Thought Catalog

Yesterday Was A Sad Day For Women's Health

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Yesterday was disappointing for a lot of women, myself included. Yesterday, Susan G. Komen severed its ties with Planned Parenthood. And by ties, I mean funding. By ties, I mean one organization that was founded to support (primarily) women’s health backed away from another organization that supports (primarily) women’s health — and they did it because they allegedly folded to pressure from anti-choice lobbyists.

If you’re not familiar, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a leading fundraiser for breast cancer research and awareness. The annual grant Planned Parenthood received from Komen was responsible for 170,000 breast cancer screenings and 6,400 mammogram referrals each year. And Planned Parenthood? One of the most prolific and just… goddamn important health care providers in the United States, one I’ve relied on for education and treatment more times than I can count over the past decade.

Years ago I wrote an essay about discovering that I had HPV, which I recently published with Gaby Dunn on 100 Interviews. And while my story isn’t or wasn’t unique (20 million Americans have a strain of it), there were a few paragraphs in particular I hoped would jar the reader like they’d jarred me.

It was 9 AM when I reached the corner of Bleecker and Mott. If you’re not familiar with these Manhattan streets, they’re what I’d begrudgingly describe as ‘trendy.’ They’re home to one of Planned Parenthood’s New York City clinics. They’re not the type of place you’d expect to be greeted by an anti-choice protestor, but there I was; there he was.

I approached the protestor because, with his proximity to the building, he was impossible to avoid. I stood on the corner finishing a cigarette. Despite the visibility of my headphones, he began to preach at me. “Don’t you care?” he said, gesticulating wildly at the sandwich board he was wearing. It was covered in photos of partial-birth abortions (which constitute about .02% of all abortions performed in America per year — mostly in an effort to save the mother’s life). “I’m sure they’re not breaking the law in there, and anyway, I’m not here to have an abortion. You should mind your own business,” I responded. I felt wildly inappropriate speaking to a ~70-year-old man like that. Imagine! Someone is finger-wagging me for showing up to an appointment concerning my health (MY health. MINE.) and I’m the one who feels inappropriate. Huh.

“You’re going to go to a place where they do this to babies?” he says. “Would you take your pet to a place where they do this to dogs?” “If my pet potentially had cancer and this was the only affordable option, yeah I’d say I would. You’re not going to convince me to walk away, you know.” This is turning into the longest smoke of my life. “You make me sick,” he says. “Cancer makes you sick, too, which I’m going to get screened for, asshole.”

We continue to sling mud at one another. I suggest that if he’d like me to go to another doctor, he should pay for my health insurance. Then he could order me around, tell me to go wherever and I’d consider it. “This isn’t my responsibility,” he tells me. “Right. It’s my health. It’s my responsibility. Which is why I don’t give a FLYING SH-T about you and your f-cking sandwich board.” At this point, a young girl approaches the door of the clinic; he begins to shout at her. “Ignore him,” I yell, “he’s insane.” I walk into the clinic with her, attempt to hide how shaken I am when she asks me, “Are you here to get an abortion?” “No.” I wanted to tell her all of the reasons why that didn’t matter, but I was late for my appointment.

The moral of the story is this: The average American woman has enough strikes against her when it comes to our befuddling health care system. We sit in crowded waiting rooms for hours; we struggle with insurance providers (if we have insurance at all); we battle strangers and our own conscience just to get a goddamn cancer screening. Just to be proactive. Just to do the things that Susan G. Komen for the Cure urges us to do.

And I mean, for what? To get berated? To be told that, because our best option for treatment and education also happens to be pro-choice, we should be punished? I’ve sat in rooms with these women, these Planned Parenthood patients, for hours. The best way to describe them is tired. The 30-year-old divorcee who lost her insurance when she lost her husband. The teenager who’s there to get birth control. The woman who might be pregnant — who hopes she’s pregnant! — and needs to see a doctor. And yeah, those of us who are there to get annuals, who are there to get a routine breast examination. We’re tired of the pomp and circumstance that comes along with taking responsibility for ourselves. We’re tired of being told we’re bad. We’re tired of organizations like Susan G. Komen insisting we take a proactive stance on our health and then backing away from us like we’re lepers because we can’t afford to sit in a polished private practice and get felt up by some blonde who graduated Duke and summers in Tahoe.

