Planned Parenthood Saved My Life

I was 21 years old with a college degree, a job lined up and the promise of a bright future right in front of me. Compared to the skewed stereotypical view of what some people might portray me as, I was not the image that most likely came to mind when you pictured someone walking into Planned Parenthood.

Sarah Mirk / Creative Commons

The reality is that people from all different demographics rely on Planned Parenthood because they extend their services to people of all races, genders, socioeconomic class and education levels. Planned Parenthood is actually the main source of healthcare for many low income and young people. I was in between college and starting my first real job, and I was uninsured. I couldn’t go on my family’s insurance plan either, because like many blue collar or service workers, they were uninsured too.

Contrary to the popular belief of the protestors that stood around the health clinic that day, I wasn’t there to get an abortion. Though it is legal, and a choice that any woman is entitled to make in private with her family and her doctor. I wasn’t even there to get birth control that day either, though in the past it was my primary source of reproductive health care, like thousands of other women. That day, I was there to receive my annual womanly check up that revealed something concerning: vaginal melanoma, or skin cancer in my vagina.

I had volunteered for Planned Parenthood throughout all of college. I knew the statistics of women my age who had cervical cancer. I heard about how common STDs and STIs were amongst sexually active individuals in my age group. I had no sort of pre-existing symptom that pushed me to go get checked out that day, but I thought it was important to be proactive about my health. Planned Parenthood encourages health positivity. Without access to insurance at that point in my life, Planned Parenthood was the only place where I could get a Pap Smear at an affordable cost.

After sitting in the waiting room for about twenty minutes, my name was called. I followed the nurse to my private room, took of my clothes and put on the hospital dress that was nicely folded for me on the bed. After a few minutes, the doctor came in and introduced herself—and before I knew it I was sitting with my legs spread wide open in the most intimate of positions with a complete stranger. There’s no way to go about this comfortably. Let’s be honest. Yet somehow, I’ll never forget how calm the doctor made me feel that day during this check up.

During her inspection, she came across something that—in her words—looked “concerning.” She asked me if I’d mind having another doctor look at it for a second opinion. After inspecting it closely, the two doctors went out of the room to discuss it together. A few moments later my doctor came back in the room alone, and I could tell something was wrong.

“Danielle, we think you may have skin cancer. I know this isn’t a common place for it, but you can actually get skin cancer anywhere on your body, and not only the areas that are exposed to sun. It’s good you came in today because you need to have this removed right away.”

In that moment, I felt my world around me come crashing down. Here I was, just hoping to hear the news that I was still STI free, finding out I had skin cancer—on my vagina of all places.

The thing is, if you have skin cancer on your arm, or leg, or any visible part of your skin, you’ll notice if it gets bigger, changes form, or in general seems like a concern. Prior to this Pap Smear, I had no idea that vaginal melanoma was even something that women could get, yet alone that I even had it myself.

Planned Parenthood saved my life that day by detecting this early enough to give me a referral to a dermatologist to have this surgically removed. As you could imagine, this was not a fun procedure, or even a procedure I’ve told more than five people about prior to writing this, but it was a necessary one.

Abortions make up just 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does—and those services aren’t government funded. The other 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s time and resources go towards services including giving women birth control, providing schools with reliable sex education, administering STI/STD tests, providing cancer screenings for men and women alike and prenatal care.

Planned Parenthood gets its government funds from Title X, America’s Family Planning Program, and state Medicaid funding. Now-President Trump publicly claimed during the presidential campaign that if he were to be elected, he’d make defunding Planned Parenthood a top priority—now, he and his administration have urged Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and, along with it, Title X funding for Planned Parenthood. This means that millions of people could lose access to their main source of healthcare—care that could save their lives the way it saved mine.

There is not a one-size-fits-all description of a Planned Parenthood patient, but the majority are folks who are uninsured or don’t receive reproductive health care coverage through their insurance. Chances are, you’re friends with someone who has relied on their services in the past year. Defunding Planned Parenthood will hurt their patients—and put lives on the line.

I don’t know what would have happened to me had I not gone into Planned Parenthood that day. I’m grateful I never got the chance to find out because their doors were open to me when I needed them the most.

