My Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood is me

My Planned Parenthood: raise your voice. tell your story. July 7.


My story is different. At least, that’s what I tell myself, because I don’t know if I could deal with it otherwise.

[Trigger Warning for following content: rape, sexual assault, “pro-life” protesters]

I started going to Planned Parenthood when I moved to Washington, had no insurance, and needed birth control for my horrible periods and because I wanted to have safe sex with my boyfriend. The providers at my local clinic were, and have always been, professional, helpful, informative, and trustworthy. That last part is key.

It was key because I could trust them. I could trust them to insert my IUD properly, and help me deal with the aftermath of an expulsion. Another IUD insert, and the aftermath of a contaminated insertion leading to PID. They helped me understand that PID is not just from STIs, and that there was no shame in it, no matter how you got it. They helped me heal the infection that would have killed me had it stayed untreated.

And during that treatment, my life changed. I walked through the gantlet of protesters, eyes hidden behind sunglasses yet body language betraying my fear and anxiety. I was not there to get an abortion, yet they treated me as if I were – offering pamphlets, little baby dolls, prayers, “help.” I was called a baby killer. I was treated as a murderer. I was none of these things: I was trying to save my life, Planned Parenthood was helping me, and because I could not go to a “regular” doctor, I was the target of harassment.

That experience galvanized me, gave me purpose. When I was recovered enough, I contacted the clinic and told them that I wanted to volunteer, to escort. Thrilled, they got me in touch with the coordinator, I went through training, and found myself on the sidewalk wearing a garish orange vest and terrified out of my mind. The protesters know when “abortion days” are [our system is so underfunded and understaffed that the team rotates through the state at different clinics] and show up in force. Most of them are middle-class soccer moms, with some older men as well. 99% of them were white, while the clientele was not.

I helped so many people during my time escorting, before I had to “retire” due to medical problems. I shielded them from the scorn, the hatred, the accusations and pointing fingers. I watched so many people walk in those doors, uncomfortable with the protesters but with their minds made up.

I wonder how many lives I helped to save or turn around. I don’t think I’ll ever know, really, but that’s ok.

What most people don’t know is that Planned Parenthood helped me in ways beyond gynecological care. At a time when I was struggling to come to terms with my worsening disabilities, with my assaults, with my sexuality, purpose in the world, and other things, they gave me a chance to help others. They trusted me to help them help others. In so doing, they helped to pull me out of the increasing depression I was in, gave me something to focus my nervous energy on.

Now, I’m still a volunteer with them. I staff the table at local fairs – if you go to a fair in upper Washington state and see a Planned Parenthood table, there’s a good likelihood I know the people there. Tabling is a different sort of thing. Instead of protecting patients from potentially violent protesters, I help spread the word about Planned Parenthood and our campaigns. Right now we’re trying to get “crisis pregnancy centers” regulated under HIPPA, and that involves getting the signatures of voters.

Being able to see people change their minds, to sign the petition, and walk away proudly wearing a Planned Parenthood button or sticker, is an amazing feeling. Seeing parents encourage their children to talk to us, to get swag, is so encouraging.

Sometimes I think about where I would have been if there were not a Planned Parenthood in my area, and I cringe at the thought. They have helped me grow, change, and heal from the abuse, assaults, and the rape. They’ve let me help others who desperately needed it, and in so doing they helped me when I most desperately needed it, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

My Planned Parenthood is me.