Planned Parenthood helped me graduate college. I don’t say this lightly and the circumstances which surround it are not an easy subject for me, but in light of the recent propaganda circulating about defunding Planned Parenthood, as one of its patients I feel compelled to share my story.
Let me preface this with a few things:
- Planned Parenthood provides an extensive number of services to women and men, other than abortions.
- My sexual history is none of your business, so don’t ask. I’m a classy lady.
- I identify myself as a Christian and as such I understand the contradictions that some may believe exist between believing in Jesus Christ and supporting a woman’s choice to terminating a pregnancy.
When I was a freshmen in college I was working two jobs and taking 18 credits. I am a first generation college student and a first generation immigrant. These two parts of my identity are critical to understanding the circumstances surrounding my experiences in college and the shock I experienced when I first began school. School was expensive and I was not prepared for its rigor. I, with the support of my professors and a lot of trial and error discovered ways to navigate academia so that I could survive. All the while, my body was attacking itself, almost quite literally, because of the amount of stress and pressure I was under. While mentally I felt strong, my body had other plans.
One day I was walking home after work, I lived a short 5 minute walk from campus in an all girl dorm. The sun was setting and it was beautiful outside, I was tired and my body ached, but in the way that it does after a hard days work. On my way home, something suddenly felt wrong. I felt a warm liquid slide down the leg of my pants and I tried walking quicker and faster to get to my dorm. I didn’t even make it to the floor of my room and had to run into the first bathroom I could find. I nearly passed out on the floor of the bathroom and had to drag myself up four floors to get into my bed.
I tried to pretend like everything was okay, but later on I found out that I was becoming anemic while on my period. I was weighing about 89-92 lbs during that time due to a heightened metabolism induced by stress. This is a health problem that I still struggle with, I’ve seen doctors, nutritionists, thyroid specialists, but none have provided me with real solutions other than controlling my stress and workload. I thought this occurrence could be an anomaly, a one time thing.
Then, several weeks later I came down with a cold that developed into bronchitis. I was sick in bed and trying to manage my cough with DayQuil and NyQuil with no one to help me. One morning, I woke up and needed to go to the bathroom. On my way to the bathroom which was easily only 20 feet away from my room I suddenly collapsed. I passed out cold. I’m not sure for how long, or if anyone even noticed. What I hope we’re only moments later, I found myself in the same situation. I was on my period and my anemia had caused me to faint in the middle of the hallway.
I did not understand, I was afraid and I didn’t have anyone I felt comfortable confiding in. I waited till I went home on break and I went to a Planned Parenthood where they explained to me what could potentially be happening with my body. They explained that it’s common for women to become anemic, that birth control could be an option to helping regulate my abnormal period, and that it could be an inexpensive option for me through their programs. Through that conversation I was able to take back my body, to stop fearing the possibility of that happening somewhere on my campus where it could be dangerous or unsafe for me as a young woman, to stop hating my body for attacking me.
Planned Parenthood helped me get the information and resources I needed. It created a space where I could ask honest questions about my body that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do because our society still treats women as these taboo mysterious creatures.
I can understand someone opposing abortions for themselves, but I cannot support anyone supporting the repression of a woman’s right to self-determine the destiny of their body. People will ask me whether or not I would ever get an abortion, and while the easy response would be to say yes or no, I can’t give them a straight answer. To answer such a critical question with such a simple answer invalidates the amount of thought, pain, and consideration that is required of women who are making this decision. So my response from now on has to be I don’t know, and this “I don’t know” should suffice because choosing to have an abortion is much more complicated than wanting or not wanting to have children. For some it might be that simple, but for others it becomes complicated by health risks, concerns for the unborn child, and frankly the potential for a child to complicate and limit their life outcomes. Only 3% of Planned Parenthood services are abortions, and of all abortions performed in the U.S. only 1% are late-term abortions (after 20 weeks). The majority of which are due to health complications in wanted pregnancies and women who are unaware of their pregnancy (Kacere, Laura, “The Truth Behind Late-Term Abortions”, Everyday Feminism).
It is critical to remember that the individuals that we are discussing are other women. The current discussion around abortions and Planned Parenthood is designed to completely defund it, even though it is probably one of the few organizations actively empowering women to take control of their bodies and preventing unwanted pregnancies before they even occur by providing birth control, education, STD tests, women’s health exams, and overall support of women’s health.
Do I plan on having children someday? Perhaps. Do I ever plan on having an abortion? I don’t know, but I do know that I will not allow my own personal decision to repress the rights of other women in the process.
Were it not for Planned Parenthood and its services I probably wouldn’t have been able to graduate college. At the peak of my medical issues I began missing classes and calling into work because I was too weak to even stand on my feet. Attending or missing class was the difference between maintaining my scholarships. Going to work or not was the difference between eating or not. I did not have the luxury of allowing my body to break down or repair. It was do or die. Their services helped empower me, educate me, and help me take control of my body.
I graduated in 2014 and I am now a high school English teacher in a low-income school. Young girls in my school are not informed about their bodies, do not have access to quality healthcare, and are often left without options because of their limited access. Planned Parenthood however, has provided opportunities and education for bright and talented young women within my district to take back control of their bodies. Currently I am working towards receiving my Masters in Education. My first visit to Planned Parenthood still helps guide my decisions in my health to this day.