Danielle Ortiz-Geis is a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for women’s health, international relations, and education. You can check out some of her other published work on Thought Catalog, and connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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    Comments

    1. I am so happy I came across this article. I, like many other americans, simply believed that the main procedure at a Planned Parenthood was abortion; I never actually knew all of the other services Planned Parenthood provided. Sure, I have been there to receive plan b, when my high school boyfriend and I had a scare. I remember going to CVS and being told no, I couldn’t receive plan b because of my age even though I was in need of it. I walked into planned parenthood and received the Plan B and even for cheaper than what CVS sold it for. It truly breaks my heart that Donald Trump would willing put womens lives at risk but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to shock me anymore. Something needs to be done where stories like this article are told publicly and to assure republicans that planned parenthood is not just an abortion clinic-or maybe they know that but are ignoring the fact. Either way, this article was a great eye opener and Im really happy I came across it.

    2. Courtney Heiden says:

      At first when I was reading your article I didn’t know very much about Planned Parenthood and all it really had to offer. Like most people I only thought about abortions and birth control that was distributed to women, not that there is anything wrong with those two things. But after reading this article you informed me that there are so many things that Planned Parenthood takes care of that is important for both men and women. Some people just can’t afford healthcare or to be under someone else’s health care and that’s when Planned Parenthood comes in and helps out with tests that can save a life. I didn’t take in account that they supplied testing for STD and STI and how important test like those are. Those are the type of test that should be available to everyone so that further problems can be helped and to prevent giving things to other people. Now why would someone want to take away Planned Parenthood, where their boyfriend and girlfriend can be checked whether they are safe from STD’s or even a future partner can? Those are things that not everyone has the opportunity to do and Planned Parenthood is the only way that can make it possible for them.
      Another thing I really didn’t think about was when they just did a normal check up and checked you inside and they found cancer. I didn’t even think they would be looking and checking out for something like that when looking for other things. I also didn’t even know you should get cancer down there, that that was even a thing. But its crazy how this one place that everyone seems to be so against for silly reasons, saved your life with just a simple check up. The only think I still don’t know to much about is how much money you have to pay in order to get these test and birth control? Or is it free? Those are some things I think people should also know. I also wondering if the people that stand outside and protest really know the true benefits that planned parenthood have to offer everyone, not just women. Maybe if they did, they would have a different view on it and make more of an effort to keep it around instead of stop its funding.

    3. Arienna Ajete-Balog says:

      Danielle,

      Your story helps give a lot of credit to Planned Parenthood. It helps show that in any type of emergency or situation, they are readily available to help you no matter what. Many people are unsure as to whether they should support and help donate to the organization because they don’t really know much or have misconceptions about it. Most Americans believe that Planned Parenthood only deals with abortions, although it only consists of 3% of their practices, which is the reason that a lot of people would like to get rid of it since is it something they are opposed to. Another misconception is that the organizations only focuses on helping women and not men, which is definitely not true. With Trump and his administration working towards defunding it, a lot of patients will be at a great loss. Without Planned Parenthood all men and women across the country will be taken away a very valuable resource that helps educate them and that they can use for many different health services. Also, since most low income and young people depend on Planned Parenthood for their healthcare, it will be very detrimental to them to have the organization defunded as they would have to rely on donations from citizens willing to do so and it might not be enough for them to be able to provide care for all those that rely on it. No one should ever be denied healthcare because of their economic status and by getting rid of funds towards Planned Parenthood, this is something a lot of low income individuals will have to face. It is extremely important to get both the senate and state legislators to listen to the citizens and for the citizens to speak up and voice their opinion. If we don’t speak up and get our opinion out there, no one will work in our favor and we won’t be able to save this organization which crucial in the lives of many Americans.

