In light of recent events ("On Buying My First Pregnancy Test") I went to Planned Parenthood for the first time to get oral contraceptives aka The Pill aka birth control. I wanted to go to Planned Parenthood because, first and foremost, I have been supporting PP for years through rallies, petitions, word of mouth, events, and donations. In fact, while my boyfriend was away at Advertising Summer Camp (read: Summer Advertising Internship program) and I got a letter from PP addressed to him thanking him for his donation I was so proud of my choice in men that I wept a little then felt like high fiving a million angels.
Anyway, I also wanted to go to Planned Parenthood as women's health has been under attack for the past several hundred years and very aggressively in the past few months thanks to GOP debates "racing to the bottom (as Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood described it)" as to who would be the absolute worst for women. Also a recent senate hearing regarding contraception where women were not allowed to speak and when they demanded a chance they were insulted by certain hateful television and radio commentators and pundits. I, having supported the idea of PP for so many years, wanted to see what it was actually like at a place so hotly defended and debased.
Allow me to preface this with the fact that I
a) am one of the most impatient people I know when it comes to my health. When I had a UTI last year and no one answered my calls on a Saturday I threw my phone across the living room and pouted for the rest of the day
b) left the house without having eaten breakfast
That beings said, I anticipated a shitty morning at the doctor's office, not unlike when I finally saw a doctor after that UTI experience and ended up bitter and snotty for the next two days as a result of waiting for 3 hours for the appointment I arrived early to only to find that the doctor whose name was 'Adele' on the website was actually a man, all of which led to my nasty attitude afterward.
I made the appointment online a month in advance, answering questions about what gender pronoun I preferred and would I like PP to contact me under an alias. Both of which made me very happy because being an LGBTQ ally, I don't often see the option for transgendered persons and because PP offers its clients privacy to such a degree as to use an alias.
On the day of my appointment, my boyfriend asked if it was weird that I knew the place where I was going would have people there to prod and poke at my vagina. I had anticipated that to be what would happen regardless of my needs, and had become very self conscious that someone was going to stare into my vaginal canal and check out all that was going on down there. No matter how many times I see The Vagina Monologues, I'm probably still going to look at my vagina in a hand mirror and say 'gross' so the thought of someone else looking directly at it is like an eclipse or something. Dangerous, blinding.
I was also prepared for protesters as I had previously volunteered as an abortion clinic escort. I wasn't exactly sure where the location of the PP would be so when I asked for directions to the address from a woman on the street she asked
"What's the place you're trying to find?"
"Oh, oh..." She looked at my stomach. "I don't know where that is."
When I found the building there were no protesters, no violent Christian men trying to physically block my reproductive health as they so often do legislatively, no teenage girl telling me about the fingernails of a fetus (thanks for that character, Diablo Cody), no need for an escort. I walked up the steps, walked into the elevator, got to the floor and a security guard checked my bag, had me walk through the metal detector and buzzed me in. I have never been to a doctor's office with a need for a metal detector before, though.
When I spoke with a receptionist, she let me know that my government provided insurance would not cover my visit or pills. So I called my mom.
"Mama, can you text me the insurance information."
"I'll have your sister do it. Do you have a UTI again? You didn't go back to that place did you? You were such a grouch..."
"No, Mama, I'm getting birth control."
"Okay, well I'll have your sister text you. Why aren't you already on birth control?"
I had no real answer for her. It was my own laziness, really. And a fear that hormones would fuck up my inner workings.
"I don't know, Mama. I'll talk to you later, I love you."
When I came back to the receptionist she informed me that the whole conversation was all for naught because they didn't have a contract with my parents' insurance provided by the State of Florida either. So my insurance provided by the national program for which I work and my father's which is provided by the state in which he works for the state's jail system are both useless in helping me in my reproductive health. Fabulous.
After realizing that I started to worry about the finances. The receptionist informed me I'd be speaking with an insurance counselor. In about 10 minutes- not an hour, not two hours, but 10 minutes- I was in the insurance counselor's office discussing my financial options. It turns out PP was able to reduce the cost of my visit from $60 to $15 and the cost of my monthly pills, regardless of what prescription I chose, from $20 to $5 a month. This doctor's visit, without a single cent covered by either of the two insurance plans I fall under, was going to cost me $25.
When I was back in the waiting room I looked around. Many women sat around me, on their phones and iPads, some reading books, some talking on the phone, some talking to the friend next to them. One man sat in the back eating chicken wings that I could smell and that sent my vegetarian guts a'lurching. I took out Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins and in less time than it took for Pluck Purcell to tell the story of the martial arts monastery in rural Washington state, I was called into the office by a kind woman not much older than me. She asked me a few questions, told me to sign some paperwork, and gave me a cup to pee in.
I took a pee test and an HIV swab. I read an article about perfume in a year and a half old copy of Glamour magazine. I big my fingernails and a woman in hot pink tights, a blue and green floral skirt, and a white lab coat called me back to her office. Her name is Rachel* and she's a Nurse Practitioner at the Boro Hall Planned Parenthood.
"I am happy to report your HIV test came back nonreactionary. So you're negative. YAY!" She said and looked up at me with a big smile.
She asked me about my family medical history and was able to name the digestive disorder my mom has that I couldn't remember after describing one symptom. She talked to me about teaching, working in the women's health field, and smoking pot. She then discussed my options in regards to oral contraception.
"I want something with low hormones and that is really effective. I'm very forgetful so a pill is something I'm likely to forget, but I'm willing to try. I'm very interested in an IUD (intrauterine device)"
"Okay," Said Rachel "I'm going to prescribe you lo-cyclin for six months. I'd like you to try it for at least two months to determine if it's right for you. But if you want to stop and schedule an appointment to insert the Paraguard Copper IUD today we can do that. I'm going to give you literature on that and the Mirena IUD which uses hormones."
She gave me plenty of information, but also plenty of options. I had no qualms with asking questions. Unlike previous doctor's visits where I had promised myself to ask about IUDs and had gotten too scared or actually had asked and been told to try oral contraception first. When I left her office I said thank you. When I picked up my pills they told me I could come back, no appointment necessary to pick up the next four months of pills.
That's it. That was my first visit to Planned Parenthood. It was easy, friendly, clean, quick, informative, and effective. I got exactly what I needed while I was there. I wasn't ignored or treated like another number, waiting in the front room. I was their patient, Lauren a 24 year old girl seeking birth control. They provided the medical services I needed. That is why I cannot believe this is a place people feel should be stripped of funding. It was, literally, the best doctor's office experience of my entire adult life. And no one poked or prodded at my vagina.
So, while all the hubbub continues to encircle women's health, your uterus, your future, our futures, remember that this place exists and it does a great job doing so. Keep Planned Parenthood safe, donate today Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of women's healthcare in the country and you should find anyone who threatens this place highly suspect.