[Why this post?]
I'd taken this bus to school every day during my last two years of high school, and I knew its rhythms like my own pulse. But I'd never taken it so far in this direction, and I was anxious. What if I missed the stop? What if I'd gotten the address wrong? My heart was hammering.
At the tender age of 21, I was on my way to my very first pelvic exam. My family had always been poor, and to us, family doctors and yearly checkups existed only in the movies. Health insurance? I don't think I even understood that it existed. If we got sick, we toughed it out. It had probably been a decade since I'd been seen by any kind of health professional. The world of medicine was completely unknown, and completely terrifying.
In the waiting room, I found myself in familiar company. Women speaking Spanish to small children. Teenage girls with elaborate braids. I relaxed a little. I relaxed still more when I learned how little the visit would cost. Along with my relief, I also felt pride that I could pay something. I wasn't indigent.
The nurse practitioner was unforgettably kind. During the exam, she told me to place my hand on my lower abdomen while she pushed up a little. That's your uterus, she said. Hello, uterus, I thought.
I left the clinic with a year's worth of birth control. But I also carried away a new friendliness towards my body, and a belief that there could be kindness and compassion out there in the world, at a price I could afford.
My story is not particularly sexy. There's no abortion following some awful incident, no tragedy at all. But my story is the common one. My story represents what Planned Parenthood does: make health care available to poor women. And poor women are not who some of us think they are. They are not any stupider or lazier or less responsible than the average rich woman. They are a segment of our society that, because of the cruelty of our social system, can slave endlessly and never get ahead. And when we think about whether our hard-earned tax dollars should be spent on these women, we should always remember that we rely on their suffering. It's their sweat that allows us to live comfortably, to have a cheap meal, to pay less than five dollars for a fancy coffee. Indeed, we make sure that they can never get ahead simply by the way we live our lives. The least we can do is provide them with low cost health care, and compassion.
To read other stories, go here.