    4. Manuel A. cruz says:

      After reading this blog my opinions towards Donald Trump are further solidified. Besides the fact that he publically insults people that have mental difficulties, and Hispanics. It seems that he has turned his sights towards women and citizens that are not insured or can not afford it. Referring to what Danielle said that planned parent hood saved her life, everyday people die of unknown reasons. Most likely it’s something that if caught with time can be prevented, however, those people do not have insurance or like previously mentioned can not afford insurance. We live in an advance society that has the capability of providing free or inexpensive healthcare to those that are in need. But unfortunately, that is not the case. As twisted as it sounds, CEO’s and company owners charge large sums of money for simple procedures that practically cost nothing to do. Yet they charge and charge and charge, and benefit off the health of the less fortunate. As if this isn’t enough problems the middle to lower class Americans face, now our president, the one person that is supposed to look over all of the citizens of the country and protect them, is aiming to make things worse.
      Planned Parenthood is a good thing. It is an option for those in need, sometimes the only option. From personal experience, accidents happen and consequences follow. Pregnancy can be avoided but sometimes it comes unseen, I am 20 years old and my loved one is also 20 years old. We go to school, and we have part time jobs. Time is precious for us, and we don’t always have much of it given all of the things we have to juggle. So our only option was planned parenthood, as tough as it was, she had to abort. If it wouldn’t have been for this program we would be on our way to parenthood. We need to stand up and give a voice to those that don’t speak up, and we need to make a difference because we can not have our freedom ripped away from us. We aren’t all blessed with small loans of millions of dollars, most of us have to work hard for our things and for our families. This being said, we need more programs like Planned Parenthood.

    5. Dairellys Drago says:

      Reading this blog gave me a better understanding of how important Planned Parenthood is and how it serves our community. First off and most importantly, health is a very important aspect of an individuals life, which many who are not financially well find it hard to seek the medical help necessary and seek help on time. Parenthood severs the community in many ways, Dr. Moura from the Women and Gender Studies department at FIU had the opportunity to interview Mayte Canino who happens to be the program manager in Florida and gives a detailed explanation of what the health services, regular health care centers, community education, and advocacy department is all about. Watching this interview and now reading this blog, it is clear to me that the ongoing health issues both females and males face is a topic of much importance and laws to prevent fundings to Planned Parenthood should be reconsidered. In the economy aspect, many families from the low class and perhaps middle class seek to such centers because they accept both insured and non insured individuals at low cost compared to a regular doctors appointment. As we all know and read in this blog president Trump, wants to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood, which can lead to many unfortunate situations. For many years women have had a hard time having access to health services, especially in other countries such as El Salvador for example, where seeking medical help is almost impossible and having an abortion, even if it was through rape is considered murder. Many countries suffer from poverty and the only hand women seem to have are programs such as Planned Parenthood. Do not get me wrong, I am against abortion, I believe no child asks to come to this world, but in cases of rapes, why should women be forced to keep the child, and if actions are taken they are sentenced for murder? Planned parenthood is not only for abortions, in fact, only some clinics offer the procedure, and studies show this procedure has by far been safe. A very good point mentioned in this blog is how 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s resources go towards education and birth control. Not having access to such program can leave many people without health care providers, annual exams, birth control, and most important prevention of diseases such as cancer, as we saw in this blog. Laws to defund such programs will have effects on people from all over the world, races, gender, and income statues. Clearly, stories like the one shared in this blog are very common, and if this young lady had no access to get help if would have probably been to late by the time she was done with college and stable enough to afford a medical annual visit. I, as well as Danielle am on of those women who goes to Planned parenthood not only for my annual checkups but for birth control as well, so I strongly support Planned Parenthood and believe many will be affected if such laws are approved.

    6. Melessa Bruno says:

      Prior to reading this blog today I had no idea that Planned Parenthood offered anything other than what it is notoriously labeled for, an abortion clinic that also provides other services such as STD testing, birth control and the morning after pill. I prudently did my research and upon my findings I discovered a whole other world to what Planned Parenthood has to offer; annual checkups, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal/ postnatal care, sexual education for adults and teens, as well as men’s sexual health. I myself being a full time college student that works part-time and is participating in an internship am not able to obtain health insurance due to the high rates of the insurance that is available to me. I and many other women in my predicament can go up to a year or more without going for a checkup for the fear of having to pay an expensive bill at the end of a doctor’s appointment. Planned Parenthood offers women annual checkups at a very affordable rate and should be advertised more for this alone. With all the political turmoil that surrounds Planned Parenthoods around the world I believe that if more advertisements talked about their facilities offering cancer screenings, annual checkups, sexual education administrators that can go to schools and speak to teens as well as the infamous things that is well known for having it would displayed in a new light. Immediately after having the opportunity of reading about another woman’s experience while visiting Planned Parenthood, not only gave me a scare of the unknown possible disease’s that I may have, but also pushed me into being more concerned about my own personal health and wellness. So I went online and made an appointment so that I can not only get my annual checkup but also so that I and my boyfriend can learn more about what their facilities have to offer in regards to sexual education and health.

