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Why I Support Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood, which provides quality, affordable health care to 2.7 million Americans, is under attack again. In a plot worthy of Hollywood, an anti-choice group posed as medical researchers in order to secretly videotape Planned Parenthood officials discussing abortion practices, which—out of context and heavily edited—sound unsavory, riling up public opinion.

So I did what I always do when Planned Parenthood is in trouble—I wrote them a check. As much as I could spare. Because ladies and gentlemen, we need Planned Parenthood.

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Did you know that one in five U.S. women has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in her life? I am one of those women, and guess what? I didn't have an abortion.

It was the 1990s and I'd just seen the seminal Gen-X movie, "Reality Bites." Following a casual sex spree, the Janeane Garofolo character Vickie decides to get an AIDS test. I wasn't quite on Vickie's level (at least I remembered my lovers' names), but I decided that getting tested was the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, at the time, the climate was such that the mere act of requesting an AIDS test from your doctor could drive up your health insurance rates, or even get you dropped. So I went to Planned Parenthood, where I knew I could get a confidential test. They treated me professionally and kindly, and my mind was put at ease.

STD testing is just one of the invaluable services that Planned Parenthood provides. They offer lifesaving pap smears and breast exams, treat ailments such as UTI's and yeast infections, help women going through menopause, prescribe affordable birth control, distribute free condoms and are the nation's largest provider of sex education.

First, abortions make up only 3% of the health services that Planned Parenthood provides. Second, when sex education and contraception are made available, unwanted pregnancies rates decline.

For many women, Planned Parenthood health centers are the only source for family planning available in their region. Jennifer Ress Brule, who also writes for mom.me, told me that Planned Parenthood was there for her at a crucial time: "I had no insurance, was knee deep in student loans and had no extra money for things like healthcare. I needed basic gynecological care and also birth control , because my fiancé and I were not ready to have children yet. I'm not sure what I would have done without Planned Parenthood." Today, there are millions of women counting on Planned Parenthood for essential medical care, just as Jennifer did.

And yet, Planned Parenthood is constantly under fire because it offers abortion services, which, while legal, continue to be a hot button issue in this country.

I have three things to say about that. First, abortions make up only 3% of the health services that Planned Parenthood provides. Second, when sex education and contraception are made available, unwanted pregnancies rates decline. It's that simple. So those who wish to end abortions should be doing everything they can to provide access to education and affordable healthcare. And that's what Planned Parenthood does so well, helping to prevent 516,000 unintended pregnancies each year. Prevention equals no need for an abortion.

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Here's the third thing: abortions are legal, so women seeking to terminate a pregnancy need a safe place to get one. As history tells us, if women don't have access to safe abortions, they don't stop having abortions. They have life threatening abortions—in back alleys, with coat hangers and worse.

That's why, as a member of my university's pro-choice student organization, I volunteered to help protect patients from aggressive and violent protesters as they attempted to enter the health center. Later, I helped Planned Parenthood make fundraising calls and promote local outreach programs. These days, as a busy mom of two, I find myself better able to give money than time, but I will always be there for Planned Parenthood, as it was there for me.

Image via Getty Images

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