It’s discouraging. Susan G. Komen’s actions alienate such a great number of women that they might as well don that sandwich board themselves. Komen has decided to align with the anti-choice movement because they don’t want their money to aid in a legal procedure the clinics happen to offer. Fair enough, Planned Parenthood’s funding does go wherever it’s needed. It goes to contraceptives and pap smears and breast examinations and occasionally, abortions. It goes to STD treatment, pregnancy counseling, AIDS screenings. It follows that to pull away from Planned Parenthood is to pull away from women’s health — a premise Susan G. Komen was founded on, exists for. And while I support what they do, while my grandmother died of breast cancer, I can’t help but express what a disservice this is to their goal, to women. We don’t need more enemies. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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    • http://twitter.com/jennifersussex Jennifer Sussex

      I believe the receptionist sits behind a bulletproof glass counter at that location, if what I’ve heard is correct….

    • Anonymous

      good job, stephanie

    • http://twitter.com/iamsubmerged Jordana Bevan

      i think i’m going to find a perch with the PP door in view and just snipe the fuck out of the crazies

      • http://twitter.com/iamsubmerged Jordana Bevan

        /just anywhere in general where the people who pressured Komen & Co. go and congregate. sigh.

        • http://twitter.com/iamsubmerged Jordana Bevan

          which is evil and amoral just like what they’re doing. which means i can’t do that. ugh, this is why good never wins. you can’t fight evil by following the rules.

    • h.zang

      Thank you.

    • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/contributors/brian-mcelmurry/ Brian M

      Damn! This is a great piece. It’s amazing that people think Planned Parenthood is only for abortions when it’s such a small percentage of what they do. Most women go for birthcontrol and cancer screening and other matters. Jesus, that is horrible of the Susan J. Koman foundation.

    • Brian

      Planned Parenthood goes to contraceptives and pap smears and breast examinations and occasionally, slaughtering the defenseless and inconvenient. Murder is only one of the many services they offer. What an organization!

      • A L Dunne

        hospitals also provide abortions. Let’s defund hospitals.

      • Anonymous

        oh my god

      • Clitty McLabia

        Bravo for your ignorance! You opt to use the word “murder” when you don’t realize the importance of Planned Parenthood among millions of American women and men. Educate yourself, asshole. 

      • Honestly?

        Once again, a man telling women what to do with their bodies when they have no idea what it’s like to not be able to afford basic health care. Abortions are one of the services they offer, however with their cancer screenings and education they save MANY more lives (y’know, the lives that are ACTUALLY living right now…your mother, sister, aunt, cousin, girlfriend, wife, friend…) than they take. Shame on you for trying to control another person.

        YOU DO NOT OWN ME.

        • http://luzidentraumen.blogger.com/ Liah

          Actually, they don’t take any lives to begin with.  But otherwise, I agree with this comment.  They do save many, many lives.

        • Brian

          Right, lives aren’t taken. It’s just a magic trick. Poof! and they’re gone.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704016484 Joe Ott

          Although medical procedures may seem magical to the ill-informed, they’re actually quite sophisticated achievements that some of us hold out as specters of hope in a society besieged by the medieval ignorance you so acutely demonstrate. Despite your chauvinism, I would hope–pray?– that at some point you may accept that the liberty to makes choices for oneself is a more valuable component of our lives than any amount of weak hyperbole you can muster in support of your position.

          You are a coward, unable to muster the strength to see what is plainly true, that people can, have, and will continue to make up their own minds about matters which you can have no right concern. I pity you, your fight cannot be won, because we won’t let you.  

