This is not the post I was intending to write today. In fact, there are a couple of other, much nicer posts in the hopper.
However, while Eric and I were hiking around in the Petrified Forest today as we Opted Outside (which, by the way, we had planned before REI got in on the game), a man entered the Planned Parenthood in the city where we live, opened fire, returned fire toward police officers, hitting 5 and killing one, at least as far as we know right now. There are also reports, which are a little scattered at the moment, that this man may have brought explosives or propane tanks into the clinic with them. Time and the Colorado Springs police will sort this out and we'll know the truth eventually.
Make no mistake though: no matter what this man's reason was for engaging in this heinous act, it will be about Planned Parenthood. The victims will be mourned, the survivors will be interviewed, and, by turns, the sides will line up. One side will use this as a reasoning to throw dispersions at the other, and your Facebook newsfeed is going to blow up, whichever side of the line you end up on, if it hasn't already.
Before the hysteria begins, I'd like to offer this: Planned Parenthood is a complicated organization. To those of you who Stand with Planned Parenthood, you need to recognize that some of the bad rap this organization has gotten is deserved, especially in recent weeks. Even the most ardent supporter I hope would recognize that the (even if highly edited) videos that emerged show that your organization has problems. To those of you who would defund at least, and shutter at best, Planned Parenthood clinics across the US, please understand that while abortion is certainly the most controversial reason why people (primarily but not exclusively) women use their services, it is not the only or even the most often purpose we go there.
I am a former Planned Parenthood client, and I want you to understand my story, because 10 years ago, if this tragedy had happened, I could have been in that clinic.
For a long time, and certainly well before today's events, I've debated sharing this part of my history. Frankly, it is absolutely no one's business what medical services I engage in or why I need them. However, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the rhetoric on both sides of the debate over Planned Parenthood existence, when, especially the characterization from the right, does not match with my own experience.
So, here we go.
When I was in undergrad, I started to have a lot of problems with my period (oh goodness! She said period! Yep... I'm going there.) To say they were "off" would be an understatement. Sometimes, they would be 14 days apart. Sometimes, 42 days would go by. My hormones were all over the map, and they dragged my emotions with them. I was a wreck. I sobbed over not being able to find my dorm room key. I got so angry at the worship leader I was working with over song selection that I had visions of throwing a hymnal at his head (I didn't). I failed a abnormal psychology test because I couldn't focus (yes, I see the irony there) I had roommates who each had the patience of a saint, because they listened and offered Kleenex WAY too many times over issues that totally didn't matter. MaryJane, Mindi, Anna, Dana, and Marianna, if I didn't say it then, thank you, and I'm sorry. Eric lived through this too and didn't run for the hills. I am a lucky woman.
I tried a lot of different things to try to get things under control. I took Evening Primrose Oil. I went to the health clinic. I tried to exercise. Nothing worked. I had read up that birth control could help, but I really didn't want to go on birth control. I didn't think that birth control would fit with who I understood myself to be, and I was worried that people would see me as some sex-driven college co-ed if anyone knew I was taking it.
But I felt awful, all the time. I finally listened when the college health clinic told me it was basically the only thing that was going to regulate my hormones. I went to the doctor, where my experience was horrible. I explained how I was feeling, asked if there were any other options, and explained my hesitations about going on the Pill. In response, I was grilled by the doctor, questioned, basically told that she didn't believe that I wasn't sexually active ("you have a boyfriend, how does HE feel about this??), but eventually, she reluctantly prescribed me Otho-Tri-Cyclen.
Though all of this, my mom was really supportive (thank goodness.) She saw what I was going through and researched and investigated possible solutions with me. She was ok with my eventual decision to go on the Pill. There was only one problem though: our insurance didn't cover birth control. Never say my mom can't be a mother tiger at times - this woman went to TOWN on Blue Cross, demanding that they cover the medication I so desperately needed, especially since BCBS had recently started covering Viagra! The inequity of it drove her mad.
But we lost. And at $35/month, I couldn't afford the medication on my college student budget.
Enter Planned Parenthood.
I don't know who referred me to them, but I eventually went. I remember really clearly driving to the clinic in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was scared. I didn't want to go. I had "heard things" about Planned Parenthood. I was afraid there would be protesters outside. I was afraid of what people would think if they saw me going there. I was afraid of what the clinicians would say, especially since the actual doctor didn't really believe what was going on with me. I was sure that they would just assume that I wanted to go have sex with whomever without consequences. But I needed the pills at a cost I could afford, so I sucked it up and went.
I was wrong. The clinicians were really kind. No one pressured me about the sex I was or wasn't having. I felt like they listened. They understood what I was going through and they understood that medication was expensive, and they had options for me. I could purchase birth control from them for less than half of what I would have to pay at the pharmacy, and even less if I bought multiple-months at one time. (And there were no protesters outside.)
I ended up going to Planned Parenthood for several years, through college, after, and into the first couple of years of our marriage, where we were just starting out, didn't have good insurance and even less money. I used Planned Parenthood clinics in multiple cities, with the same experience each time.
I know that my experience isn't going to change anyone's mind about Planned Parenthood. You have your own opinion, with your own reasons. I just hope, in what I am sure will be a time of heightened tensions and probably some outlandish statements, you'll take into consideration my experience as nuance that may swim upstream of the river of talk headed your way.