In a symbolic political move, the House of Representatives voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. Although it’s clear that the White House would veto the legislation, the misguided action by Congress shows how disconnected politicians are from the realities Americans face when it comes to health care. In fact, some Republicans in Congress are willing to risk a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.
The attack on Planned Parenthood triggered activists to share their personal stories about how the organization helped them terminate their pregnancies. While the bold #ShoutYourAbortion campaign seeks to do away with the stigma associated with ending a pregnancy, it’s important to remember that abortion only accounts for 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides.
I relied on Planned Parenthood for something else, and I want to share my story:
When I was 19 and working at a car dealership as a receptionist, I remember adjusting my top to make sure my bra wasn’t visible. As I slipped my thumb down the front part of my bra to put everything in place, I felt a noticeably large lump on my right breast.
I’ll never forget the feeling of panic taking over my entire body. I knew I was considered too young to have breast cancer, but one of my good friends was diagnosed at an extremely young age. My mom also had a malignant tumor removed from her chest, and I worried I had something similar. I desperately needed to find out what the lump was, but I was a college student with no health insurance who was making due with a tiny hourly wage.
I took to the internet and started researching local doctors immediately. Every time I called a physician’s office, I ran into the same issue many people without insurance are confronted with – they all asked whether or not I had health coverage. Once I said no, they mentioned the high price peace of mind would cost me. I’d have to shell out $100 just to see a doctor, and it would cost additional charges if I wanted a breast exam or a sonogram.
Considering how scared I was, I didn’t care about the price. I was willing to charge however much it took to see a doctor on my credit card. I made an appointment with one female physician who seemed reasonably priced and met with her a week later.
After charging $100 on my credit card and signing endless paperwork, I finally met with the doctor. She reviewed the questionnaire I filled out and asked about insurance again.
“I don’t have insurance,” I said while quickly losing patience. “I’m a college student who works part time.” I added that I needed a sonogram done to ensure that I don’t have cancer.
“A sonogram will cost you an additional $200 if you don’t have insurance,” the doctor answered back.
Although I was tempted to just charge the amount on my card, I figured that there had to be a better way to get what I needed at a more reasonable price. I felt defeated, alone, and scared. I didn’t want to tell my parents about what I was going through because I knew it would frighten them. My mom is a notorious worry wart about things that aren’t even worth worrying about. How would she react to me possibly having cancer?
All of a sudden I remembered Planned Parenthood. I had no idea whether or not they could help me, but I knew that their clinic was free to anyone who couldn’t pay for the services. I made an appointment with the nearest clinic and a doctor was able to see me the next day.
When I showed up to the clinic, a woman at the front desk asked me how much my annual income was and what I could afford to pay. When it was clear that I couldn’t afford much, she said that I didn’t have to pay a dime for the visit, and that I could donate a small amount if I wished to do so. I gave her a $10 bill, and thanked her incessantly for being so kind. A few minutes later I saw a doctor.
The doctor had me wear one of those paper robes and laid me down so she could give me a breast exam. There was no talk about my financial status or whether I had coverage.
Do you drink coffee?” she asked.
When I replied yes, she said that it was likely that I had fibrocystic breasts caused by too much caffeine consumption. She was beyond helpful and informative, but more importantly she made me feel like I was her priority in my very vulnerable state.
When I asked for a sonogram to ensure that the lump wasn’t cancerous, she informed me that Planned Parenthood does not perform them for scenarios like mine. But she did refer me to a doctor who was willing to do it for free.
I finally got the confirmation I so desperately wanted. The sonogram proved that I didn’t have cancer, but I was also warned to keep an eye on my fibrocystic situation in case I ever do develop a cancerous lump that gets mistaken for something benign. When you have a bunch of cysts – and I had many – it’s easy to miss cancer during a self breast exam.
A decade has passed and my experience with Planned Parenthood gave me first-hand knowledge of how important the organization is. Taking funding away from clinics that provide contraceptives, STD tests, and breast exams is counterproductive for those who genuinely value the lives of others. Aside from that, religious perspectives shouldn’t play a role in Congressional decisions when we’re supposed to live in a country that has a separation of church and state.