A Letter to Mitt Romney: What 'Getting Rid' of Planned Parenthood Means

Like so many young women in this country, when I was 19 years old I went to a Planned Parenthood health center for a routine pap test.

The test detected cervical cancer, but because the cancer was caught early, I was able to get treatment and now three decades have passed.

Planned Parenthood saved my life.

So you can imagine my surprise when Mitt Romney said, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that," during a discussion about the federal budget.

I wanted to share my family's story with him. I wanted him to understand what's at stake.

So I sat down and wrote to him. This is the letter I sent him:

Dear Governor Romney,

I don't ordinarily write letters to politicians. We've never met. I'm a single mom living in Florida, and you have a pretty full plate.

My teenage daughters are on Spring Break this week, and I want to spend all the time I can with them. But first I'm reaching out to you because I am so troubled by comments you made this week. I was surprised and alarmed to see video of you saying, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that," during a discussion about the federal budget.

Governor Romney, Planned Parenthood saved my life. I know what it would mean to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood.

I had a routine pap test at a Planned Parenthood health center when I was 19 years old, and it detected cervical cancer. Because of Planned Parenthood, the cancer was caught early. I was able to get treatment, and three decades have passed.

Now my focus is on my daughters, who are 15 and 18. I have been battling breast cancer for the last several years -- it's hereditary breast cancer, which means my daughters have a 50/50 chance of getting it. I am now losing my battle with breast cancer. It has metastasized, and my doctors have told me that I can expect to live six months to two years

Because Planned Parenthood saved my life 30 years ago, and because the breast cancer I have is hereditary, my girls get screened every few months at our local Planned Parenthood health center. Given our income and the State of Florida's programs, the only place my daughters can get their cancer screening is at Planned Parenthood. There have been advances in early detection, making Planned Parenthood my daughters' best chance for a long and healthy future.

You seemed so cavalier when you said you would "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, but you're talking about my life and my daughters' lives.

Getting rid of Planned Parenthood would get rid of the health care millions of other women and their families rely on for breast exams, pap tests, birth control, and STD tests. A Planned Parenthood doctor is the only physician many women see -- that was certainly the case for me when I was diagnosed with cancer. And Planned Parenthood health centers are often the only provider of women's health care within miles.

If Planned Parenthood had not been there for me -- if someone had decided to get rid of the organization or its funding -- I would not be here today.

When I had my daughters, I vowed to make sure they would always be safe and healthy, which includes having access to the health care that saved my life. I am writing ask that you reconsider your remarks about Planned Parenthood -- and to ask that when you think about what Planned Parenthood does and why it matters, you think of me and my family. Thank you very much.


Carolyn Smithers