I began having sex at 15 years old.
The memory of my first time is as awkward and short-lived as you might imagine between two kids that didn’t know who they were doing.
My mom had given me “the talk” in 5th grade, once the differences between my male peers and I began growing. We sat on our living room floor looking at age-appropriate books she had checked out from the library that illustrated men and women’s anatomy and explained the context of sex between two consenting adults. But we didn’t discuss it again in my adolescence. Instead, my confidantes about this new, weird experience shared between two humans were found in my best girlfriends, who were coming of age in their own series of hook-ups and experimentation.
At 16, I began dating someone seriously (as seriously as one can in high school, which is to say not very) and sex became a regular part of our relationship. My thoughts looking back on this as a 24 year old are that I was too young to experience this level of intimacy. I didn’t know it at the time but I wasn’t mature enough yet to make decisions that were in the best interest of my health or my future.
Luckily, the compassionate individuals at Planned Parenthood were there to help educate and empower me without judgement.
I knew I wanted to go on birth control but my relationship with my parents wasn’t as open then as it is now. I couldn’t talk to them about my reproductive health without the fear of feeling embarrassed or patronized, so like a true digital native, I began researching a solution by Googling “birth control methods”. In doing so, I learned that Planned Parenthood would be my best resource and within the hour, I had an appointment confirmed. A few weeks later, one of my best friends at the time drove me to a clinic 45 minutes away in the outskirts of Orlando, the only metropolitan area near my hometown. The facility I went to was similar to any other doctor’s office I had ever visited – clean, welcoming, and serious about their patient’s right to privacy.
I was seen within 30 minutes and discussed my options at length with the practitioner available. I settled on the Pill and walked out with a prescription that would cost me no more than $30/month – a cost I could easily pay with funds from my after-school job serving smoothies.
Because of my access to Planned Parenthood’s services, I’m sitting here years later in a city 1,000 miles away from home, pursuing a career and life without the pressure of caring for a family I’m in no way ready for yet.
The “baby-parts-for-sale” video that has incensed so many Conservatives against Planned Parenthood has been debunked in a series of outlets, including here, here, and here. At the same time, it would be disingenuous to evade discussing that Planned Parenthood provides women with access to safe abortion procedures – a total of 327,653 in 2014 alone. Whether or not I agree with a women’s choice to have an abortion is not up for discussion here.
Whether or not you agree to a women’s choice to have an abortion is not up for discussion here.
What is up for discussion is that defunding Planned Parenthood leaves 5 million women, men, and adolescents without affordable healthcare services like breast exams, pap smears, and family planning. It leaves people in need of testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases without an accessible and supportive place to do so. And it leaves women who have decided they are going to get an abortion without an option to do so safely and affordably. Do we really have to invoke the symbolism of hangers to remember that women are going to take control of their reproductive liberties, whether Congress allows it or not?
In considering my religious beliefs and the sensitive nature of this subject, George Takei comes to mind. Following the Kim Davis debacle surrounding gay rights, Takei posted a Facebook status calling out the media for turning the debate into a circus and pointing out that American citizens are bound to following civil laws, not religious ones – Therefore, Kim Davis was breaking the law by refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay couples. Someone commented and in a poor effort to shut down his argument, urged Takai to learn the first amendment. Takei responded, outlining the first amendment at length and calling attention to the fact that it gives one the right to worship freely while also restricting Congress from imposing religious doctrine on American citizens. You know, a nod to that whole clause called “separation of church and state”.
George Takei’s point applies in the debate surrounding Planned Parenthood, too.
The topic of Planned Parenthood’s role in providing women with safe abortions has become such a mast-head for bipartisan debate and is used by presidential candidates as a thinly veiled attempt to gain political footing with Conservatives so often that it’s also been reduced to a circus, while ignoring all that’s at stake. The value in providing subsidized health services for women and families, and how these services impact our population’s quality of life has been regrettably overlooked by Conservatives and the general public alike. If #Alllivesmatter, aren’t the lives of the people served by Planned Parenthood, many of which are people of color and immigrants, worth discussing?
I’m thankful my mother didn’t choose to abort me when she found herself pregnant at 17 years old and was encouraged by extended family to do so. I’d like to believe I would be as courageous as her and keep a pregnancy I wasn’t ready for but I’ve never been faced with this decision myself, thanks in part to my access to reproductive health services like birth control.
I’ll fight for my teenage self’s opportunity to make choices about her own body, whether or not those choices would be different today. I’ll fight for an organization that provides 10,590,433 healthcare services to communities of people each year. Beyond (and maybe even despite) my religious beliefs, I’ll fight for a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy she has decided she is not ready for. As I write this, I can picture the disappointed, most likely horrified, faces of the Christian peers that will read this.
Even with these images in mind, I would never allow an outside party to legislate a women’s right to her own body and choices – The complexities of which they’re not equipped to take authority over.
And neither should you.