This post is part of Fair and Feminist’s I Stand with Planned Parenthood Blog Carnival. This post also has a bit of TMI. Just sayin’.
Last week, when the US House of Representatives voted to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood, I furiously went on a bit of a tweeting spree, trying to squeeze as much into 140 characters as possible. One of my tweets said: “Don’t know what I wouldve done w/o Planned Parenthood when jobless. Helped me SO MUCH w/svcs I wouldnt b able 2 afford @reg doc #StandWithPP.”
But actually, I know exactly what I would’ve done if I hadn’t been able to see a doctor at Planned Parenthood: On several occasions, I would’ve had to go to an emergency room and wait in sheer agony, at which point I would’ve flat-out lied in response to standard questions about my medical history in order to avoid any possibility of condescension (and an unnecessary pregnancy test). And then, in the months that followed, I would’ve had to deal with bills that I’m damn sure would have been turned over to a collection agency by now.
You see, I am cursed with semi-frequent UTIs. I haven’t had a nasty one in a long while, but for whatever reason, there was a period when I was living in New York when I was getting them every month or two. To make matters worse, my UTIs tend to be asymptomatic: one minute I’m feeling great, the next minute I’m doubled over in pain and peeing clots of blood. It SUCKS.
It sucks even more when you are completely broke and desperate and internet-less and living thousands of miles from home and have no idea where to find a doctor, and it’s a Friday afternoon and all the doctor’s offices are going to close soon for the weekend anyway. My only other option: go to the emergency room and get hundreds of dollars into debt just for the privilege of peeing into a cup and getting a prescription. I assure you, copious amounts of tears and panic were involved just thinking about that.
Then it hit me: Planned Parenthood can totally help me with this!
But let’s go back a bit: If you were scratching your head earlier when I said that I sometimes lied about my medical history, allow me to explain. Because of a medical issue that I’ve always had to deal with, depending on the situation and the reason I’m at the doctor, withholding certain information is sometimes easier than explaining myself over and over to people who want to tell me what my problem is before actually listening to me. I’ve had awesome doctors and nurses in the past, but I’ve also had to deal with some real shitheads who either judge me or speak down to me like I’m a child. And dealing with a condescending shithead when your crotch and kidneys are on fire? Not cool.
A conversation I’ve had in the past:
Me: I have a UTI.
Doctor: You don’t know that.
Me: I’m peeing blood and I’m prone to getting them. I have a UTI.
Doctor: Well, we’ll see about that.
Me: I know how to read my own body when it comes to this.
Doctor: Are you sure you’re not just on your period?
My first experience at Planned Parenthood? The exact opposite of this conversation. I ended up loving my doctor there precisely because she always listened to me, regardless of what my test results and/or (non)symptoms said. I can’t praise her and the staff there enough. Once (also on a Friday afternoon), when they were too swamped to take me, they called around to several other clinics in the area until they found someone who could see me that day. It turns out that the staff at the other clinic stayed a little later just for me. I have nothing but praise for them as well.
Since I was completely broke, I was able to pay the lowest fees on their sliding payment scale. Because of the sliding scale, I was later take some other important tests that I’d never been able to afford at a regular doctor’s office, and my doctor spoke to me at length about the results. Most importantly, she was the only doctor who has ever told me “these results are totally normal for you, and these are the options you can pursue in the future if you decide you want to go that route, but if you don’t want to do anything, that’s fine too.” Hearing her say that to me was practically revolutionary, considering all the judgement I’ve experienced in the past.
Why does all of this matter to me?
- Because I know that these doctors–and doctors in Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide–are listening to their patients.
- Because I know that, had I–a woman of color–gone in to find out about abortion options or HIV testing, I would’ve been treated with the same respect.
- Because I know that, for thousands of women nationwide, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can go for affordable, necessary screening services.
The law is going to have the most impact on people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged: people who are at a higher risk of dying from undiagnosed and/or untreated health problems.
The Senate probably won’t let the law pass. And if they did, President Obama probably wouldn’t sign it. Even so, various state legislatures are chipping away women’s access to the important health services provided by Planned Parenthood and clinics like it. While the law isn’t likely to survive at the federal level, anti-choice laws that have broad healthcare implications will affect Texas and other red states.
I stand with Planned Parenthood. And at noon tomorrow, I’ll be in Austin with my friend and my little sister, standing on the steps of the state capitol to protest these anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-poor people, anti-healthcare laws.