Planned Parenthood: The Republican Final Frontier

After today’s announcement that House Republicans had passed a bill proposing to defund Planned Parenthood, a community resource millions of women depend on, I went a little ballistic. Here’s a censored version of what I posted to Facebook:

“Are you f—— kidding me?

Women’s health is so precious and complicated that it requires its own department, and yet women are still singularly responsible – emotionally, physically, and financially – for their birth control, prenatal health, pregnancy, and abortions.

House Republicans need to wake the f— up and realize that a poor single mother (because her deadbeat boyfriend ran out or because her miserly boss refuses to pay her at the same rate as a male counterpart) needs certain key services to provide quality care to her children, the same kids Republicans refused to let her abort or let a gay couple adopt because of “family values.” With the middle class shrinking and the upper class a total sausage fest, more and more women are experiencing frightening wage stagnation despite the uptick in their cost of living, making Planned Parenthood an increasingly necessary function.

I’m so sick of the misogyny that blocks the research of male birth control and strips low-cost healthcare options from women, so that women are forced to get painful birth control treatments or side-effects (because men don’t like wearing condoms) and if not, it’s the woman who pays by getting pregnant. I don’t want to bleed money (in the form of outrageous co-pays) for getting birth control – I want to GET paid for not contributing to increasing demands on the earth’s diminishing resources and allowing men to relinquish any responsibility for being half of the equation.

F— that. Republicans have never made me as infuriated as they have now. If you want to make a difference, don’t just watch the debates – PARTICIPATE IN THE NEXT ELECTION. America might be going to s— but that doesn’t mean we can’t course-correct.”

The post was received by an outpouring of support, with several friends chiming in with their own thoughts on what we, as a generation, could be doing to increase resistance to neoconservative ideology. I am grateful for my community, several of whom are employed in actively pushing society in the direction of progress. But I’m a Berkeley grad who lives in the Bay Area – my statement might be read as preaching to the choir (though “ranting” would admittedly be a more apt description).

The Republican proposal is extremely troubling, as it’s emblematic of the poisonous attack the GOP has waged on everyone who is not a rich, white male. However, more alarming than that is the fact that much of the country remains firmly on the GOP’s side, soaking in the battery acid that is FOX News and spewing out vitriol at anyone who questions pre-conceived “American” ideals. Deemphasizing education and community-building, Republicans have sequestered their followers in a cone of ignorance, fortifying mental resistance to rational and empathetic responses.

Fact: For many women, Planned Parenthood is a critical piece of the reproductive cycle, a cycle for which men deny responsibility, despite the very real biological fact that women don’t impregnate themselves. But for fundamental conservatives, who eschew birth control, women’s health, and common decency, it’s a harder sell to convince them of the efficacy of the program, which, as a prominent healthcare provider, shouldn’t need any extra proof of its functionality. That being said, while rhetoric and clever logic can satiate the liberal’s need for justice, the most effective persuasion is in case studies.

Though I once volunteered with Planned Parenthood, I don’t have any PP stories of my own. What I do have is a deep discontent with the way the medical community treats women’s health. For example, when I first got birth control (and for the two years that followed), I was under my parent’s – then employer’s – insurance. At $50, my co-pay was still higher than anyone else I had spoken with, but it was manageable. I’ll admit: I took healthcare for granted, because thankfully I was relatively healthy during that time.

This January, though, I switched to my own plan, and therefore was responsible for both the mounting co-pays and premiums. I have medical insurance through Kaiser Permanente, a “luxury” that is somewhat subsidized by the state government. Even so, my plan only allows me three hospital visits a year at “just” $60 a visit, after which I have to pay full price for any treatment I receive. To put that into perspective, that means that I could go to the hospital three times in the entire year and still be on the hook to pay $1668, or $556 per visit on average. And that’s the cheapest plan.

Recently, I began having severe and unrelenting pain in my stomach and abdomen. Having used up two of my three visits (both on gynecological issues, because having birth control comes with its own bag of surprises), I had to make a choice: do I make my final appointment with internal medicine or ob/gyn? I opted for the ob/gyn, but after a mixup in scheduling (partially my fault), I was rescheduled to meet with a nurse practitioner, not a doctor as I had originally intended. I love nurses, but with my problem lasting more than six months at this point, I wanted as experienced a physician as I could find. After all, isn’t that why I paid the same amount for the co-pay?

In explaining this to the receptionist, and certainly feeling her resentment for having to do extra administrative work, I was on the verge of tears. My health is incredibly important to me, but I had to delay treatment for this long and juggle priorities because healthcare is just too expensive to “indulge” in regularly. My financial situation might not always be as dire as it is now, but it’s very telling to know that the second I slip into questionable liquidity, I could lose both my health and my insurance in one fell swoop.

Of course, the tests came up inconclusive, meaning if I really want to know what’s happening, I have to schedule yet another appointment, which from now on will be full-price. My doctor was very empathetic and shared a few other low-cost resources, but she too shook her head at the futility of the healthcare system at actually addressing long-term health.

And that’s why Planned Parenthood matters. When nearly 100% of your doctor’s visits relate to your vagina, you shouldn’t have to make a choice about whether you can afford to go to the hospital. When you’re forced to be solely responsible for our civilization’s reproductive health, you need to have peace of mind that you can get quality care regardless of your insurance plan. It’s a compounded injury that a man makes more money, doesn’t have to birth a child, and also doesn’t have to spend all of his annual hospital visits on birth-related issues. Men aren’t even beholden to pitch in for his girlfriend/wife/mistress’ care; let’s not even get started on child care and alimony. But it’s one slight that men can help remedy, by not actively defunding organizations that provide equal treatment for women.

I demand that same freedom of options for women, and in case you haven’t been listening, freedom is Planned Parenthood.