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This week in The Malarkey Bin I followed a link to this article about Why I Can’t Afford Not to Go to Planned Parenthood. It is a powerful, required reading post that also inspired me to tell my own Planned Parenthood story.
In a way my story is a success story. There was a clinic in my home town. It was accessible, and I didn’t have to negotiate protesters or strict security to get to my appointment. It was the early 90s, and the thought that there had been a time when women weren’t able to take control of their health care amazed me. Yes, I was more than a little naive … give an 18 year old a break.
According to Wikipedia in 2010 my hometown had a population of 16, 896 people. Sounds about right, I’d be willing to bet there were a few more when I was growing up, maybe around 18,000? The population isn’t as important as knowing that our town was poor. Built up around an industry that has been dying since before I was born, the town was small, without a lot of diversions for kids. Once you got your license the first thing you did was drive 50 miles east to the State Capital to start hanging out at the mall there, or 20 miles west to the beaches. We may have grown up in the twin shadows of Ted Bundy, he had allegedly tried to pick up a friend’s mom in a bar, and the Green River Killer, still active north and east of us, but I would argue we were the last of a generation of free range kids. From the moment I moved there when I was 10 I was walking all over town. Either 6 blocks from our apartment to the public library, or the longer mile to my elementary school every morning. Before my friends and I got our driver’s licenses, and even after, we would walk all over town.
So, while it wasn’t all terrible, for the purposes of this tale the best image to leave you with is this: when I first heard of the alleged Pregnancy Pact in Gloucester, Ma., the only thing that surprised me about the story was that it happened somewhere other than my home town. Even when I graduated, I’m pretty sure no one got out of our high school without knowing at least one person who had gotten pregnant before graduation. Before I got out of the town for good, the age at which girls were getting pregnant just seemed to be getting lower. My brother, sister, and I joke that the greatest accomplishment in our family was all three of us getting out of that place without having a kid before we were 18. We don’t make that joke at anyone’s expense, many of the young parents we know are some of the best parents we know, and when you are young in our home town there is not a lot to do outside the backseat of a car. If it weren’t for the Planned Parenthood clinic in our town, I don’t think I could even estimate the number of teen pregnancies we would have seen in my high school.
Right now, you are probably imagining a much different story than the mundane one I am about to tell. Although I’d contemplated it for a couple of years before, it wasn’t until I had graduated from high school that I visited our clinic. The funniest part about high school for me was that by the time I graduated I knew that at least twice rumors had spread that I was pregnant, and at least once there was a conflicting rumor that I was a lesbian. It was all amusing to me because I was pretty sure I was the only person I knew not sexually active.
What lead me to Planned Parenthood? I’d read that when a woman turned 18 she needed to have her first Pap Smear, so I made an appointment. I also wanted birth control pills to regulate my periods and alleviate my cramps. My cramps were so bad that I routinely took 3 – 4 Advil at a time just to get through the days that I had them. I was still working part time at a grocery store without health benefits. Planned Parenthood was the only place I could afford to go for standard health care. My story isn’t dramatic, but illustrates a point often lost in the current war on reproductive rights.
Planned Parenthood is essential to all aspects of women’s health care.
What is your Planned Parenthood story?