When I was newly married and starting a career, I couldn’t afford to go to a doctor. I told myself I was young, I was healthy, I didn’t need to go to any doctor. But my sister insisted that I get an annual health exam.
So I went to Planned Parenthood because I could afford Planned Parenthood, where care is provided, on a sliding fee scale, no matter what. The staff were kind and thorough. They made sure that I understood why I needed pelvic and breast exams. They took a Pap test and discussed the results with me.
I was just 26 when the first result was abnormal.
After that, I went back every six months, then every three months, as Planned Parenthood and I tracked the approach of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is deadly, ranking worldwide as the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Most of the time there are no symptoms until it is too late. But when it’s detected early, treatment is nearly 100 percent effective, as it was for me. Cervical cancer is detected through a Pap test, and Planned Parenthood provides more than 1,000 Pap tests a year in Maine.
For many, Planned Parenthood is their only access to health care. It’s the only way a young woman like me will find out she has cervical cancer, and in time to treat it.
I’m not the only one who has depended upon Planned Parenthood. Rep. Bruce Poliquin seems to think access to Planned Parenthood’ services isn’t an issue because there is no Planned Parenthood health center in the district, but one in five of his constituents have turned to Planned Parenthood at some point in their lives. One in three have a family member who has depended upon Planned Parenthood.
These are people like Sierra from Bar Harbor, who said that “Recently I was told I had an ovarian cyst, which caused a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. The obvious remedy was birth control pills, but upon trying to get them through my insurance, I was informed I wasn’t covered. Without Planned Parenthood’s affordable options, I would have had to pay almost $400 for basic health care. I always have and always will support and appreciate Planned Parenthood’s services.”
And people like a woman in Eastport who wrote “I am now 74 years old. When I was a young wife, with no health insurance and very little money, I relied on Planned Parenthood to plan my family and keep myself healthy. It was vital to my own well-being, and I pray that these important health services will continue for others long into the future.”
As do I.
Planned Parenthood was there for me, and I want to do everything I can to make sure it is there for my children and my grandchildren. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I am now an old lady. And my children and stepchildren have given me four grandsons and six granddaughters.
The oldest of these granddaughters is just now growing into womanhood. She will be moving beyond the circle of our arms into the world, and she — and all those other daughters and granddaughters — will need all the care, understanding and support that we can give her.
She will need Planned Parenthood.
Failing to appreciate that Planned Parenthood plays a unique and vital role in our public health system, Poliquin has suggested that Federal Qualified Health Centers can replace Planned Parenthood, an idea resoundingly dismissed by experts. Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ ludicrous,” and Sara Rosenbaum of the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University explained that “the assertion that community health centers could step into a breach of this magnitude is simply wrong and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the health care system works.”
Let me make this very clear to Poliquin: Planned Parenthood serves some of the most vulnerable people among us. For many, it is their only access to care. If he votes again to defund Planned Parenthood, he needs to understand who will suffer. Many of them are young and many of them are poor and most of them are women. They are our future. Do not let them down.
Diana Turner is a landscape designer. She lives in Stonington.