As a political junkie and passionate feminist, I’ve always enthusiastically supported Planned Parenthood. I made financial donations when I could and did everything in my power to spread the word about the incredibly important services provided by the organization.
But I never thought that I’d need to rely on Planned Parenthood myself. When it comes to medical insurance and services, I’ve been incredibly privileged throughout my life.
Post-college, I made a smooth transition from my parents’ top-notch insurance to equally strong coverage provided by my corporate job. I took my insurance for granted and I always just assumed that, as amazing as Planned Parenthood is, I wasn’t someone who would need their services.
No one was more surprised than me when, in July 2016, I went to a clinic after being sexually assaulted, hoping and praying they could help me.
I was in a new phase of my life — I had recently moved across the country to begin a freelance career and, although I had signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, I hadn’t bothered to find a primary care doctor. I wasn’t sexually active at the time of my assault, so I wasn’t on any form of birth control.
My actions in the 48 hours following my assault defied all logic. I knew I needed Plan B and STD testing, but I’d just kicked off a new career and I was terrified about the potential hit to my bank account. I’m blessed to have parents who would have helped me in a heartbeat, but I wasn’t ready to call my mom and tell her that a stranger had raped me at a concert after-party.
So, for 48 full hours, I simply hoped for the best and tried to convince myself that my chances of getting pregnant or contracting an STD were slim.
When I finally acknowledged the reality that I, in fact, had a very strong chance of becoming pregnant as a result of the rape, I needed to take immediate action — I’d already wasted 48 hours and, according to my Google searches, Plan B would cease to be effective if I didn’t take the pill as soon as possible. Panic quickly set in and, with nowhere else to turn, I called Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
I had no idea what a visit to Planned Parenthood entailed, and I expected to spend a whole lot of time on hold before I got any answers about next steps. Instead, a rep quickly got on the line with me, gathered my information, and provided me with the address of the nearest clinic that accepted walk-ins.
It was first thing on a Monday morning when I walked in a daze to Planned Parenthood. I was still in shock and physical pain, and I hadn’t slept all night. I was crawling out of my skin as the reality of my assault slowly continued to sink in — I wanted nothing more than to escape my body. Since that wasn’t possible, I planned on taking my sleep med so I could escape reality for as long as I could. I felt a surge of anger that, in my exhausted state, I now had to deal with the medical aftermath of a rape while my attacker was presumably headed off to work like it was just another typical day.
When I arrived at the clinic, I tried to stay as calm as possible as I quietly told the receptionist that I needed Plan B and I’d been told this particular clinic accepted walk-ins. I began to panic when I saw how many other people were already in the waiting room — would they be able to squeeze me in?
I hadn’t cried since the assault, but I heard my own voice tremble and crack as I made the request for Plan B. “Are you comfortable telling me your circumstances?” the receptionist gently asked. As quietly as possible, I told her the truth. I felt an intense wave of relief and gratitude when she told me that, although they were booked solid for the day, they’d make sure I was taken care of as quickly as possible.
Despite the receptionist’s warning that I may have a long wait, the clinic went out of their way to make sure a doctor saw me as soon as possible — within an hour, I was in an examination room.
With my eyes fixed firmly on the floor, I told her what had happened, offering as few details as possible.
“All I really need is Plan B and then I can go home and sleep,” I said over and over. Given how busy they were that day, I figured the doctor would simply hand me Plan B and send me on my way — instead, she took time to provide me with a long list of resources for sexual violence survivors and tell me what I desperately needed to hear: “It’s not your fault.”
The doctor made clear that I could talk about my emotions with her if I wanted to, but respected my wish to simply take the pill and go home to rest. But first, she reminded me that it was crucial to schedule follow-up appointments for STD testing once enough time had passed. And, without being alarmist, she cautioned me that Plan B isn’t always effective. “If it doesn’t work, come back right away and we’ll discuss other options,” she told me.
I want to scream this part of the story from the rooftops, because, to hear anti-choicers tell it, Planned Parenthood is incredibly eager to encourage their patients to have abortions.
Although I would have chosen to terminate a pregnancy if it came down to it, my doctor never even uttered the word “abortion” that day. And, thanks to the organization’s services, I didn’t end up in a situation where I needed to make that painful decision.
As members of the GOP fight to defund Planned Parenthood, they, once again, send the message to millions of women that we are undeserving of one of the most basic human rights — medical care. We don’t deserve access to STD testing, affordable contraception, or cancer screenings. I, and millions of other assault survivors, don’t deserve a place to turn after our bodies have been violated in the worst way possible. Abortions are not federally funded, but a shocking number of people prefer to remain ignorant of this fact.
I will never forget the compassion Planned Parenthood showed me on that hazy, awful July morning — from the receptionist to the doctor who treated me, they didn’t simply go through the motions, hand me a pill, and send me on my way. They saw a scared young woman in pain, and went out of their way to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.
It breaks my heart to know that, if the GOP and their supporters have their way, other women in my situation will be left with nowhere to turn.
There are countless reasons to stand with Planned Parenthood — and, although I would give anything to erase that horrible July night from my history, I’ll look for the silver lining.
I can now stand up for Planned Parenthood and tell anyone who is willing to listen that, as I sat in the clinic, I quite literally felt as though they were saving my life.
As much as I desperately wish I’d never gone to that ill-fated party, I can’t change what happened to me. But I can use my experience to support Planned Parenthood by sharing my story.
After the traumatic, disillusioning experience of being raped, my visit to the clinic reminded me how many good people are out there, ready and eager to help anyone in need who walks through their doors.
The doctors, nurses, and other Planned Parenthood employees could make considerably higher salaries elsewhere — but they know how many women rely on the organization’s services. They’re harassed, threatened, and referred to as “baby killers,” but they keep coming to work because they know we need them. Like millions of other women, I owe Planned Parenthood a debt of gratitude.