Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood Story

Ok, so here's the scoop, folks. Earlier this year, my Representative Dave Camp voted to block funding for Planned Parenthood (he supported the Pence Amendment to H.R. 1) in Michigan. This scared me, because while I've heard stories of other states trying to pass legislation to block funding for Planned Parenthood, I guess I thought it was something I didn't have to worry about, since it wasn't happening to me. Then I realized that it could very well happen to me, Planned Parenthood could lose their funding in Michigan, and then where would I be? This thought scared me into action, so I wrote Representative Camp a letter (I write him letters all the time, and he sends me dismissive replies, so I didn't think it would really do any good, but I felt I had to try). For those of us in Michigan, Dave Camp's support of this bill shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Dave Camp does some good work, but he also often supports evil and archaic legislation like this, so I often have to email him and take him to task for what I see as a gross misrepresentation of his constituents (of which I am one, much to his dismay, I'm sure). But the thing is, with all the talk going around about how people "stand with Planned Parenthood" and how this lack of funding will affect women, something that gets lost, I think, is that a lot of the people who DON'T stand with Planned Parenthood honestly might not know what they are doing and how they are hurting people with their stance. I know this because I was one of those people, once upon a time. Anyway, I thought it might be time to cut through the rhetoric and the jargon and honestly tell my Planned Parenthood story, even if Dave Camp ignores it, because it wasn't enough for me to say "I Stand with Planned Parenthood" anymore...I needed to say WHY. This is the letter I wrote to Dave Camp. I tried to say what I had to say as best I could. I knew there was a good chance he'd ignore it, but I wanted to share my story with you, too, readers and friends, because this isn't just MY story. It's the story of a lot of other women who are afraid to say "I Stand with Planned Parenthood" because they're afraid of what that means.

Dear Representative Dave Camp,

The Pence Amendment to H.R. 1 that bars all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers is a truly outrageous -- and dangerous -- piece of legislation. I am outraged that you supported this horrific bill. Your vote is an absolute betrayal of the millions of Americans who rely on Planned Parenthood for primary and preventive care. For your information, Planned Parenthood is much more than just an "abortion provider" and it is unconscionable for you to dismiss it as such. I have a health condition that causes extremely heavy bleeding and pain so bad I find it difficult to walk during monthly menstruation. My cramps are so bad I wake up screaming from the pain. I have been dealing with this pain since I was ten years old. The only (and I do mean ONLY) thing that has ever alleviated this pain is the care provided by Planned Parenthood - through birth control pills and later the Depo Provera shot when we discovered that the pills put me at high risk of blood clots due to my chronic migraines.

I suffered with this extreme menstrual pain for over ten years because, as you might, I dismissed Planned Parenthood as simply an "abortion provider" and thus did not want to visit my clinic and see if the care they could provide would help my condition. It wasn't until I was twenty five years old and this pain had prevented me from working several days every month and almost cost me my job that I finally decided I couldn't take the pain anymore and I had to visit a clinic and see if any of the treatments they offered could help me. I found the staff and nurses at the clinic to be compassionate and caring, and within the space of six months, I was on treatment that allowed me to function and work like a normal human being during my monthly menstrual cycle for the first time in my life. And the clinic provided this service to me, in effect giving me my life back, free of charge through the "Plan First" program that allowed them to offer these services free of charge due to Federal Funding to financially struggling women like me.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in my town doesn't even perform abortions, but they DO put women in contact with clinics where they can get this procedure, just as they put me in contact with a clinic and a local doctor who could find and remove the cancer I had, thus saving my life. Here is the fact that I ignored for years and the fact that opponents of Planned Parenthood continue to ignore. Abortion is not a medical procedure that Planned Parenthood performs at the drop of a hat and with no thought to the risks. Planned Parenthood is often the last resort for women in my area, since many doctors in this area will not provide even birth control pills and/or the Depo Provera shot, and when I asked local doctors why, in more than one case I was told it was because of because of the minute "abortificant properties" of the pill. Let me put that into layman's terms for you. Because of the minuscule risk that the pill might in a tiny number of cases cause a fetus not to implant into the uterus, no woman should ever use the pill or ever use birth control, even if she is not having sex, even if she is a virgin, even if she is ten years old and doubled over in pain in bed bleeding so heavily that she is afraid to leave the house, a woman must suffer this constant pain and anguish because the services provided by Planned Parenthood are somehow morally objectionable.

Let me tell you what is "morally objectionable" in my book, representative Camp. Forcing women to suffer pain and anguish and yes, torture every month because they cannot afford the medical services that could take away this pain and indeed give them their lives back? THAT is morally reprehensible. Telling women and young girls not to get services at Planned Parenthood, even if the grand majority of them aren't going to get abortions and are instead only going to get treatment for conditions related to menstruation, even if most of them are going in order to be responsible adults and learn ways to PREVENT an unwanted pregnancy before they have to terminate it, even if most of them are going because they already HAVE children and they can't handle the financial burden of adding to their families at this time so they want to take steps to PREVENT an unwanted pregnancy before it happens, and yes, even if a small number of them are going to seek an abortion because they have considered the alternatives and they have made the informed decision that they cannot carry an unwanted pregnancy to term at this time...cutting off funding for the only health care that thousands of women (if not millions of women) can only receive in areas like this at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and cutting off that funding because you somehow believe that Planned Parenthood is somehow morally reprehensible (instead of the lifesaving service that it was for me and that it is for so many other women)? That is shortsighted, uninformed, ignorant, and simply wrong, representative Camp.

I used to believe that the services provided at Planned Parenthood were somehow morally wrong, representative Camp. I was uninformed and ignorant, and it took me suffering intense pain for fifteen years of my life before I learned that Planned Parenthood provided services that could help me and that they were already helping thousands (if nor millions) of other women. If I ever have a daughter someday, I am going to raise her to believe that it's wrong for women to suffer pain and anguish every month simply because of outdated ideas about women's reproductive health and ignorance about the health benefits Planned Parenthood provides. I'm going to teach her to make responsible choices about her reproductive health, and if she ever needs the services that Planned Parenthood provides, as indeed so many women do, I hope for Planned Parenthood to be there to help her as it was for me.

Along with countless other Planned Parenthood supporters, I am determined to fight against this bill as it moves to the Senate, and to oppose every effort to undermine women's health and access to care. We will continue to stand with Planned Parenthood -- and we call on you to focus on the needs of our community -- rather than politics -- by supporting women's access to their health care providers, including Planned Parenthood.


Lillian Patterson

If any of you want to "Stand with Planned Parenthood" too, I want to tell you that it's ok. You aren't supporting a morally reprehensible organization by doing so. You're supporting an organization that literally saved my life and an organization that helps women across the country. I encourage you to go to your local Planned Parenthood office and educate yourself about the work they do there, and not just rely on what your church or your school or even your parents might tell you, but to find out for yourself how this organization provides necessary care to women every day.

For those of us who do support Planned Parenthood, I think it might be a good idea for us to start (or continue) telling our stories of why, because I think a lot of people don't know what they're doing when they want to block funding to Planned Parenthood, and before we get angry with them for not knowing the truth, we have to make sure we're speaking the truth and putting it out there. I say this as a reminder to myself more than anything else, because this is the first time I've put so many words to my own story of why I support Planned Parenthood. I hope it makes an impact somehow, for the sake of women like me who don't know what they don't know is hurting and killing them everyday.

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