I wrote this post some time ago now, and I did more than hesitate to post it. In fact, I almost didn’t at all.
This is because my reproductive health is no one’s business!
After a time I was compelled to speak out on behalf of an organization that had given me the greatest gift in the world, control of my body.
For those people who have never been to Planned Parenthood allow me to share my experiences, I hope they can be received with open ears. I think I am qualified to write on this topic because I have been a patient with them my whole adult life.
No, this does not mean that I have had STDs or abortions; it MEANS that (because of the services I has access to) I avoided both of these sophomoric pitfalls. Nor does it mean that I have been a healthcare freeloader. I have always been employed and thus; declared my income, then paid for my services (on the sliding scale the PP provides) or gone through my insurance.
When I made the decision to be sexually active I felt it of the utmost importance that I take responsibility for that choice, alone. In fact, I reasoned that if I was incapable of taking on that obligation I was in no way ready for such a life altering decision.
Planned Parenthood gave me that resource.
But this story of woman’s health and reproductive services didn’t start with a teenage girl in the 90’s. The road has been long and it reaches back to ancient times.
If we go back before christianity to the pagan era, both male and female part in reproduction were equally respected. The feminine form was exulted for its powerful life-giving abilities. Women had choices, those choices were private and respected. There were wise people, midwives, shamans and priestesses who provided women’s services to the population. From basic feminine needs and medical care, pregnancy, contraception and yes, even abortion.
The advent of christianity rendered wise woman, witches and the old ways, devil’s work. A women was either a virgin, a mother or a whore. The concept of the of the sacred feminine was taken from us and we were left with the archetype of the virgin mother with no healthcare to help us in this unachievable goal. Our resources and knowledge were declared heresy and the punishment for non-conformity was often violence or death.
Centuries passed and still women didn’t regain our basic human rights. A woman, and all the abilities contained within her body and mind were the possession of others. First; her family where (when she she came of breeding age) was sold like chattel. She was then the property of her husband and after that- her male children.
I hope we are at a place in this discourse where we can acknowledge that women have been second class citizens for most of the modern age. We are not bought and sold anymore but we have yet to achieve true equality. There are other groups in America that also suffer from the inequalities of a predominately white patriarchical system. These are the populations who utilize the services Planned Parenthood provides.
Planned Parenthood is not just a womans resource they serve all of those members of our community that would otherwise go without medical treatment of any kind. It is true that I saw many immigrant workers and their families in those endless waiting room hours. Many times; I had shared the room with older, painfully red eyed men but I never realized why they were there. Amongst all the bilingual posters and notices on the walls, there was one that was only posted in Spanish. It was a small 8.5 x11 print out with big implications. It said:
“Diga a su doctor si trabaja en los campos.”
“Tell your doctor if you you work in the fields.”
For those of you who think you have no connections to Santa Cruz, California and the surrounding area I emplor you; go to your fridge and look at your produce. If it says, Salinas, Watsonville, Soledad, Monterey, Seaside etc, then your produce was grown and picked where I’m from. I grew up passing those fields daily. I often wondered why the workers were always wearing hooded sweatshirts, pulled up and tied tight around their faces under the searing California sun.
After translating the notice and a little investigating; I found out that the clinic was one of the only places migrant workers had to receive treatment for the horrendous consequences of pesticide exposure and other health issues that result from working the fields. I am not bringing this up as a gateway to discussing immigration. I am stating that in my experience, the entire industry is dependent on the labor of migrant workers and absolutely no allowances for the resulting illness the system inflicts.
It always has been.
These are people who historically have no rights. Their bodies are used without regard for the individual, by a society that refuses to even acknowledge their existence as anything other than a pest at best and (especially in an election year) a plague.
Another intangible thing that this organization provides is safety and security for the underprivileged populations of the community.
When the patient is called to go back to the exam rooms, only that person is allowed through the door at first. Once safely behind a security door (and the ever present bullet proof glass) the nurse will ask the patient if they want the partner to join them.
The significance of this safety protocol demonstrates why there is such a dire need for systems like these. For the 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men who are victims of domestic violence this procedure may be the only chance they have to take control of their lives. To safely reach out to people who can create meaningful change in their situation.
The major reasons for the opposition is obvious and thinly hidden in the arguments of those who would pull funding for this organization.
There, I said it. If we are going to pretend like this is not the reason there is a controversy to start with I’m not sure if there is any point in continuing. There seems to be this attitude that Planned parenthood somehow invented abortions.
They did not.
In ancient times the non-surgical methods usually involved ingesting a toxin so powerful the resulting illness would force a miscarriage. In modern times (before there were safe places to have such things done) there was always the back-ally option. The choice to end a pregnancy has always been an extremely difficult and dangerous decision for any woman to make. Spiritually, medically and socially.
I was fortunate, because of Planned Parenthood I never had to make that decision for myself.
The termination of unwanted pregnancies is something most females will have to address in their lives, in one why or another. In my teens and twenties I had many friends and classmates who found themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Some chose to terminate the pregnancy and some become mothers at a very young age. I don’t know if either group would change their decision. To this day, I could not say with any assurance what I would have done in their shoes (and don’t blink- because this is the point) I never had to.
If you have never been in the position to make such a choice, then I advise that you sit down and keep your mouth shut. This does not concern you, it never did and never will. Further more I don’t remember any of us ever asking for the opinion.
There seems to be an assumption that Planned Parenthood makes abortions easy (as if that was even a possibility) and I have not come this far in the discussion to pull my punches now. Though I never had an abortion, I did help a friend through one when I was 19. I have been in that room. I can assure you it is an absolute life altering trauma. There was not a single one of us entering that room (Dr. and nurse included) who was not acutely aware that five lives would go in and only four would come out.
I held her hand during the procedure. I took her home and tended to her the rest of the day, it was one of the saddest most tragic days I have ever had and I was only a bystander.
It was not my place to judge her decision. The best I could do was to be kind to her in her time of need and I wouldn’t change any of it. For anyone to add their judgement to that existing pain and hurt is beyond my depth. It is not the christian (you know; that whole “judge not” thing…) or kind thing to do.
Our young nation was founded on ideals like freedom, hope, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom means nothing if there are no options. How can my right to a private vote be more protected than my right to choose when, where and how I procreate?
Were we not the nation that put a statue in the middle of our biggest harbor and declared proudly to the whole world:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door”
Maybe we should add something to the bottom of that powerful statement; “Unless you are going to have sex or get sick, we will have none of that.”
That would be a shame.
As the days passed, the thought this post sitting in my “draft” box made me feel dirty. Like I was watching a kid get beat up by unruly teenagers and walked away instead of trying to stop it, because I was worried they would turn on me as well.
I had to speak out on behalf of people and an organization who had put themselves on the line to give me that measure of control over my life. I needed to speak my peace. So, I took a deep breath and hit “post.”
I don’t regret a thing.