Planned Parenthood–from a local’s perspective

Reading Political Notes yesterday (September 18, 2015) in the Frederick News Post, there was a part that caught my attention.

Chmelik, who has been vocal at council meetings about his frustration in not being able to get information or meet with staff, gave one specific example. He wanted to meet with Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, the county’s health officer, to talk about Planned Parenthood, according to emails he shared with The Frederick News-Post. That meeting was denied.

First of all–I know I was wondering so much after I saw this that I contacted the Health Department–Frederick County does not provide funding to Planned Parenthood. It may come as a surprise as well, particularly since there were a bunch of people out in front of the local office showing everybody and their dog (and children) grotesque posters the other weekend, that the Planned Parenthood in Frederick does not perform abortions, either. Attention people with gruesome posters: my elder child would be terrorized by a photo of a paper cut, which is still upsetting and has nothing to do with anyone’s moral opinions. Please take that mess somewhere else. Thanks.

And this leads me to a very personal tale, and one that I don’t generally go around telling. I think it is important to share, though, because we hear endlessly about the evils of Planned Parenthood (3% of their services include providing abortions). Family planning is a very private matter, and we don’t always want to come out and explain our private choices in public. Our private sexual history is also usually in the TMI category, and not always easy to reveal for the sake of rational discourse. But, here goes nothing. When I was 19 years old, back when birth control was not covered by anyone’s insurance (no matter where they worked) I went into a Planned Parenthood and got a year’s worth of birth control pills for $17. I have never had an unintended pregnancy. I owe this in part to the assistance Planned Parenthood provided me.

I realize that this confessional is coming from the perspective of my days as a young fornicator, so some will find it appropriate to judge me. Consider this, though. The young gentleman who drove me to that appointment, where I also received my first pelvic exam and a bag of condoms, is on this very day my spouse of 17 years (there’s a joke in here somewhere about $17/years of marriage…but I’m too serious today to flesh that out). I want to interrupt this testimonial to say happy anniversary to my best friend, because I think that’s relevant. I love him. We have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. We have packed 17 years full of adventures together, and I look forward to many more of those. I do thank Planned Parenthood for their hand in this, on a regular basis, and with a check in the mail. If we had been unable to plan our families and our lives just so, the stress of being parents when we were psychologically or financially ill-prepared may have jeopardized our marriage. We may not even have the beautiful children and amazing family that we have today.  Although we were young and not yet married at the time, many married women have also been able to plan families and have a healthy sexual relationship with their spouse without fear of having a baby they were unready to welcome.

Not really…I was never *that* easy. I actually told everyone I was going to marry him from the moment I met him. It was maybe a little pathetic. But I won, didn’t I!?

Planned Parenthood is on the receiving end of a lot of misinformation, so please, before you condemn them, think of the many abortions they have prevented.

Plus, since I like to be silly more than serious here, did y’all see that the whiz-banging engineers at NASA had some significant troubles calculating how many tampons Sally Ride might need to have available? Maybe the men-folk should stay out of the lady parts regulation.

Whew. I am relieved we haven’t decided to put by-lines on this thing yet.


9 thoughts on “Planned Parenthood–from a local’s perspective

  1. Thank you for sharing your story of how PP helped to plan your family. I had an unintended pregnancy at 17…see another Anyway that was my birthday present found out I was pregnant at 17. I was a parent 3 months before my 18th birthday..damn I had to grow-up fast. I didn’t marry the person that got me pregnant, I married another man…who became the dad to my unintended pregnancy…and this December 15th we will be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary…

    We waited 7 years before we had another child, simply because we wanted to make sure we were ready to bring another child into this world. I was going to make damn sure the next time I brought a child into this world I would be prepared. So guess what we planned our family….and guess what I went to
    Planned Parenthood for the same reason you did, they covered birth control pills, our insurance would not. I kept going to PP because I could go to a woman doctor, even after insurance covered birth control pills, back in the late 70’s early 80’s there were not many female gyno’s in my town. At PP I could have a woman doctor. I had the best woman doctor at PP, she took such good care of me as I was going through my child bearing years.

