In Defense of Planned Parenthood: My Personal Story

Patient talking to female doctor.
Patient talking to female doctor.

When I first moved to New York City, I knew one person. A beautiful, well-educated young woman, working as a struggling model, who at age 24 had never had a PAP test or a gynecological exam.

She did not have health insurance. Was afraid the doctor visit would be too expensive. Was terrified of seeing a gynecologist, having been raised Catholic, still a virgin, and fearing the process of such an intimate exam. She did not know where to go. She did not have a personal doctor in New York, having also moved here from Miami, only a few short years earlier.

I encouraged her to book an appointment at our local Planned Parenthood in New York City, the Margaret Sanger Center on Bleeker Street. There she received excellent care, a full battery of tests, including a breast exam, by professional, compassionate doctors. For $140.

She was not pregnant. She did not need an abortion.

She needed good, quality healthcare, done by compassionate and caring doctors (hers happened to be a woman) who would walk this young lady through the process, calm her fears, and give her the healthcare that she needed.

Now my own, more personal story. I was recently traveling in Northern California. I still live in New York City. I am a mother of a seven-year-old daughter, and I am fortunate enough to have access to some of the best doctors in the world here. My obstetrics and gynecology doctors here deliver the babies and provide healthcare for some of the most well-known ladies in the world.

But I wasn't in New York City. I was in Sacramento and I didn't know a soul.

I was feeling unwell, and I knew that something was wrong with my body. It was a Saturday, in the summer, and I had made the horrible and embarrassing mistake that caused me to have a feminine health issue (a mistake many women, including my own ob/gyn admitted to having done once before too). I was terrified that if left unattended during the duration of my trip, I could develop toxic shock syndrome, which could land me in the hospital and left untreated could lead to a fatal infection within 48 hours, as later confirmed by my own doctor.

My first thought was: even if I do call my doctor back home, she can't help me.
My second thought was to Google the nearest Planned Parenthood in the area.

With all of the options I have, being an affluent New Yorker, I knew that I could trust Planned Parenthood to give me the urgent care that I needed, in any town, in our great country.

They would be open on a Saturday. Clean, reliable, available; and they absolutely were.

I was not pregnant. I did not need an abortion. But boy was I happy that Planned Parenthood existed; I could have died.

An emergency room was of course an option, but I would have waited hours, possibly expose myself to other illnesses and God only knows what that little mistake would have cost me.

Planned Parenthood, is not an "abortion clinic," contrary to what many are brainwashed to believe. Only three percent of what they do is terminate pregnancies.

Also contrary to what many would like you to think, no federal funds are used to pay for abortions.

Those two statements are just facts. Period. No matter what politicians with agendas would try to lead you to believe. Any politician who tells you otherwise, is lying to you.

The most recent Planned Parenthood fetal tissue videos, I must admit, were initially jarring. I can see why people would be upset. I am a pro-choice woman, on the side of life, who has supported Planned Parenthood both vocally and financially for over a decade. I am determined to continue to do so.

Why? Because after my emotional reaction to the videos, I listened, and actually thought about it.

Abortion is legal. I am grateful for that and will defend a womans' right to choose until my final days. Fetal tissue being donated for medical research is also legal. If this weren't about politics, why not just fight to ban the use of fetal tissue for medical studies? Why defund Planned Parenthood completely?

This is the big red flag, and how you know that this is just another way to chip away at womans' rights, and access to affordable health care. This "gotcha" video goes far beyond fetal tissue research, it is quite simply, old business-as-usual politics.

Do I think that what those Planned Parenthood employees did was right on those videos? Initially, I will admit -- it did make me uncomfortable. I was disappointed that an organization I loved so much had seemingly let me down, I felt, morally. That they had not been more careful, and respectful of a woman's body, and that these particular employees had not upheld the values and standards I had always known that Planned Parenthood upheld.

Then I thought some more. The mistake they made was not in the transaction of sending off fetal tissue for medical research, it was perhaps in the way the doctors discussed it. Think about it. Whether you are for or against a woman's right to have an abortion, what do you think should happen to that tissue after it is removed? Is a garbage can a better place for it? A red medical waste bag? Should you burn it? What do you think happens to tissue that is removed from a body after surgery? Heart surgery, biopsies, tumors? Where does that tissue go?

Now, I know that this is a highly sensitive subject. It should be treated as such. The beliefs on both sides of this fight have very personal, legitimate, strong opinions and beliefs, and both should be respected. As a mother, I hear you. I empathize with your opinion.

However, abortion is legal, and that fetal tissue is going to medical research. Medical research to perhaps find a cure for serious illnesses that an infant may be born with. That fetal tissue, by being examined rather than discarded may be the key to cure Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or perhaps cancer. This argument has been made with stem cell research also, which has unlocked mysteries and provided great strides in finding a cure for Parkinson's disease and many other illnesses.

Essentially, of an emotionally painful and difficult experience, good can come. Scientific, medical progress. We can not experiment, nor would we ever, on live babies. But fetal tissue can unlock the door to saving millions of lives of other children.

Planned Parenthood has made it clear that any monetary exchange was merely for the transportation and care of this tissue. There is overhead, it must be absorbed somehow.

Planned Parenthood is a non profit organization, and despite what many misinformed may believe, let me state this again: taxpayer money is not used to fund abortions. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s1488/text, prevents federal money from funding abortions.

So how, exactly, is "defunding Planned Parenthood" anything but an attack on women receiving contraception, wellness information, breast exams, pap exams, cancer screenings, counseling and keeping women healthy?

Planned Parenthood provides excellent, accessible, medical care for millions of women. Women who have no other options and some like me, who do.

You see, Planned Parenthood is actually the opposite of what these anti-women politicians are trying to tell you: Planned Parenthood is in the business of keeping women strong, healthy, and with safe affordable options. So that if we choose, we may bring healthy babies into the world.

Caring for their mothers while providing a safe alternative for those who choose to take control of their own bodies, and decide when the time is right for them to start or continue to grow a family, is what they do.

They are the ONLY option for millions of pregnant women who want to keep their babies, but do not have access to doctors to perform sonograms and the many tests that are needed to ensure that their baby is healthy and growing strong. Although, each affiliate differs with levels of prenatal care, perhaps due to their already limited funding, they do also offer counseling and help mothers without insurance, get insurance, and then they refer them to top care medical clinics where they can carry out a safe pregnancy, and deliver healthy babies.

Planned Parenthood is in the business of healthy moms, and healthy babies.
They are in the business of strong, informed, healthy women.

That is who Planned Parenthood is.

And if you take that away from us, you take away a critical option, that many mothers, many women, will no longer have.

I don't know about you, but I am not interested in having a group of old male politicians decide what happens to my body, or have the government tell me what my options are for self-care and wellness. I want options.

DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS A HUGE MISTAKE, and we must never allow that to happen.

They provide invaluable medical care to all socio-economic groups of women. They serve all who enter and need care. They provide information, knowledge and contraception. Want fewer abortions? Me too. That is where you start.

Planned Parenthood is a critical resource for all women. Pro-choice, anti-choice, they are here to keep women healthy. They are an organization that we should fight for, as women. An organization that I will fight for, and I am asking you to fight alongside me, because you never know when you, or your daughters, may need them someday.

I will not stop supporting them and fighting for them until they are protected. Just as they have protected millions of women like me, before me, and after me.