There’s been a lot in the news lately about how the Susan G Komen for the Cure charity has cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Maybe I’m naive, but I marvel that we allow politics to interfere with funding women’s health initiatives. Spoiler alert – this isn’t a post about abortions.
When I was in college, I started going to Planned Parenthood. I couldn’t get an appointment at our college student health center for months and I knew that annual exams were important. At Planned Parenthood, I was made to feel welcome, the clinicians answered my questions without judgment, and I could afford the services provided.
My first job out of college was as an elementary school teacher in rural North Carolina. My take home pay was less than $1,000/month. For nine months out of the year. Health insurance must have been offered as a benefit, but I remember not being able to figure out how to navigate the system or how to get an appointment. It was easier and more convenient to continue to go to Planned Parenthood for my annual exams. So I did.
One day after school I received a call at the elementary school where I taught. I remember the secretary buzzing me over the intercom, telling me there was a call for me in the office. It was a crisp fall day and the afternoon sun was shining brightly, highlighting the blazing red, yellow, and orange leaves on the trees. I walked down the puce green hallway and picked up the phone which was sitting on a weathered old wooden desk. The call was from a clinician from Planned Parenthood. “Lori, your pap smear has come back abnormal. We need you to come back in for more testing.”
Those are scary words for anyone to hear, but they felt especially frightening to a young twenty-something who had just started her first real job and who was struggling with just about every area of her life. The follow-up tests confirmed that I had cancerous cervical cells.
At that point, I gave up on trying to be independent and called my parents, crying and scared. They went to church with a woman who had recently remarried. Her new husband was a respected oncologist. He scheduled me for surgery and follow-up treatment back in my home town. We all lived happily ever after.
If there were no Planned Parenthood, would I have discovered that I needed treatment? Probably, eventually. Would I have discovered it in time to prevent the cancer from spreading? Maybe. Maybe not.
I’m thankful that Planned Parenthood supports women’s health. I’m thankful they encourage women to get annual exams and engage in preventive healthcare measures. I’m thankful that they provide an affordable service to those women and men who don’t have health insurance. And that’s why I continue to support them.