    There is no place else where women can get the kind of care that they can get at PP, no where. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and you should not be ashamed of this at all. You should think about putting a byline on this, because if we don’t tell our stories out loud and own our experiences then the other has shamed us into silence and we should be ashamed of what exactly? By not owing our stories then just like with abortion we are allowing misinformation to flourish.


    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am a different writer here at the yokel and I also went to Planned Parenthood to obtain birth control when I was young and without health insurance. I don’t know if it was for $17 , but that sounds about right. Planned Parenthood has helped many women out over the years and hopefully they will continue to stand strong against these political attacks that never seem to end.


  2. I have tried not to pay attention to the most recent attacks on Planned Parenthood for a few reasons. For one, I have tried not to pay attention because it is a manufactured sideshow that is all about sound bites, an orchestrated drama that distracts from real loss and suffering (think Syria) that ought to be the focus of our attention. But that is only part of the reason I have looked away. The bigger reason, if I am being honest, is because this attack is more uniquely personal and more difficult to speak honestly about. I don’t say that lightly. My husband and I made the decision years ago to go very public with our own abortion story ( and When we first decided to speak publicly about our loss, we consulted with security experts. Think about that. Just to speak our truth, we had to consult with people who told us how to get our mail out of our mailbox in our little town. We had a conference call I will never forget in which we talked about what kinds of packages not to open and who lived near enough that might want to hurt us for telling our story. We warned our son’s preschool to hold him extra close. In America. Since then, I’ve been involved in some way in opposing attacks against the reproductive freedoms a few times. But this attack? This one is harder. Maybe I am tired of people deliberately not understanding what women in America are denied when it comes to reproductive rights. But mostly, it is just hard to explain why it is harder than the standard attack on abortion. When a person “chooses” abortion, the reality is that they often have very few choices. Depending upon circumstances, they may not get to choose their doctor. They may not get to choose to have medical care close to home or even in their home state. They may not get to use their health insurance. They may have to follow strict timelines of someone else’s making. They may have to ask permission of hospital ethics boards. They may not get to choose to even have a birth certificate or a death certificate that accurately reflects their reality. They may be choosing from among the most profoundly awful choices a human being can face. And in that moment, I know from personal experience that you look for choices that make some sort of god-awful meaning out of unspeakable suffering. You exercise the limited choices you have in the best way you can. The blinders are off. You don’t have the luxury of pretending there isn’t a loss, a body, final arrangements to be made. You have to decide. You have to think about remains and how the remains are handled. We got to make two choices about what would happen after our son’s death. We got to choose where our son’s remains were buried and we got to choose whether we would donate some of his organs to medical research. We made those choices as deliberately and with as much thought and love as we were capable. We did not want our son’s brief life to mean nothing – to matter to no one but us. So we decided to have our son’s organs donated for medical research. And that is why this one is hard because when I heard Planned Parenthood being vilified for dealing in baby parts, I know that conversation is possible only for people who have had the luxury to never have to talk about the body of their own baby. I know that conversation is possible because women who have abortions are so afraid to speak publicly that the people who manufacture these stories rely on a public that turns away from harsh realities and maybe can’t or won’t understand the desperate search for meaning that is involved. I don’t know how to explain that organ donation felt like an honorable choice for us – just like any other kind of organ donation. And I feel like again Planned Parenthood is being made the fall guy for being there for women in their darkest and most desolate moments. And it is an effective smear campaign because so many people are truly blessed not to have walked in our shoes and have the luxury of being squeamish.


    1. Thank you Mary for sharing your truth. My heart broke as I read your story, I cannot imagine what you and your husband and your family went through. Being able to donate your son’s organs brought you great comfort, knowing perhaps you could spare another couple pain and that your son could help in some way and that would give meaning to his life. To me your story is beautiful because of the truths it tells.

      “They may be choosing from among the most profoundly awful choices a human being can face.”..One day, perhaps almost 30 years from now the pain will not be as raw and you will be comforted knowing your son’s life did have meaning and those awful choices were the best choices.