      • Anonymous

        Ugh, I bet you like Nickelback.

        • http://twitter.com/scruzz Shawn

          bwahhhahahhaah.

        • Brian

          How perceptive of you.

      • Ingrid

        Hey, dude, unless you’ve adopted any of the thousands of “inconveniences” currently living in foster care, kindly STFU. 

    • zlady6

      Great piece!

    • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

      Thank you for standing up for our rights. 

    • cassius

      thank you

    • Carrie

      I’ve been to the same Planned Parenthood (also not to get an abortion). Great article. This is truly upsetting.

    • Caterssp

      By all means, I don’t think it’s a good thing that the Susan G. Komen foundation pulled funding for Planned Parenthood. I’ve been there myself (also not for an abortion but for a health issue) but if you read their side of the story it makes sense from a foundation stand point. They recently changed their grant policies and Planned Parenthood is government funded. I’m sure Planned Parenthood is not the only group who had funding and no longer does, and there are probably other places that will now receive funding that otherwise could not help women.
      Planned Parenthood is an important place and I don’t wish for them to be shut down or whatever, but I think people need to back of the Susan G. Komen foundation just a little bit. They are still doing a lot to help women everywhere learn what to look for, pay for mammograms, and fight breast cancer. The money that is being taken away from Planned Parenthood will just be relocated and used for the same thing it’s always done.

    • Katie

      Maybe the strategists at Susan G. Komen felt they were better suited to withdrawl from an alliance that is not completely in line with their mission statement? They’re entitled to do so if that is the case.

    • ns1

      Wow, that funny. I know a lot of people who were happy about this decision and are will now go back to supporting the Susan G. Komen foundation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

      Thing is its called “Planned Parenthood” – basically accidental pre-martial pregnancies. Maybe if they called it something that just implies it’s a woman’s clinic and was more general.

      • http://fazed-girl.blogspot.com Samantha

        Parenthood isn’t solely for women, though.

        [EDIT: Wait I think I just read this wrong.]

        [EDIT: Oh I did. JESUS CAN I DELETE THIS]

    • http://hotfemmeinthecity.wordpress.com/ natasia

      I love this article, the split of the Komen foundation with Planned Parenthood didn’t receive as much  media attention as it should have.

    • suzy q

      AMEN SISTA!

    • Anonymous

      I feel really bad for American women and the shit you have to face from the pro lifers. We British don’t have it nearly as bad.

      • rose georgia

        good old blighty.

    • Katalogued

       Just as a sidenote: absolutely no federal funds can be used for abortion at PP anyway; it’s the law under the Hyde Amendment. So that makes it even dumber that they separated, in my mind. The government isn’t providing funds for abortions anyway.

      • Vada

        Susan G. Komen funding and federal funding aren’t in the same boat, I don’t know if Komen also had provisions that none of their money be used for abortion. It seems they could have looked into adding that as a stipulation and continued to give funding (not that I support the antichoice view, but at least then the other services wouldn’t suffer). Instead, they’ve abandoned a very important demographic that still needs the screening services but can’t afford it

    • ns1

      Are you all into deleting comments because we dont agree?

    • http://twitter.com/scruzz Shawn

      I’d just LOVE to see how people would react if women started protesting in front of clinics where men go to donate semen, or get vasectomies, or whatever else is pretty much unnatural.

      Meh.

      • Domino

        your point being?

        • and it is

          I think she thinks it’s sad. 

      • suzy q

        I’m not following your comparison. 

        • http://twitter.com/scruzz Shawn

          If women started protesting about what men can/can’t do with their bodies. 2+ 2.

    • Domino

      Great, great piece. I often find it very hard to not get angry at pro-lifers, thinking it is their right to speak their mind and think whatever they want, but it is very hard to do so when they start screaming their beliefs in your face and pointing a finger at you and insulting you for making decisions on YOUR body. The ironic thing is these so called life-defenders have put bombs in women’s health care centers that provided abortions, and have tried to kill or have killed doctors who perform abortions. 

