Despite the fact that the majority of Americans back the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood, the United State House of Representatives voted Friday to pull funding for the healthcare provider for one year -- a move The White House charged "would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals."
And indeed, Planned Parenthood estimates that in 2013 to 2014 alone, its affiliates provided 865,721 Pap tests and breast exams; conducted 704,079 tests for HIV; and provided 1,440,495 emergency contraception kits. Planned Parenthood absolutely does provide access to safe and legal abortion procedures, but they constitute just three percent of the services it offers, because as The New Yorker put it, the organization's far more central goal is helping people avoid unwanted pregnancy altogether.
But statistics are one thing, and real stories are another, so we asked our readers about how Planned Parenthood has made a difference in their lives. We were inundated with powerful responses. Here's what 17 of them said:
"I am the only woman in my family who did not have a child under 20 years old."
I'm a first generation Mexican-American that comes from a strong Catholic family. I couldn't ask my mom to take me to a gynecologist to get birth control, but Planned Parenthood made it possible for me to afford it and prevent a teen pregnancy. I have now graduated college, I have a great career, and am working on my Master's Degree. I am the only woman in my family who did not have a child under 20 years old. -- Anonymous, 28
"The staff were very caring and professional...which helped me on the journey of recovery from my sexual assault"
When I was a sophomore in college, I was raped at a friend's house by someone we had both gone to high school with. I was so ashamed of the experience that I never reported it, or told my family. I was relieved that I was not pregnant, but I was afraid I may have contracted something, so I went to Planned Parenthood to discretely have various STI tests run. The staff were very caring and professional, and all of my tests came back negative, which helped me on the journey of recovery from my sexual assault. -- Jessica, 30
"I was able to find free birth control pills at Planned Parenthood, which ensured that I would not be needing their abortion services."
As a newly divorced, single mother of two in my 20s, I knew that I could not risk getting pregnant again anytime soon in the event that I became involved with someone. I did not have health insurance, so I could not afford to see a doctor at a traditional clinic. But I was able to find free birth control pills at Planned Parenthood, which ensured that I would not be needing their abortion services. -- Lisa, 41
When I was in my 20s and 30s. I was self-employed and I had no health benefits -- only catastrophic coverage. Even the most routine doctor visits were outside my financial reach -- I pretty much had to be dragging a broken leg behind me to go to the doctor. The only reason I was able to have regular OB-GYN visits for years was because Planned Parenthood made it affordable. Without them, I would have risked my health, because I simply couldn't afford to see a doctor. -- Tiffany, 47
"Planned Parenthood helped me decide not to have an abortion, and has helped me avoid having to face that choice again for the past 16 years."
Planned Parenthood helped me decide not to have an abortion, and has helped me avoid having to face that choice again for the past 16 years. I am 39 years old and I still go to Planned Parenthood for all my check-ups and for birth control, because I have a high-deductible health insurance plan. But also, because I feel like they listen to me and don't judge me when I am in that room. I want my daughter to grow up with the same options. --Kerri-Anne, 39
"When I was younger, I couldn't afford a regular doctor's visit and Planned Parenthood was my only option."
When I was younger, I couldn't afford a regular doctor's visit and Planned Parenthood was my only option, so I used them for several years. When they found cervical cancer, they suggested I go see an OB-GYN, which saved my life. -- Tiffany, 41
"I owe my life and my sanity to them."
In February of 2013, I was drugged and sexually assaulted by two men in a hotel room during an anime convention. For two weeks after the incident, I bled. I wasn’t menstruating, I wasn’t a virgin, I just f**king bled. I was at school, seven hours and four states away from my doctor, but I could get to a Planned Parenthood, and I did. They took care of me without judgement. They gave me a safe space to contemplate what happened to me, and without them, I don’t know if I would have had t courage to seek physical or psychological treatment. I owe my life and my sanity to them. -- Anonymous, 24
"[An abortion] is not what I ever pictured for myself, but it was my best option."
When I was 19, my very new boyfriend and I found out that I was pregnant. I was depressed, didn't know where I would be in a year, knew I didn't want to be where I was, and had no clue if this relationship would last, so we decided I should get an abortion. It is not what I ever pictured for myself, but it was my best option. And then they provided me with birth control at a discount, so I would never have to go through it again. -- Anonymous, 26
"They found abnormal cells on my cervix, removed them early enough and saved me from cervical cancer."
I'm 32 and I just welcomed my first child into the world. This would not have been the case had I not received vital treatments during college at my local Planned Parenthood. I was young, broke and without healthcare, and the doctors there provided my yearly OB-GYN exams. They found abnormal cells on my cervix, removed them early enough and saved me from cervical cancer. -- Maggie, 32
"I am an educated, compassionate and progressive Christian. I never thought I'd have to make a decision about what to do with an unintended pregnancy, but, at 25, I did."
