Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood: Forever Grateful

by Shaker K

[Trigger warning for depression, emotional abuse, and sexual and reproductive coercion.]

When I was 19, I withdrew from college to move back home to Georgia. Due to about a hundred different stressors in my life, I was at that point extremely depressed. Soon after arriving home, I jumped into a relationship—for lack of a better term—with a man who was, in hindsight, extremely emotionally and sexually manipulative.

At the time, I thought I was in love, I was so listless I believed I needed someone to tell me who to be, how to feel, and what to do, and I certainly didn't believe anyone else would love me. I blamed my insecurities and fears on my depression, rather than the relationship, and worse, I treated the depression as a personal failing.

It didn't take long for him to convince me that men just hate to wear condoms, and we could use the pull-out method until I got a steadier job and could afford the birth control I had recently run out of. It also didn't take long for me to become pregnant. He certainly did not want a child, and I didn't either, not least because at that point I had figured out "something is wrong here," even if I didn't have the language then to understand what, exactly, was wrong with the relationship.

I researched what I could, and I decided to pay a visit to the local crisis pregnancy center, located across the street from Planned Parenthood. At the CPC, I filled out a basic introduction sheet, and among the options I was considering, I checked off "abortion." The following two hours were some of the most harrowing of my life.

I was shown pictures of live babies, asked to hold a model of a fetus in my hand, and quoted biblical passages about murder. I was also "counseled" at length by a woman who claimed to have been in my position before, who once wanted an abortion and whose decision to keep the baby instead saved her from her whore behavior (her words, not mine). She then quoted statistics I now know to be false about the links between abortion and breast cancer, later fertility and mortality. She explained to me all the kind, loving Christian families who would love to adopt a baby as beautiful as mine was sure to be, if only I would risk my physical and mental health for nine months to deliver it to them.

I went home afterward and cried for hours; while I hadn't been convinced I was a murderer going straight to hell, the message got through just enough to make me feel utterly horrible about myself and my intentions. The next day, I went to Planned Parenthood anyway.

The people I encountered there were vastly different from the demons I had expected. They were both clinical and kind, and they offered me pamphlets and counseling about everything from abortion to adoption to what I could do if I chose to keep the baby instead. When I insisted on abortion, they respected it without question, confident at this point that I knew my own mind and knew what I needed.

I was quoted a price and scheduled an appointment. I was given free pre-abortion counseling, which told me what to expect and how to prepare, not only the basic mechanics, but emotionally as well. They also warned me (ever so gently) to come in through the back, where there were gates and security set up to keep protesters out.

The boyfriend and I had to borrow money to afford the abortion, even so. There were people we both trusted to keep their mouths shut and who were kind enough to agree that if we had to borrow money just to have an abortion, we certainly couldn't afford prenatal care or an actual child. We both scraped up enough money and in enough time that I was able to get my abortion.

Given the circumstances of the relationship, I insisted that my best friend join me, and she did, with no judgment and plenty of understanding. The PP workers were all kind, from the clinic workers to the doctor himself, and not once did I feel that I was making the worst choice possible. It was treated as something I felt I had to do, and it was respected as such.

Afterward, I received further counseling and a follow-up examination. This counseling helped me out of the emotional funk as well as helped me to get on a birth control I could afford with my limited means. At every point in the process, it was the people at Planned Parenthood who took care of me and encouraged me, judgment-free and always helpful.

Since then, I have had a child, and this one was actively chosen. Planned Parenthood helped me then, too. They again offered me counseling and pointed me in the right direction to find good prenatal care that I could afford.

For several years, I struggled with having had an abortion, but it wasn't the act itself that haunted me. It was the treatment I received at the hands of the CPC. With education and experience, this sadness turned to anger that any woman would be put through the same.

I do not doubt for one moment that the person I was at 19 could not have handled either an adoption or raising a child. I do not doubt that if my current child even existed, hir quality of life would be much poorer, not merely financially, but due to my own emotions. In many ways, Planned Parenthood saved not only my life, but that of the child I chose. I will always, always be grateful to them.

Read the rest of the My Planned Parenthood Carnival posts here.