I went to Planned Parenthood for the first time when I was 16 years old. It was a couple months before my 17th birthday and I was as any other almost 17 year old is… working a part time minimum wage job and broke. Based on my income level I was able to receive an exam and birth control for next to nothing in cost. Times have changed since then. Last time I had an exam at Planned Parenthood I was 29 years old and paid 90 something for the exam alone, which I do not believe was based on my income. It was the price for an exam for any patient regardless of income level. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford the cost, but I was left wondering how in the world the new generation of 16 year olds (or under 21 year olds really) would be able to come up with this amount.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana was subjected to a funding decrease from 3.3 million to 1.9 million between the years of 2005 to 2014. They were also hit by a bill in 2011 that geared towards defunding the provider from Medicaid reimbursements altogether (crucial for low-income patients). Planned Parenthood was not specifically named by the proposed legislation but it sought to include “any entity that performs abortions” in the state. However, federal medicaid prohibits discrimination of funding against any provider other than for a failure to provide quality care, and the GOP-lead legislation was ultimately blocked by a federal judge.
The damage caused by the funding decrease over the years did eventually hurt Indiana’s PP, causing many clinics to close their doors altogether; a great deal of these in small towns with limited or no other low-income family planning providers.
The planned parenthood I went to last was able to still provide the birth control pill at a discounted cost but other methods, such as NuvaRing cost up to 75 dollars monthly. This cost, combined with the cost for the initial exam is not cheap and especially not affordable for younger women. That may as well have been a thousand dollars for me back when I first went there, I wouldn’t have had it. Though I did have the luxury of having a parent that was willing to talk to me about contraception and was willing help financially if needed… but many girls do not.
The importance of availability of birth control to young girls cannot be understated. Your life is changed forever if you are faced with the challenges of becoming a young mother. Those who preach abstinence until marriage may preach all they like, but the fact of the matter is, teenagers will and do have sex (gasp!). Repression of human nature is never going to work out in the repressors favor. And for repression in this instance, when we are discussing control over the body and reproduction, the consequences are far too dire to just shut our eyes and pretend it won’t happen.
Misinformation can be catastrophic. This is why I believe in places like Planned Parenthood, that try so hard to be a safe space and one of information, informed choices, and financial assistance. I have been taken by surprise on many occasions when a young girl has reached out to me with questions and a general lack of knowledge on contraceptives, STD’s and where to go… where to even start… looking for answers and making appointments and starting the pill.
Which brings me to the core of this post. I am terrified in light of the recent election, for our young girls out there. The general attitude of the Republican party towards women’s reproductive rights, the outright war the have waged on places like Planned Parenthood for the better part of the century, the talk of overturning Roe vs. Wade by the president-elect… I fear that we could lose much of the progression we have made towards ensuring women’s health rights. Especially under the single party rule (house and senate) we will be living under for the next two years (at a minimum). A lot of damage can be inflicted in two years.
This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart and always has been. I want no girl to feel like she has nowhere to turn. I want no girl to be faced with making a potentially life-changing decision, to have sex without contraceptives, solely because of her financial situation. Instead of fearing what may occur I’m going to assume the worst and I have instead been in the process of writing up a business plan for a local non-profit (with hopes of becoming national at some point) that will cover the cost left over to any female patient under the age of 21 for an exam and contraceptive method.
The idea came to me while talking to a friend about her not being able to afford to go to her gynecologist to renew her birth control prescription. She was instead using a secondary method and we started discussing how in the world young girls afford this when still sometimes, over the age of 30 and working fill time jobs, we cannot. We talked about how we would love to be able to donate that, to pay for that, for an individual that needed help. Then the light bulb went off. I would like to set this up as just that. What you donate goes straight to one individual in need. That is a charity that I can get behind. I still need to work the details out. Stay tuned.