I don’t recall the first time I donated to Planned Parenthood. It might have been online. It might have been on the street. I’m not sure. But I will always remember why.
During my sophomore year at university, I was sleeping with somebody every once in a while. At least, I thought I would be. That was how the arrangement seemed to be shaping up — he’d roll into town, and we’d roll in the hay. It was great, or it might have been, because at the time he was really the only person giving me a second glance. Nothing came of it (pun intended) because one of our friends found out and freaked out, and it turned out the guy didn’t even really like me that much anyway. (That happened to me a lot. I was way less sad about some guy deciding I wasn’t hot/cool/whatever enough to sleep with again than I was about the guy who dumped me over email on Valentine’s Day, freshman year. I was learning.) But at the time, when I still had hope, I thought I should do the responsible thing and get some serious birth control going before we slept together again.
I’d been on the pill, before. I got it prescribed for my skin (for which it did absolutely nothing, costing me $40/month that I could have been spending on better skincare products in general). This time I wanted to try something different. So, I went to get an exam. At Planned Parenthood.
My first such exam, in high school at the doctor’s office in my tiny town near where they made Twin Peaks, was a terrible experience. So terrible, in fact, that my doctor prescribed me a bottle of Valium to deal with my subsequent exams. So by the time I hiked up Capitol Hill with a friend, past all the fried chicken joints and the dig sites of condos that wouldn’t be finished until I left the city, I was already a little buzzed. And I told the doctor so.
“That’s okay,” she said. “We have pediatric speculums.”
“They make those?” I asked, because I was an idiot, and also a little high.
“Yes,” she said. “Sometimes we see little girls, too.”
Because of course they do. Because of course little girls have to go to Planned Parenthood, sometimes, when their dads or grandpas or uncles or teachers or moms or priests or daycare providers or soccer coaches or babysitters rape them. And often, places like Planned Parenthood are the only places for these girls to go for help. Not just because they might be pregnant, or because they might have an infection, but because they’re hurt. Emotionally and physically, they’ve been torn open and left to bleed out.
I’ve visited other clinics in other states, since. They’re always full of flyers about rape. But they’re also full of flyers about consent, and about what it means to transition, and what it means to be queer, and about how to seek counselling, and how to find support groups, and how to be safe sexually and emotionally. How to say yes. How to say no. All the things your mother or father never told you. All the things you never knew how to ask.
Because Planned Parenthood isn’t just where you go if you think you’re pregnant, or if you’ve been raped. It’s where you go for pap smears. And mammograms. And counselling sessions. And prostate exams. And HIV tests. It’s where you go when you’re scared.
This is why I donate.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that corporations could claim a religious exemption for providing coverage for birth control under the federal mandate for affordable healthcare. That decision puts all women at risk, because birth control isn’t just about preventing pregnancy. It’s about dealing with fibroids, and endometriosis, and cancer risk, and maternal morbidity. It’s a matter of life and death, in more ways than one. Women who were looking forward to the basic human right that is reproductive autonomy now have to worry if their bosses will cut costs but cutting their care. In a world in which women still have a hard time having jobs after having children, you have to wonder if Hobby Lobby’s appeal to the Supreme Court had less to do with culture wars, and more to do with corporate America finding ways to keep women out of the workforce. Because hey, if your company doesn’t have to pay for your birth control, you’re less likely to afford it, and more likely to get pregnant. And if you’re more likely to get pregnant, you’re more likely to take maternity leave or leave your job. And the more likely you are to do either of those things, the less likely you are to find another job by the time your kids hit kindergarten. It’s a decision that does more than just enforce the status quo of women working twice as hard for half as much. It privileges the personhood of the corporation and the unborn over the personhood of the working woman and mother. And it puts the burden of affordable reproductive care for women on the shoulders of places like Planned Parenthood.
So donate. Pitch in. Help the moms who are done having families. Help the women who are just starting their journey toward becoming women. Help the boys who aren’t ready to be dads. Help stop cycles of poverty and abuse. Let every child be a wanted child. Let every mother be a healthy mother. Let every woman be a free woman. Let every little girl be a little kid, for a little while longer.