would not have been able to get the birth control I needed in order to function through my time of the month (severe cramping — they thought I may even have endometriosis). But since I got the birth control I needed with them, I went to school and became head of a department in one of the biggest dental offices in the Midwest.
"Without Planned Parenthood, I would have had a child much too young and I would have never been able to move to Nebraska so easily, to help take care of my uncle in his last years of life.
"Planned Parenthood gave me peace of mind after I was raped that I wasn't given an STD or [hadn't became] pregnant. I am forever in debt to those services."
"To me, Planned Parenthood has always been a place that has allowed me to feel safe, should I need it. It gave me a sense of comfort during college that I didn't always have from family or friends. It doesn't judge women for who they are or the decisions they make — it lets women live their lives. Planned Parenthood puts a faith in women that society doesn't seem to have. Without Planned Parenthood, those feelings would quickly fade away. But, should something happen to Planned Parenthood, I am privileged enough to go elsewhere if necessary. Make no mistake, so many other women aren't as lucky. And that lack of security for them is crushing."
"In my early 20s, I became pregnant while I was unemployed. I also had no savings, the man who impregnated me was not in the picture, I had a substance abuse issue, I had no family, I wasn't mentally healthy enough to be a parent, and — most importantly — I have never wanted to become a mother. I can remember staring in disbelief at that positive pregnancy test like it was yesterday. I burst into tears. I thought my life was over. I wondered if I would even be able to afford to get an abortion — if not, I would have to move back in with my abusive mother, and put this child through the same awful childhood I had had. I considered suicide, just because I thought I was a waste of space.
"Planned Parenthood allowed me to pay for my abortion on a sliding scale, with the meager amount of money I had been able to borrow from my (equally broke) friends. After my abortion, I felt like I had been rescued from rock bottom, and decided to turn my life around — I stopped partying, I sought mental health support, I pushed myself to find a job where I was valued.
"It took me two years to pay all my friends back, and every time I handed one of them a check, I remembered how Planned Parenthood had helped me save my own life, at a time when I wasn't sure that that was worth doing. I owe them everything. Without Planned Parenthood, forget achieving my dreams — I'm not even sure I would be here right now."
"I actually can't imagine what my life would be like without Planned Parenthood. Because so many friends — so many women I depend on for guidance and support in my day-to-day life, so many women I depend on to survive — have used Planned Parenthood's services to survive themselves. A life without Planned Parenthood means a life without those women, without support, and that's a reality that's simply too distressing to consider. In fact, just as distressing as the thought of a future without Planned Parenthood."