Planned Parenthood has been under siege lately. Most recently, New Hampshire has joined the growing list of states seeking to defund the non-profit organization. Apparently, the end goal of anti-abortion activists is to put an end to Planned Parenthood entirely.
I try to imagine a world without Planned Parenthood, and it’s a frightening thing. See, like many Americans, I did not have health insurance for most of my adult years. I either worked for companies that did not offer it, or the health insurance coverage they did offer was of the catastrophic kind, where I would be covered in the event I had a stroke but if I wanted to get checked out for a sinus infection, I had to pay out of pocket.
Without Planned Parenthood, I would have not had access to health care. No Pap smears, no birth control, no yearly check-ups. No medical staff to ask about the weird pains in my abdomen or to help me figure out which kind of birth control would work best for me. Nothing.
I’ve never been pregnant in my life, but I suspect that would not be the case were it not for Planned Parenthood.
I’ve been to Planned Parenthood in three states – in Oklahoma, in Massachusetts and in Florida. Surprisingly enough, it was the one in Massachusetts – in Boston, no less – where I realized just how serious the abortion wars had become.
The clinic was located on Commonwealth Avenue, and I’d take the T there every few months to get refills on my birth control pills. The first time I went, I opened a heavy door, walked through a metal detector and stood inside an enclosed area. A security guard came out from behind booth encased in bullet-proof glass and looked through my purse. Once the guard was satisfied, he unlocked a second heavy door to let me go inside.
The waiting area was done in muted shades, like beige and dusty rose, which would have been a soothing palette were it not for the jarring disconnect I felt upon leaving the little box of bullet-proof glass and metal detectors.
Later, I learned that, less than five years before my first visit, a 23-year-old guy had walked into the clinic and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding five staff members.
That this happened in Boston, which I had thought of as a place full of liberal-minded people, astonished me. I could have understood it happening back in Oklahoma, which was where I first visited Planned Parenthood, but the clinic in Norman was just an office in an nondescript strip mall where anyone could walk in. If any place was ripe for a violent attack by an anti-abortion maniac, it was the clinic in Oklahoma.
And yet, the deadly shootings happened in Boston, just down the T from Boston University and over the river from Cambridge.
It was my first clue that my reproductive freedoms had a body count. I suppose you could call it a radicalizing moment, that realization that certain people were so threatened by my ability to obtain affordable reproductive health care that they were willing to shoot complete strangers to keep me from doing so.
And in the end, who suffers most? Certainly not those of us who are privileged enough to have jobs with great health insurance and money. If there is anything to be learned about the history of the abortion wars in this country, it’s that women with means will get the kind of care they need, and that includes abortions.
No, the women who will be left behind are the ones who are always left behind – the women without money, access, privilege.
There was a time when I was one of those women, and Planned Parenthood came through for me, time and time again. I will never forget the kindness of the staff members I encountered, the gentleness with which they performed scary procedures, the respect and decency they showed me. This is what every woman – no, every person – has a right to in our society, and we should all be willing to fight to ensure that isn’t taken away from us.