Just about every day I leave my house, I see the Planned Parenthood I live next to under siege by anti-choice protestors. These people bring with them a helluva lot of judgmental attitudes towards the men and women seeking care at the clinic, and a heaping side helping of misinformation about birth control in general.
I’m often frustrated because Planned Parenthood has more often than not been the only healthcare I could afford in my life. These clinics helped my friends and I avoid pregnancies, did wellness checkups, and helped detect cancer.
In many ways, I was lucky because I came of age in the 1980s, amidst the HIV scare. Because of that, my sex education in school included condom barriers, efficacy rates, and Planned Parenthood.
The first time I went to a Planned Parenthood personally, I was barely 15 years old. I had been sexually active for the very first time with my then boyfriend. It had been a blood filled fiasco wherein the condom broke. Being a person with a uterus, this was a problem.
The events had occurred the evening before, and I shown up to sit on the concrete in front of the doors to the clinic waiting for it to open. This was not how I had envisioned losing my virginity.
I was driven to seek help not just for my fears of pregnancy, but because the very concept of pregnancy froze me with terror. There are not many things that give me dysphoria, as a transgender man, but the idea of being pregnant in this body was the nuclear option when it came to dysphoria.
I knew to go to Planned Parenthood because of the education I had received. I had been educated on what my options where, and how fast I needed to act. It might have been a very basic reproductive health education, but it gave me far more than many of the abstinence only programs today would have.
This meant I was there in front of the clinic on a Saturday morning at the age of 15, after taking a bus down by myself. Nobody knew I was there. The last thing my teen self wanted was to have a discussion with my family, where I told them I had lost my virginity in a spectacular stupid way the night before.
I couldn’t talk to the 16 year old teenage boy I had slept with with because he wasn’t speaking to me. I had bled on his leather jacket which we’d used as a blanket. He was very mad at me, and the last I saw him, he was complaining loudly to his friends about how I’d desecrated his jacket. I was very much alone, and terrified.
When the workers found me, they were kind. They let me in before the clinic opened, so I’d not have to wait in the snow. They shuffled some appointments to get me seen as early as possible. They even gave me a cup of tea, so I could warm up.
When my appointment came, the woman I saw was kind and didn’t judge me. She told me what to do, and helped me choose some birth control options for the future. She clucked over me like a mother hen, and was the only person in my life that let me know that I didn’t have to be treated like I had the night before.
That started my love affair with Planned Parenthood. They took a terrible situation, and made it better. I spent the years between the age 15 and 21 going to that clinic every three or four months for birth control. I never had pay because I was homeless on and off between those years, and without an income.
When I was 18, and being on birth control pills started to trigger health issues. The folks there helped me find alternative safe methods to be pregnancy and STI free. I never had to discuss why. For those kind clinic workers, all that mattered was that for me, the birth control pill wasn’t a good option.
When I was 21, I hunted all over my county to find a doctor to give me a tubal ligation, and thus ended my care with Planned Parenthood. I still consider it amongst the best medical care I’ve ever received.
Even now, decades later, I find Planned Parenthood to be on the cutting edge of healthcare. When I started looking for resources to medically transition, I was pleased to find my old hometown Planned Parenthood had a prescriber that was willing to prescribe HRT to transgender folks. In my current town, they work with transgender patients to find them a prescriber, even if they can’t do the deed themselves.
Recently, when I moved right next door to the Planned Parenthood in my town, it gave me a shock. I had always heard of anti-abortion protestors, but I’d never seen that circus in action. It was eye opening.
Just about every day, there are protestors outside my local Planned Parenthood. At first, I figured if they were respectful, then what’s the harm. Then I discovered respectful isn’t really in the protestor vocabulary. They block the driveway to Planned Parenthood, and try to coerce patients into talking to them before they are let in or out.
I still held out for a few months thinking that perhaps it was just abortion they were against. That was a very erroneous assumption on my part. The Planned Parenthood protestors also give out pamphlets, and would talk at length, about how every birth control option is going to harm you.
This boggled my mind. If you want to prevent abortions, wouldn’t you want birth control to be a high level option? Studies show that long term birth control like IUD’s are amazing, and are credited with helping reduce the abortion rates in the US. If anti-abortion protestors are not interested in preventing pregnancy, what can their cause really be about?
Their objective is more about stopping women from having sex at all, or making them “take responsibility for it” presuming a possible child as punishment for the transgression. This has a lot more to do with enforcing a biblical gender role on women. In these protestor’s minds, the only right action is for a woman to be chaste until marriage, and then have as many kids as her body allows. Family planning is not really an option when you take birth control off the table.
As I had been a nurse for a decade, this blatant disregard for medical fact blew my mind. It was a heart rending moment for me. Not only were these people rudely aggressive to those trying to get into the clinic for care, they were spreading lies about birth control. The protestors often cite false claims about breast cancer, STI transmission, and efficacy rates.
There is also an implicit threat of violence with anti-choice protestors. The history of violence against clinics like my local Planned Parenthood speak for itself. Doctors and staff get murdered, and clinics get bombed. The rhetoric the protestors use, along with the pro-life’s tactic of publishing names and addresses of doctors has led to the deaths of many good people. This is a never ending part of the protestor’s presence outside a clinic.
To see an entity that offered me comfort in my teens, and that supports the transgender community, be sieged by such intolerance and aggression is infuriating.
For me, Planned Parenthood is a pillar of stability. It was always a go to option for me when I had no healthcare insurance. It was a place where clinic workers showed me kindness, and were not judgmental of my sexuality or gender.
To see protestors there day after day spreading misinformation breaks my heart. Their stamina in their siege would wear down anyone. The clinic staff say they have been doing this for years on end, fueled by a couple local churches.
The sad thing is, there are tried and true ways to reduce abortion. They include comprehensive sex education and access to reproductive health care options. They do not include standing outside a clinic throwing hate and judgmental rhetoric at the people trying to get those things.