      • Brian

        You’re thinking of extremists. Those who value all forms of human life are more likely to be praying for the doctors, not trying to kill them.

        • Domino

          yes, that’s true. but i often find that people who are pro-life are a lot more aggressive in their views rather than those who are pro-life. and although i definitely don’t think that abortion is something that is to be taken lightly, it is not murder, and it is our right. 

        • Domino

          sorry, *rather than those who are pro-choice

    • LWilliams128

      Thank you for putting into words the frustration we feel. How dare others judge ANYONE for going to a clinic and taking care of themselves, for whatever reason they need to be there. God help you if you have a poor insurance plan or have no insurance at all. Planned Parenthood is an AMAZING establishment. They provide treatments and check-ups for those not in the financial position to schedule such things at another place. And if a woman does go there for an abortion we should be SUPPORTING her for making one of the hardest decisions she’ll face. We don’t know the situation that her pregnancy came out of; it could be the result of something as horrible as being raped. Congratulations to all the women who are BRAVE enough and STRONG enough to make a decision like this even while facing horribly ignorant and downright evil people that stand outside those doors that yell at anyone who approaches. And good on you for not letting that man standing outside scream at you a midst his ignorance.

    • lanky

      Thank you for writing this. It’s weird but this piece makes me proud to be a woman; it also makes me feel proud of the author for standing up for herself and for all of us. 
      One of my favourites on Catalog  

    • allegra

      thank you to ms. georgopulos for shining a light….i have witnessed the harrassment that young women sometimes face whilst trying to keep their healthcare appts at the Bleecker/Mott St Planned Parenthood location and have found myself escorting complete strangers to the door in order to keep the crazies at bay…it’s so sad that some people think they have the right to inflict their views on others…just really rude and inappropriate behavior…

      • PJ

        But u don’t think it is “so sad” that abortionists have the “right” to murder innocent unborn children…. You don’t acknowledge that as crazy but expressing an opinion is? Nice logic.

        • Anonymous

          The unborn are not people. Women, with feelings and experiences and life and sadness and happiness and choices and rights, are people.

        • Brian

          Unborn babies don’t have feelings, life, sadness, or happiness? Can you cite your source?

          I suppose when that babies cry, they weren’t feeling anything just a moment earlier when he or she was still inside the mother?

          I bet you’re happy your parents birthed you, hypocrite.

        • Anonymous

          When I talk to you, I’m not. And it would have been my mother’s choice. My parents wanted me and I was very very lucky. But if I’d been born out of rape, or incest or to a mother who died because she had me or to someone who could not care for me – I would be very sad to be born.

          Cite your source that they do. Cite your source that they’re more important than people who are already living.

        • Brian

          People who are sad to be alive are depressed, and that’s a disease.

          All lives are equal; I never said one is greater than the other.

          I’m willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they want to live, as every sane person does.

        • Anonymous

          But you are saying one is greater than the other. In fact, you’re saying a group of unformed cells is greater than a living, breathing woman.

        • Brian

          I most certainly did not say that. In fact, I said, “All lives are equal; I never said one is greater than the other.”

        • rose georgia

          being depressed is not being insane.

        • Brian

          I agree, depression does not necessarily imply insanity. What’s your point?

        • rose georgia

          ‘People who are sad to be alive are depressed, and that’s a disease.

          I’m willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they want to live, as every sane person does.’
          i had a problem with the way you phrased that.

        • Brian

          You misinterpreted. I meant that sane people give everyone the benefit of the doubt regarding whether or not they want to live. I could have phrased it better.

        • Circles

          Babies cry to draw attention to pain, hunger and tiredness. You think something that it unborn and undeveloped can FEEL anything, let alone emotions such as sadness? I’m embarrassed for you right now.

        • Brian

          The point is that they do have feelings, and rationalizing killing them by saying they haven’t developed more complex feelings yet is heinous.

