Friday, June 10, 2011

I Stand With Planned Parenthood...And I Don’t Even Like Them



Virginia is an unemployed, disabled, married, cisgendered white woman.  She is working hard to recognize all the privileges that come with those labels, but still has a lot to learn.  She has 3 podcasts she's currently working on, all of which you can find on her website "Too Twisted for Color TV."

My one and only trip to Planned Parenthood (PP) was a disaster. 

It was 10 years ago, and I was about to be married for the first time.  I didn’t want to get pregnant, so I thought getting on birth control would be a good idea.  Of course getting on birth control usually requires a pap smear.

[Normally, I wouldn’t over share like this, but it’s pertinent to the story I swear: At the age of 20, due to a gynecological birth defect and a multitude of other factors, I was carting myself off to PP as a virgin. (edited on 4/9/11 to add: I was not aware of the birth defect at the time I went to PP or else I would have gone straight to a specialist.  Just wanted to clarify that!)]

A friend from work drove me over to the local PP office (15 miles from where I lived).  She said that the first pap smear was usually pretty uncomfortable and it might be better to have someone drive me.  She waited in the lobby when they called me back.

The nurse said they had to ask me a few questions before they could perform the exam, so I sat in the chair first.  She asked typical questions: name, age, date of birth, last menstrual period...but then came the kicker.

Nurse: “When was the last time you had sexual intercourse?”

Me: “Ummmm...I haven’t had sex yet.  That’s why I’m here.  I want to get on birth control BEFORE I start having sex.”

Nurse: “Well, we don’t perform pap smears on virgins.”

Me (sure I had misheard what she said): “I’m sorry...what?”

Nurse: “We don’t perform pap smears on virgins.”

Me: “Why not?”

Nurse: “We just don’t.”

Me: “Ummmm...ok, I guess I’ll be going then.”

I didn’t get angry.  I didn’t yell at anyone.  I just walked back to the lobby.  My friend was surprised I came out so quickly...until I explained they had NOT performed the exam and why.

She agreed with me that it seemed pretty ridiculous for PP to refuse to perform exams on virgins.  So, my friend suggested I call their regional office to complain.  The lady I talked to was NOT very helpful and reiterated their policy that they don’t perform exams on virgins. 

At that point, I was very frustrated and, although I didn’t go into a full fledged screaming fit, I did get kind of pissy with her.  Wasn’t the whole point to provide preventive care BEFORE becoming sexually active?  Here I was, trying to be a sexually responsible adult, and they were basically refusing me service!!  I think I may have hung up on her.  Oops.

I was still on my parents’ insurance, so I decided to go see our family physician for the pap smear.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life.  But that’s another story for another time.

All this to say, even though my experience was terrible, and - if it is within my power - I will NEVER use their services again, PP provides vital services to women.  My experience is not typical of other people’s experiences, and just because I did not find them useful doesn’t mean other people don’t.

The anti-PP people and I have one thing in common.  We both can’t stand PP.  But the difference between the anti-PP and me is that I don’t want to de-fund vital reproductive health services due to my one bad experience.

So...I stand with Planned Parenthood.  And I don’t even like them.