My First Time: A Tale of Planned Parenthood

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On Monday, I took the afternoon off so I could go have my annual “well-woman” appointment and talk with an OBGYN about birth control options (you can find more reasons about why I need BC here). I went to Planned Parenthood. I drove (via backroads, because I hate freeway driving in the Chicago area) for an hour to get to the clinic. I was nervous, because I’d never had this kind of appointment before. I grew up in a household that vilified Planned Parenthood, and still get looks from my mother when I mention that I support their mission.

So, it was with trepidation that I pulled into the parking lot of the Northern Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic, knowing that by walking into this facility, I was making a political statement. No longer with my words, but with my body – I had fully committed to the freedom of choice and the “liberal” idea that women should have access to knowledge about their reproductive health and options available to them . ALL options.

The signs on the door were in Spanish and English – not an uncommon sight in areas that cater to low income populations. Still, I hadn’t seen that much Spanish since I’d moved away from Texas, and it reminded me that, disproportionately, the minority population in the US is more likely to be impoverished. I thought about this as I hit the intercom buzzer for the first security door, and the door swung open, held by the man who had gone in before me.

The first security door led down a blank hallway to a window where a nurse sits behind bullet proof glass. You’re supposed to slide your ID under the glass and she checks it against the calendar in the computer. Once it’s been recognized that you have an appointment and a reason to be there, she buzzes you through a second security door.

Through the second door, the clinic is warm and inviting – it was actually nicer than many of the doctor’s offices I was privy to when I was still living at home. The noticeable difference, though, was not just the quality of the clinic’s decorations (generic pictures of wildlife notwithstanding), but the clear, obvious security measures.

In most doctor’s offices I’ve been to, the nurses’ station is accessible and open – it would be easy to sneak behind it and it’s easy to lean over it. Here, however, a large pane of what appeared to be bulletproof glass greeted me, and there was a small space at the bottom of the glass through which I could hand my paperwork. I guess when people make a habit of lobbing molotov cocktails at your place of work, you take every precaution you can to protect your employees.

There were signs everywhere – in Spanish and English – warning that it is against the law to film, record, or photograph any part of the clinic or your procedure. Thanks for that one, Lila Rose.

The paperwork included the basic medical history forms, as well as a demographic survey including things like income level, number of previous pregnancies (if any), race, and so on. This is how Planned Parenthood collects their numbers and information, which is fairly straightforward.

As I was writing my information, I had to remove the stack of papers from the clipboard, and found a laminated card attached at the bottom of the stack. The card had a generic picture of doctors in an office, and some text underneath. I (obviously) could not take a picture of the warning, but it contained reassurance that the doctors at the clinic have the patients’ best interest at heart. It also warned against engaging with protestors outside the clinic or taking pamphlets from them, as the chances were high that those pamphlets would contain misinformation. The basic message was: You do not have to be ashamed about using this clinic, no matter what you are here for.

I'll spare you my appointment, but I will tell you that the doctors and nurses were incredibly thorough, caring, and kind. They supplied me with more information than I needed about my birth control options, and made sure I knew all of the potential side effects and problems that could come up. I did not feel like just another patient, but rather like a person who was cared for and understood.

I tell you this story today to make this point: Planned Parenthood genuinely cares about all aspects of a woman’s health. They didn’t care that I’m not sexually active, and I did not feel judged for marking “abstinence” as my current form of birth control. People like to paint Planned Parenthood as this den of evil that encourages women to slut it up so they can come back and have more abortions and thus keep the abortion machine running. This is an obvious strawman.

Instead, I found that Planned Parenthood and its representatives were genuinely concerned with my health, wanted to make sure I had the tools and knowledge at the ready for when I do become sexually active. Even in the brochures that lined the walls, there were more brochures about adoption and having a healthy pregnancy than there were for preventative services.

Planned Parenthood is good people, and they are worth supporting.

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And note, the title is intentional in its double meaning. You're welcome.