I am an educated, compassionate and progressive Christian. I never thought I'd have to make a decision about what to do with an unintended pregnancy, but, at 25, I did. Unsure what to do, I went to Planned Parenthood as one of many things I did to try and figure out the best course for me, and they let me talk, freak out and come to my own decision about what I wanted to do. I chose to have an abortion, and I don't regret it. I know that I want to be a parent one day and Planned Parenthood is part of my healthy journey to get there. -- Jamie, 28
"We lost our insurance for the year... Planned Parenthood was there to provide me with birth control and gynecology appointments."
When I was 17, my grandparents passed away within nine days of each other and my mom took a leave of absence from her job to process her loss and deal with the aftermath. Because of that, we lost our insurance for the year and when we tried to apply for private insurance, we were denied because of our history of "menstrual cramps." Planned Parenthood was there to provide me with birth control and gynecology appointments that I otherwise would not have had access to. -- Anonymous, 25
"Because of Planned Parenthood, I can get birth control, which helps me deal with my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome."
Because of Planned Parenthood, I can get birth control, which helps me deal with my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Without access to birth control, not only would I be missing work regularly (like I did in high school), I would also never have the chance to hopefully one day bring a child that I really want into the world, because it helps control my menstrual cycles. -- Anonymous, 23
"They helped me in so many ways when nobody else would."
When I was 20, I unknowingly had unprotected sex. I was incoherent and thought my partner used a condom like I asked him to. A month later, I missed my period and took a home pregnancy test, but the results were unclear, so I went to Planned Parenthood for another test and it came back positive. In no way shape or form was I ready to be a mother, and when the physician asked me what options I had considered, I immediately told her I wanted an abortion. She was not judgmental, and helped me set up an appointment. Two weeks later I arrived at the clinic, nervous and unsure and there were a lot of protesters chanting, yelling and coming up to me telling me that I needed to keep my unborn fetus. Planned Parenthood made me feel safe by having escorts near me until I got into the building, and the entire staff was friendly and very helpful. They helped me in so many ways when nobody else would. -- Sheena, 25
"I did my monthly self-breast exam, and felt a lump. I couldn't afford to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Instead, I went to Planned Parenthood."
I ended my job with one company to sign on with another. However, it was a one-month transition period, which meant two months without a paycheck and health insurance. During that time, I had a real scare when I did my monthly self-breast exam, and felt a lump. Money was tight, and I couldn't afford to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Instead, I went to Planned Parenthood and explained my situation. They examined me at no charge, and sent me on my way, never billing me.
I was only in that situation for a few months. There are thousands of people out there who are in that state for much longer, for reasons beyond their control. Thank-you, Planned Parenthood, for understanding that nothing is more important than your health, no matter what your socioeconomic status is. --Anonymous, 30
"Their clinics enabled me to maintain my reproductive health, and control over my body at a time when I could never have afforded to have a child."
I grew up in poverty, and when I left home at 18 I had no financial support, and no health insurance. I found it necessary to go to Planned Parenthood clinics in order to see a gynecologist, but because of my religious and "pro-life" upbringing, I felt great shame in this. I called the health department, free clinic, and several women's health practices in my town. The health department did not offer gynecological exams; the free clinic did not have a gynecologist on staff; the regular OB-GYNs quoted me upwards of $350, plus additional costs for lab fees, etc. Planned Parenthood was the only place I was able to go, and I paid a flat fee of $250. I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of dramatically cheaper services through Planned Parenthood. Their clinics enabled me to maintain my reproductive health, and control over my body at a time when I could never have afforded to have a child. -- Bethany, 31
I went to Planned Parenthood because I was having severe pain in my abdomen early on in my pregnancy and I didn't have insurance. They were nice and courteous when I was really scared. It ended up being nothing to worry about, but everyone was so caring. For people without insurance, Planned Parenthood is a godsend. -- Erin, 28
I went to Planned Parenthood when my ex left me. I was 15 weeks pregnant and he was pressuring me to get an abortion. I knew in my heart that I didn't want to, but I went, mostly to talk to someone. I was lost and confused and I needed help gathering my thoughts so I could make the decision that would be right for me.
Know what happened? I explained my story, I talked to a counselor and told her everything that was going on and everything I was feeling. And she told me not to get an abortion. From talking to me, she had gathered that I would hold immense guilt because it wasn't what I truly wanted. She was right. She gave me information on groups for single mothers, resources for support groups and therapists, and resources for adoption if I so chose. When people go off about Planned Parenthood and how evil they are, I get extremely angry. They helped me decide to keep my son. -- Amanda, 25