Every 84 days or so, I walk into my local Planned Parenthood to get my depo-shot. I use Planned Parenthood because it doesn’t cost me $500 every 84 days to get my shot, because I am among those that fell through the cracks and do not have access to health insurance. And $500 is still a hit to my checkbook.
Here’s why I fell through the cracks: I average $2000 a month. This means I am exempt from Obamacare (most plans for a woman my age were either extremely expensive or the deductible was over $5000 and I don’t use $5000 a year in services, let alone paying for all my health care plus the $200 or so a month for insurance), so I got an exemption letter. I do not have children, so I do not qualify for state or federal assistance with my health care.
I use Depo-provera because birth control pills no longer work for me. Even if they did, there’s a good chance the cost of the pills would be insane since I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and require something besides orthro-whatever. That birth control pill was always a nightmare. I knew the pill stopped working when I had seventeen cysts rupture in less than six months. I shouldn’t have any since I was on the pill or at the very most, one… Sometimes, shit happens. But seventeen, holy crap.
This means that every 84 days, I have to put on blinders and walk into Planned Parenthood with people standing on the sidewalk shouting at me. I don’t read the signs anymore; I don’t need to see pictures of fetuses or BABY KILLER in bright red marker. I can’t tell them I’m there for birth control, because if I verbally interact with them, I give them permission to talk to me; up close & personal.
There is this myth that every woman who walks into Planned Parenthood is there for an abortion. Most of us are not. As I sit in the waiting room with a handful of other women, the majority of us are there for birth control. The rest are usually there for STD testing. I know because when we sign in, we have to tell them why we are there. If you are lucky enough to just need pills, your appointment takes about a minute. A depo-shot is about five minutes.
However, by the time these women enter the building, they all have the same look on their faces: embarrassment and horror. Occasionally, we talk as a group, usually when the protestors are being particularly vile. One morning, a young woman, much younger than myself said “I wish I could afford to pay the $120 a month for my pills just so I wouldn’t have to listen to them call me a baby killer when I came in.” This struck a cord with me. I am not bothered by the protestors, maybe because of my age or my disposition. I get that they have strong feelings against abortion and they have a right to… But that day, I realized I wished they had a better understanding of how it felt to walk through their signs and hurtful words to get birth control.
They fail to realize that the four or five of us sitting in the waiting room aren’t there for abortions, we are there to prevent a situation in which an abortion might be necessary. Instead of heckling us, they should be passing out “Good Job!” stickers. They don’t understand that for someone like me, pregnancy is a death sentence. If the birth control isn’t working to stop ovarian cysts, it isn’t working as birth control either. If I were to get pregnant, chances of survival for me are less than 5%, there is no chance for the child. They also don’t understand that women in Missouri, if they have no children, do not qualify for any government assistance with anything, including their birth control. They don’t seem to realize that a woman making minimal wage, even if she does have health insurance has trouble meeting deductibles and finding all the money for $30 co-pays. Hell, a woman making more than minimum wage might also still have issues (student loans, utilities, rent, groceries, car payments, car insurance, medications, and any extraneous one-off bills that might pop up – like an unexpected trip to the doctor in which they not only have to pay for the doctor visit co-pay and any prescriptions, but will be missing work).
So, yes, Planned Parenthood does abortions. But they do so much more than that. They provide critical services to women like me, women who do not need abortions, but need well-women exams and birth control. And the majority of the people reading their signs and listening to them shout are not walking in to terminate a pregnancy, but because Planned Parenthood is the only way they can afford to get cervical cancer screenings, STD tests (which can happen to anyone – I know a woman who got syphilis because her husband cheated on her and Planned Parenthood offered treatment without her having to go to her regular doctor and tell them that her husband was a cheating asshole and had given her syphilis), or that all important birth control because they are not yet ready for a baby or absolutely should not have one.
And those signs and shouts hurt, regardless of why you are there. They cause shame, because they perpetuate the myth that every woman that walks in is killing babies. They cause embarrassment, because they are aimed at people who are defenseless… If we engage them, they can engage us and if you have a five minute appointment to get birth control, you don’t want it to turn into a 30 minute debate about why you were inside the building with someone who just assumes that you are getting an abortion and will probably assume that you are lying when you tell them you came in for your annual exam and refill of birth control.
Feel free to protest, but please think of those you are protesting against. We don’t need signs that tell us we are baby killers or pictures of dead fetuses or people shouting about us going to hell when we are there for birth control and STD testing.