Since I’m fundraising a charity event for Planned Parenthood in two days, it is probably overdue to explain why I chose PP. My first reason is that nationwide demonstrations will be occurring on my birthday to support the funding of PP, so I found it a natural choice. However, my support for Planned Parenthood goes beyond coincidence. From my experiences, personal and educational, Planned Parenthood is a necessary way to protect women’s reproductive health.
1] Preventative Healthcare is Essential
Morgan County, where I grew up, was always infamous for having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state of Illinois. I had pregnant classmates as early as junior high. Even in special ed classes, there were pregnant girls. Many classmates had multiple children while in high school.
I know many of them are very happy with their children, but it shouldn’t remain overlooked that these were largely unintended pregnancies, and many of them struggled to support their children. Preventative healthcare, like birth control, is essential to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
You can preach abstinence all you want, but there are 7 million people in the world. It’s time to look outside bubbled of security and privilege and be more flexible with methods of prevention.
2] Awareness is Vital
Growing up, girls were encouraged to visit the gyno once they were 18 or sexually active — whichever came first. Now, some resources recommend visiting the gyno even earlier in their teens. Visiting a doctor should not be slut-shamed and should instead be approached as an educational experience. Just as I support people understanding how muscles grow and how you increase your cardiovascular endurance, I think that people should be educated on their reproductive health. Aside from unwanted pregnancies, it’s important to know about your hormones and your fertility.
Personally, both my mom and my dermatologist encouraged me to begin taking birth control when I was 15 to help with my acne. At the time, I had no freakin’ clue what hormones were, but the pills helped, and it helped me become more aware and understanding of my entire body.
Additionally, I had a lump detected in my right breast when I was 17 years old. A week after my high school graduation, I had it surgically removed and thankfully, it was benign. I was told that I might have similar recurring lumps throughout my lifetime, so it’s essential for me to continue regular screenings (personal and medical) to ensure they are benign and not dangerous.
That is just my personal experience, which doesn’t even scratch the surface. PCOS is another issue that prevents fertility in many young women. All young girls are now encouraged to get the HPV vaccines. Reproductive healthcare goes beyond what many choose to see at face value.
3] Healthcare Access Should Never Be Limited
Growing up in a house full of women, women (and my dad!) had complete and total say over their bodies and their lives. Unfortunately, not all women are granted that liberty.
I felt like I was always in a doctor’s office as a kid, and I can’t imagine how much lower quality of life I would have if it wasn’t for all of the healthcare professionals that did everything they could to help boost my immune system so I would no longer be chronically ill. As much as I hate the doctor, I am always that person that recommends you see the doctor just in case. You never know.
In an undergrad course on Latin America, we had to explore a different social issue and my group was assigned abortion. Even though I had always been pro-choice, abortion still made me uneasy and it was something I liked to ignore because it was easier for me. This project made me face the harsh realities and realize that we can’t keep ignoring what’s uncomfortable for us, because so many others are way less privileged and in dire health conditions.
Most Latin American countries ban abortion — completely. Latin America also has the highest rates of abortion. From 2010-2014, an estimated 6.5 million abortions occurred every year. 32% of pregnancies result in abortion. If that’s hard to hear, keep in mind that most of these are not done in hospitals by certified professionals. Since they are done “in the dark,” there are only estimates, but close to a 500,000 annually are treated for unsafe abortions a year, whether from resulting infections, vaginal bleeding, or other complications. In Brazil, 1 in 5 women under 40 have had an abortion, and most are done at home by knitting needles, coat hangers, poison, under the counter medicines, or even physically punching themselves. It’s not pretty, but it’s common.
That is an example of what can happen if reproductive healthcare access is denied to women who can’t afford healthcare on their own. This does not even cover the incidents of STDS, HPV, HIV, AIDS, breast cancer, cervical cancer, PCOS, infertility, or any kind of reproductive healthcare. Planned Parenthood provides access to millions of underprivileged women who can’t afford it on their own.
Unlike right-wing media, most Planned Parenthood visits involve birth control, STD test, pap smear screening — not abortion. Only 3% of services go towards abortion. I don’t think anyone is actually pro-abortion, and I hope that Planned Parenthood can overcome its unfair reputation.
It is not enough to be compassionate — you must act. // Dalai Lama
I am thrilled to be raising hundreds of dollars for Planned Parenthood. If you aren’t able to attend on Saturday, I encourage you to make a donation of any amount. Now is the time to act.
++ Mary K