    7. Lucson Noel says:

      Some human rights issues that are issues are baffling and for some of us hard to even begin to conceive how and why they are still issues. Research after research have shown that when abortion are made legal and countries that legalize apportion, it is better for society and legalization of abortion improves women’s overall health, empowers women to make decisions regarding their body, and it is safer for women. Research has shown that banning abortion does not deter it and women who live in countries that have a ban against abortion will turn to illegal abortion which often results in serious health complication and death. In essence, is the government supports agencies like Plan Parenthood, it will save money because such agencies like Plan Parenthood also provide educational information to women along with preventative measures such a contraception in the form of condoms and birth control practices that will prevent the need for abortion in the first place.
      The cost to support dissemination of sexual education and preventative measures outweighs all the senseless deaths, physical and emotional trauma and health issues that result from illegal abortion across the world. It seems to make more sense to for women to have access to reproductive choice because it not only benefits women but society as whole. Hindering a woman’s right to information about her body and the freedom to make choices about her body is a human rights violation that has great implications.
      Organization like Plan Parenthood should be supported because they arm women with information about their bodies, family planning services, preventative care, services that has nothing to do with abortion but overall healthcare and help empower women by providing them with safe educational resources, basic health hygiene, safe contraception, safe reproductive education, and help women have a say with what’s goes on in her body.
      Governments should support women’s right to safe reproductive care and support organizations that aim to educate, inform and provide preventative cares to women, because they will save the lives of their citizens by doing so. Research has shown, when abortion is legalize, the number of women who get abortion do not rise. This will because when abortion is legalized there is readily available education, information, and counseling and preventative care for women.

    8. Samantha Otero says:

      Stumbling upon an article titled “Planned Parenthood Saved My Life” my curiosity inside me urged me to open the article and read more about it. My initial reaction to this article was that maybe this would be about a young woman’s experience with an abortion, yet I was shocked to read that this person had no where to turn but to Planned Parenthood in order to get her health checked for an affordable price. I was even more surprised to find that this person was able to catch her skin cancer right before there was no point of return nor chance of survival. This article is very insightful in the many ways Planned Parenthood provides service to women far beyond just abortions.
      Now that we a Republican president that is highly against certain reproductive rights for women, it is important that we continue to fight against the negative impressions people attach to Planned Parenthood and unmask the variety of life-saving benefits these services have to offer. Planned Parenthood offers services involves PAP tests, breast exams, treatments for sexually transmitted infections, educational programs, and solutions for unintended pregnancies. Defunding organizations that provide reproductive health-care services to women who are not covered by their insurance or that simply cannot afford these types of services takes away women’s right to reproductive health and most importantly, reproductive choice.
      If the government were to to defund Planned Parenthood, there will be less success stories about women having their lives saved by Planned Parenthood such as the woman in this article, and more stories about women finding unhealthy means to ends for reproductive health services. Not granting women health care amenities that are affordable and attainable will lead women with no choice but to go to under-the-table clinics for services which can be a major danger to the women of our society.

    9. Alexandra Rodriguez says:

      I am so happy that I came across your story! What people do not understand is that Planned Parenthood is not just for abortions… it is for people who do not have the access to reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood has helped so many people that cannot afford annual coverage from an insurance to receive birth control [for uses beyond preventing pregnancy, such as, regulating periods, acne, etc.], annual checkups, testing for sexually transmitted diseases….. The list can go on.

      Point is, like you said in your story, it could save many lives just like it saved yours! It has done so and will continue to do so if it receives the funding it needs to keep moving forward. The organization has successfully been running for over a hundred years and has saved countless of lives. Trump and his administration have vowed to defund it. Attaining what? Americans that can’t afford health care to not have any safe available access to reproductive health services? Of course you have not been the only life Planned Parenthood has saved, and because of them you and many others have been able to stop an awful disease from spreading. In fact, the leading cause of death among women during birthing is reproductive health conditions; and as a matter of fact, most of them are preventable. By have safe affordable access to reproductive care, many other diseases can be stopped. Most importantly, Planned Parenthood “encourages health positivity” and allows women of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, to have reproductive choice (Ortiz-Geis). Not only in regards to abortion but with spacing of children in a safe manner in order to maintain a healthy life.

      Thank you for sharing your story! I am glad that this organization has helped you find the care you needed when you didn’t even know you needed it!

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