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A Love Letter from a Queer Woman to Planned Parenthood

A Love Letter from a Queer Woman to Planned Parenthood

A Love Letter from a Queer Woman to Planned Parenthood

I will always stand with Planned Parenthood.

Dear Planned Parenthood,

In the wake of the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, I feel deeply upset about the people who lost their lives, angry at the shooter, and scared in the same way I felt scared when I was 15-years-old, lying on the bathroom floor because it was the coldest place in the house, and my stomach was cramping so terribly that I’d broken out in a sweat and could no longer control my bowels.

At 15, I didn’t have access to a Planned Parenthood clinic. I was seeing a primary care physician who was affiliated with a Catholic hospital. Over the course of the last year, she had prescribed me several anti-inflammatory drugs that had done nothing to lessen the pain of my seven to ten day monthly periods. I had asked her several times to prescribe a birth control pill, which she had refused to do, saying, “You really shouldn’t have sex until you’re ready to have a child. It takes a man and a woman together to raise a child.”

I continued to miss three or four days of school once a month. Sometimes my period would come at school, and I would hobble to the nurse’s office, sit on the toilet, try not to cry, and hope no one else from my school would smell the stench when they came in for a scrape or a headache.

I remember the night of the bathroom floor clearly, because it was the night that changed my mother’s mind. For several months prior, I’d been reading about birth control pills on Planned Parenthood’s website. Armed with my knowledge, I’d begun a campaign to convince my doctor and mother to let me try them. She came in at around three in the morning with a glass of water and a heating pad. She sat on the edge of the tub, and squeezed my hand until morning. She brought me breakfast that I couldn’t eat, and carried me back to bed. When I woke up the next day, she told me we were making another doctor’s appointment.

I don’t know what she said to the primary care physician, but I was prescribed birth control the next week. I haven’t missed a day of school or work because of my period since.

I didn’t step foot inside a Planned Parenthood until I was 18-years-old and in college. The price of my birth control pills had risen to $80 a month, so a friend recommended I get one of the generic deals at Planned Parenthood.

The Chicago Planned Parenthood clinic I visited was visibly underfunded and understaffed. I filled out a form, and paused when I saw the question, “Do you have sex with men, women, or both?” I’d never been given the option to answer accurately before. I checked both. (Last year, at a Portland Planned Parenthood, I was asked if I had sex with people with penises, people with vaginas, or both. I was able to answer even more accurately.)

I sat in a packed waiting room for forty minutes after my appointment was supposed to start, then in a small clinic room for an additional hour before I saw a nurse. She apologized for the wait, and asked if I’d like to do an HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea test. I opted in after learning all three would be free. The doctor arrived, apologized again for the wait, and then thoroughly reviewed my paperwork with me before prescribing a generic brand. She asked questions about my general health, made sure I had resources in case I was in an abusive relationship or felt pressured to have sex, and didn’t bat an eye at my “both” answer about my sexual partners, but instead gave me information about safer sex regardless of who I was having it with. I was able to get four months of birth control for $50, which saved me $270. Despite the wait times, I returned to that Chicago Planned Parenthood clinic for the next four years for Pap smears, STI testing, and prescription refills.

I still choose Planned Parenthood in place of an OB/GYN, whose co-pays I can’t afford. I’m glad that it’s not all about the money though. I also choose Planned Parenthood because it’s the one place, no matter which doctors, nurse, or staff are there, that always respects my sexual orientation and never shames me for what I choose to do in bed. I choose Planned Parenthood because a nurse at the Chicago clinic gave me a list of eating disorder support groups at 18, and when I returned for a check up at 19 she took the time to praise me for all the numbers that weren’t my weight, told me how much my heart rate had improved, and explained what that meant for my overall health. I choose Planned Parenthood because their healthcare services have kept me from needing an abortion. I would choose Planned Parenthood for abortion services if the birth control and condoms their doctors and nurses taught me how to properly use failed, and I were to become pregnant.

In the wake of the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, I feel the same fear I felt at 15-years-old, when I was in pain, I had been denied a pill that would control that pain, and I had no control over my own body. Yet, I know that fear is unfounded. In the five years that I’ve chosen Planned Parenthood, the organization has faced many attacks, both literal and physical, and legal and political. Those attacks have never affected the quality of the care I have received there.

I know that small, hateful men with big guns will never take that choice away from me again, nor will small, hateful men with unnecessary investigations. For every one of them, there is at least one Planned Parenthood doctor, nurse, staff member, or patient, and people always fight harder to protect the things they love than to destroy the things they hate.


A queer woman who will always stand with Planned Parenthood

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Cassie Sheets