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I first learned about Planned Parenthood as a young teen when they ran ads on MTV. I recall one in particular that was black and white, and at the end a woman's voice called out, "PLANNED PARENTHOOD!"
I knew, throughout my adolescence and into my late teens, that if I ever needed anything, there was a place I could go. Fortunately, I had parents who supported me — and a mother who recognized that sexuality was a part of being human and, yes, female. Like most women, I lost my virginity in my teens and stayed on the pill until I moved out on my own. In those days, I routinely skipped a day (or five) and finally, just stopped taking birth control altogether, depending instead on condoms, which I carried around with me in my wallet. Sex was something I felt I needed to control and I slept my way into what I thought, at the time, was empowerment. If I could get him to come home with me, there was no fear of someone taking me home.
One morning, after a boozy night with someone I didn't know very well, I realized that the condom had broken the night before.
I panicked and quickly called a friend.
"Swing by Planned Parenthood on your way home," she said." Get the morning-after pill. Make an appointment for an STD test. I love you."
And that is what I did. I went to the nearest clinic, sat down in a sea of young women just like me/not like me at all, and waited. I was struck by how afraid everyone in the room looked. None of us wanted to be there. We were there because we needed something — a test or a pill or a place to feel safe — to ensure we were healthy.
There is a scene in "Obvious Child" that looks similar to every Planned Parenthood waiting room I've ever been in. There is a knowing look passed between women. A solidarity in the female story. The female body. Sexuality and power. Powerlessness.
When they finally called my name, I explained what had happened the night before.
"The condom broke. I didn't know him very well. I'm sorry."
"Why are you apologizing? Take this," she said, handing me the Plan B.
That wasn't the first time I had to go in for a morning-after pill, nor was it the first time I got an HIV/STD test. I became vigilant about being tested every few months after that.
I found myself recommending the same plan when friends would come to me for similar predicaments. Planned Parenthood was where we went with an emergency. Their doors were always open. I didn't feel shamed for having a sex life. I felt like a human who owned her body and her choices and had a place to go to keep myself safe and healthy.
In the summer of 2004, when I was newly 23, I found myself pregnant with my boyfriend of three months — a man I did not intend on marrying, a pregnancy I did not expect to want to keep.
The thing is, we don't know until we know. We don't know what we will choose until we're there. Until we're on the floor in our bathrooms with our lives flashing before us, "Sliding Doors" style.
I knew that my choice was the right choice for me — for us. But holy shit, was I glad to have had a choice. And every time choice is put to question, I think of that night, eleven years ago.
Having the choice to choose motherhood was, for me, the most empowering part of becoming one. I chose this life. And every day I wake up knowing that this crazy beautiful, sometimes fucked, hood that is mother-, was my choice. And then I choose it again. And again.
Last week, I tweeted the below in response to the #StandwithPP hashtag but I didn't post it on Instagram or Facebook. Later, before asking myself why, I answered my own question, scanning the comments of friends who went and did so.
"UNFOLLOW," the comments read.
"You support killing babies? UNFOLLOW."
"BABY KILLER! BURN IN HELL!"
"YOU SUPPORT THE SALE OF BABY PARTS? I HOPE YOU DIE."
And I thought, Oh. Is this why I didn't post to Instagram? Because I didn't want to offend anyone with my truth? This is why I didn't write something on Facebook? Because I didn't want to deal with trolls? Yes. Sometimes I feel the need to quiet my fist because YES.
Is it exhausting to fight?
To speak up?
At the risk of losing friends? An audience? One's mind?
"Planned Parenthood is big. It estimates that one in five women have visited its clinics for health care. But the implications of the video sting, and the congressional scrutiny Planned Parenthood now faces, are even bigger. They're about whether Americans will let anti-abortion extremists control the discourse and dictate the agenda around reproductive rights, medicine and scientific research. Silence, fear, shame, stigma. That's what they're counting on. Will enough of us come forward to win back the ground we've been losing?"
I also urge you to read the powerful piece by Rebecca Traister regarding women's recognition of their bodies and what it means to have an abortion. In Traister's words, "Planned Parenthood didn't invent abortions, and David Daleiden isn't going to explain them in terms so grisly as to reverse thousands of years' of women's needs, desires and lived experiences."
Planned Parenthood isn't a particularly popular topic on most parenting blogs but shouldn't it be? One in three women have had an abortion. And far more than that will have had to choose. And for many of these women, Planned Parenthood is the ONLY place they can go for health care, guidance and support.
Last week, I tweeted my piece and walked away, realizing later that if I didn't say more on this topic, in a more permanent place, that I wasn't defending anyone but myself. If I didn't stand up to those who so boastfully threaten to take a woman's access to safe and legal health care away, I might as well join the other team.
And so, today, I wanted to make it clear that I stand with Planned Parenthood — then, now and always. No girl deserves to grow up in a world where her choices are not hers to make. No female in this country or elsewhere deserves to be turned away — rejected, refused, victimized and criminalized — for her femaleness.
Our daughters, in all their Pinterest-worthy back-to-school basics are going to grow up before we know it. And, like us, they're going to need places they can get care without question — safely, legally, and without judgment. That is what every woman on this planet deserves.
An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on women's health. Period. We cannot afford to sit quietly in the audience as those who fight against us stand publicly and cheer the abolition of a woman's access to health care and choice. We must join hands and choose each other — for our daughters, our sisters and ourselves.