  3. Back when the county health department was in the basement of Winchester Hall, i seem to remember going directly there for bcp.
    I know for sure thats where I went but i’m thinking the bcp part may be a manufactured memory.
    Did the county health department ever directly dispense birth control?
    Boy, that would sure make some heads explode,


  4. I thought I’d add my personal PP stories, I think they might make a difference to those who aren’t so ideologically predisposed to hating PP that they can be reasoned with. I should probably add a trigger warning bc although I don’t describe it I do mention the circumstances surrounding being raped. I’ve heard a lot of ppl snicker & assert that women are lying about rape to justify an abortion. I can say for sure that pregnancy from rape does indeed happen. I have had two abortions. One when my neighbor who was obsessed with me & had been harassing & stalking me for weeks kidnapped & raped me. I was 23 & quite fond of drinking after work. I came home a bit tipsy & when my temporary roommate offered me a glass of wine I drank it. I didn’t know that the co worker from the resort I worked with had spiked my drink. I didn’t know he was willing to drug me in order to get drugs from my neighbor. I don’t remeber much and I won’t relay what I do remeber but bc of shock and feelings of shame and guilt I packed up and moved home without telling anyone. Even when I found out I was pregnant I didn’t tell my mom. She was angry and disappointed. She didn’t say much, just handed me the phone book and said make an apt for an abortion. It took me five years to talk about it. Five years where I spiraled into a self destructive cycle of self harm. I made my self forget the rape but it poisoned me and caused dissociative fugues. I can only say thank god I didnt have a child. My 2nd abortion was bc of my own ineptitude. I wasn’t very good at telling my boyfriend to do things he didn’t want to do. I wanted to make him happy & he hated condoms. I had made an apt to get birth control but I got pregnant before I got on the pill. When I got pregnant I was a mess. Still binge drinking and with numerous wounds still healing from my obsession with harming myself. My boyfriend was cruel and occasionlly physically abusive; & I knew having a baby then was wrong. I knew if I tryed to give it up for adoption I wouldn’t be able to. I’ve always adored babies & longed for my own ( during my teen years I would pretend to breastfeed my baby dolls.) This time I wasn’t in the daze of trauma & it wounded my heart greatly but I never felt guilt. I knew I had made the right choice. I got pregnant again even though I was on birth control (when they say take your pill at the same time every day they mean it-also I’ve learned antibiotics lessen the effectiveness of birth control) and even though I was finically unstable and still in treatment for PTSD & anxiety I decided to keep the baby. I wish my pregnacy had been planned so I could have been on vitamins before hand. I wish I had been in a more stable relationship but I wouldn’t have the amazing kid I have now if anything had been different. I’ve become a much better person bc of her and I’m so honored to be her mom. I’ve adored being her mom. Nursing her while she gazed into my eyes. Watching her grow and learn. I wouldn’t be here with this kid if I had had a child when I wasn’t ready. There is a good chance I wouldn’t even be alive now. I suffered from sexual abuse as a child that effected my life even as an adult. Leading me to make really bad choices. Choices that led to me being further victimized. I struggled to come out of those traumas and become a whole person who wasn’t defined by the abuse of others. I’m really lucky in many ways. I have no guilt for having a microscopic cell cluster aborted before it became a baby. Both abortions happened in the 1st or begining of the 2nd month of pregnancy-like most abortions. And PP does a lot more then abortions, they definitely did a lot more then abortion for me. They provided pelvic exams and birth control. They discovered pre cancerous lesions and got me the surgery I needed when I had no insurance. They also only do abortions 3% of the time. 25%-40% of women have an abortion during their reproductive life, for women of all faiths and all walks of life. We are people who made a hard choice, doing the best we could with the resources we have. My Best friend got pregnant as a teenager and was convinced by a pro life org to have the baby. The took care of her till the birth and then she had to make her own way. She was suffering from issues resulting from abuse as well but never had a chance to grow up and get better before having kids. Last I heard she had two children taken away and another with her. She was dealing with untreated mental illness and living in poverty. I’m so glad Im not living that life but I could have if not for safe, legal abortion.


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