        • Circles

          “The point is thatthey do have feelings”. That, is some solid evidence right there. I suppose dead people can feel sadness for their own recent departures? It is impossible to feel if you are not alive.

        • Brian

          Beating hearts would be a key difference in your cute comparison.

        • Circles

          Not until week 5-6. Still not connected to emotional feelings. UNborn you see.

        • Brian

          Then abortions stop a beating heart at 5 weeks or later, and that’s just one of many reasons it is inhumane.

        • Circles

          But the fetus can feel neither sad that it is being terminated, nor happy if it isn’t. Fetuses have no feelings. Living, breathing women do.

        • Brian

          Listen, Circles. Clearly you believe there is no value in the earliest and arguably the most crucial stages in human life, so much so that they may be “terminated” on a whim. The tragedy is that a thought process like yours also exists in the minds of many others.

          On the other hand, many like myself believe everyone has a right to live, and that natural right is granted to all from the very first moment of their existence.Obviously, no one is changing any minds over an internet message board. I’m not a religious man, but I pray for people like you, that you will learn to appreciate the greatest gift on earth. Signing off.

        • Circles

          Oh Brian, I believe that the most valuable stages of human life are when one is actually alive. It’s that simple. My thought processes, nor those of people who agree with that view, are not tragic. You are a supremely patronising individual. Please do not pray for me (how did I know that God had an unhealthy influence in your disregard of the choices of women to be autonomous eh?) or others like me, it’s you who needs all the help you can get.

        • saba2437

          You are totally entitled to your opinion.  Life is messy and difficult and most the time we have to make choices that we really dont want to but they are our personal choices.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice.   I don’t think that anyone can be so forceful in their opinion and belittle others unless they have walked the walk and you, sir, have a penis.  It’s real easy to look down your nose at others when you will NEVER be presented with the responsibility of making a life changing decision or follow thru and have no frame of reference as to which you speak.  You can’t argue religion and moral and science in the same breath without sounding ridiculous.

        • PPX

          Sir, you are insane

        • Ajcabral

          How perverted. You fail to defend the most vulnerable yet expect me to believe you defend feelings and rights.

        • Guest

          yes…the unborn and the dead are one in the same. both have no feelings. a dead person is comparable to a fetus.  not to mention, most abortions are a result of unplanned pregnancy.  do you really think a child should enter the world with parents that had no plans on having a child at all?  don’t you think stopping pain before it starts is more logical than having the child and then treating it poorly simply because you were not ready for it?

        • Guest

          expressing an opinion when you YOURSELF have no intention of clothing, feeding, and supporting these “unborn” babies once they are born and taking care of these babies while their mothers work, and sitting there and acting as a therapist if and when, one or all of these mothers maybe decides she resents her baby because she never wanted it in the first place….is crazy.

            keep your opinions to yourself unless you plan on supporting all these unborn and sometimes unwanted babies.  God, pro-choice doesnt mean PRO-BABYDEATH, it just means that just because your body is capable of something doesn’t mean you always want that “thing” to happen.  Being born with a uterus does not also mean you are born with an innate URGE/WANT for children. This is coming from someone who very much wants children one day, and in fact loves children.  But 3 or so developing cells in my uterus is not a baby, i dont CRY every time i have my period and think…that could’ve been little junior, damn my BLEEDING WASTEFUL UTERUS.wouldn’t you like to think that you’re on this earth because your mother CHOSE to have you whatever the circumstances of conception? rather than because she was obligated by law?

        • Kaye

          PJ, while I can appreciate and even applaud your moral stance on this issue, I must ask one very simple question…are you willing to take on the responsibility of these “innocent unborn children”, from the time of conception, thru birth, and for the rest of their lives?  If you cannot, or will not, then you do not have the right of expecting others to.

    • Mjbbelyea

      thank you for sharing! no need to say more as you said it all. Thank you 

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