This summer there were many ongoing attacks and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. The organization that serves over five million women, men, and teens worldwide and that has primarily supported low-income women is still under constant threat. The loss of such an organization would be devastating for women, their families, and for reproductive freedom.
In response to these ridiculous, ill-informed attacks, many have come forward sharing their stories and experiences with Planned Parenthood and explaining what it means to them. There is now even a Humans of Planned Parenthood page where people can share their stories.
My Planned Parenthood story is not the typical story that’s been cropping up. I’ve never really had to use their health care services (although everyone I know says they’re great). I’ve never had to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood has given me something different—a cause to care about, close friends, and confidence in making my own decisions.
Let me explain a little more:
When I first started my freshman year of college, it was a little lonely. I’d made some friends. I liked my class. It wasn’t terrible—but I didn’t love it. I felt very stuck and isolated on the hill of my college and overwhelmed by it. Then I went to a random, extra-credit presentation on Roe v. Wade.
Before starting college I knew almost nothing about reproductive health. I knew nothing about the attacks on women’s bodies and their right to have control over their bodies. I thought Planned Parenthood was just a place to get condoms. I had no idea that they were part of a much bigger, crucial fight for basic human rights and gender equality.
So I listened to the speaker, a former Ithaca College professor named Zillah Eisenstein, talk about women she knew who got “back alley” abortions and risked their lives because they couldn’t get the care they needed. It just seemed so fundamentally wrong to me that someone’s rights and bodily autonomy could be taken away from them because of their gender.
And I wanted to get involved.
After the presentation ended, there was a woman named Alicia from Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes tabling in the back. She was the current Director of Public Affairs, and she is now one of my dear friends. She was looking for people to table downtown with her during Applefest and since I really wanted to be part of something outside my college, I signed up.
The whole time when I was tabling, women kept walking up to us and telling us that PPSFL is the only reason why they can get their breast exams and basic, necessary health care needs. Alicia also told me that I should consider starting a Planned Parenthood VOX (now called Generation Action) chapter.
Because of Planned Parenthood, I was able to start building a home and community for myself on my campus and get involved in the community. I started working with other students to start a Planned Parenthood group and I would go off campus to phone bank and speak with legislators about bills that impact access to reproductive health.
Planned Parenthood gave me a home and something to care about.
Planned Parenthood gave me a cause to put my negative energy into to turn it into something good.
Planned Parenthood taught me the importance of body positivity and bodily autonomy and the way they intersect.
I owe the organization everything for that.
My whole life is different now. I floated through high school only doing things I thought would get me a scholarship to college. I never did things that actually mattered to me until college. I challenged myself. I stopped being so shy and started facilitating conversations on tough, necessary topics like bystander intervention, Title IX, reproductive health, and more. I started understanding the social forces like gender inequality, sexism, classism, and other power structures that shape the world we live in.
Planned Parenthood gave me the tools to start to do something about that. To stop being so uncomfortable with body and to learn how to take ownership of it. To find the courage to stand up and speak in front of a group of people, to write online, and to realize that my voice has value.
Thanks for everything PP,