I don’t write or talk much about my pro-choice beliefs. To me, much like the decision to have a baby, these beliefs are deeply personal and are rooted in who we are as humans. That being said, I have always been outspoken about my work as a public health practitioner.
I first visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in college where they found high-grade precancerous lesions on my cervix and referred me to a specialist to undergo treatments that lasted the next five years. It was because of the screening (that I received free of charge due to my lack of insurance) this was caught early enough to save my fertility and my life.
I went on to earn a Masters in Public Health. My first job out of graduate school was Grants and Public Affairs coordinator at Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio. I also did some educational outreach, and as a certified health educator provided legally-mandated counseling to extreme minors who came for any services, as part of a multi-million dollar Title X Family planning grant. At the time, this affiliate did not provide abortion services of any kind.
I remember being called into an exam room to do some patient education, and while I knew the individual would be a minor, I was taken aback when I walked in to see a 13-year-old girl with Hello Kitty hair ties in her pigtails. She had taken a 30-minute bus ride to get to our clinic. She was scared, alone, and feared she was pregnant from performing oral sex. That little girl full of fear and misinformation was braver than most of us have ever needed to be.
Providing this girl a safe place to get gynecological care and comprehensive sexuality education is a matter of public health. That is the Planned Parenthood I know.
This being my first job, the executive director took a huge chance on me and allowed a rookie graduate to oversee, write, and allocate the affiliates’ multi million dollar Title X Family Planning grant. Title X was established in 1970 and is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. It serves over 4.5 million low-income clients per year.
EVERY. SINGLE. DIME allocated by this federal funding goes towards cancer screening; pregnancy testing and counseling; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs); HIV testing; and other patient education. Those services and only those services. Each service is meticulously coded and reimbursed with federal dollars based on restrictions laid out in the grant. Reviews are made quarterly and each code is audited. No gray areas, no mixing of funds.
Walking past protestors every day to work for that mission—working for and alongside strong, intelligent, compassionate women—shaped who I am. And today, I am pregnant for the fifth time in a nation where I still have the choice of how and when to grow my family.
I stand for the comprehensive sexuality education that I want my children to grow up with.
I stand for cancer screening and prevention regardless of a woman’s ability to pay.
I stand for an economically sound model of care that has prevented unwanted pregnancy and gynecological cancers for 45 years.
I stand for my 20-year-old self who stood alone in a Planned Parenthood clinic and heard the words cervical cancer for the very first time.
We are not poll numbers or talking points. We are women.
That’s why I’m contacting my representatives and telling them I will not let these resources disappear.