From My Teenage Years to Today: Thank You, Planned Parenthood

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It stands alone, surrounded by a parking lot at the corner of Leetsdale and Exposition in southeast Denver. The little, tan-colored building is squatty and fairly nondescript — well, save for a big sign on its roof that says Planned Parenthood. Across the street is George Washington High School, my alma mater; you can see the little health-care cottage from many classroom windows. As a teen, I realized early on what a boon it was to have a Planned Parenthood health clinic within walking distance of our school. 

I went to that particular Planned Parenthood location many times in my life. I remember walking over after school with friends to get condoms. It was great — the condoms were just out on the counter, some for free, others for a small fee. The idea that we didn't have to ask for something as simple as a condom or feel embarrassment or shame for needing protection was almost as awesome as having access to the condoms themselves.

I was lucky to have parents who talked to me openly about sexual health and well-being at home; I was on the pill through my family-care doctor, but often went with friends to pick up their birth control at Planned Parenthood. As I grew older, my use of the low-cost health-care organization grew with me — when I didn't have insurance, Planned Parenthood provided inexpensive birth control. It also offered me yearly exams, STD screenings, HIV tests and morning-after pills. It was and still is a place to get clear, nonjudgmental information and access to safe, affordable abortions. Growing up in an era where this access is not only legal but available made a big difference in the lives of many people close to me; I can't imagine not having Planned Parenthood in my life.

But you know what I also can't imagine? How people have been brainwashed into thinking this organization does anything but provide safe, affordable and accessible healthcare. The ugly, debased, faux agenda that has been thrown over all of Planned Parenthood's many services is attempting to disguise the good it does. Why? Because the only way to convince folks who have never set foot inside a health clinic that said health clinic is bad is by lying about the purpose it serves. If you've been awake and on the Internet at all in the last few weeks, then you've no doubt seen the breakdowns of what, exactly, Planned Parenthood funding goes toward. In case you missed it, here's the breakdown again: 16 percent toward cancer screening and prevention, 35 percent for STD testing for all genders, 35 percent for  contraception, 10 percent for  other services for women, 1 percent on other general services and 3 percent on abortions. 

The right has painted Planned Parenthood as an abortion factory — a place where liberals, feminists and low-income people go to commiserate in their devious behavior. That's not what Planned Parenthood is like — at all. If you're a person who has never needed safe, affordable health-care, maybe you've never set foot in a Planned Parenthood. Let me paint a more accurate picture: If you've ever been to a doctor's office, then you know what a Planned Parenthood looks like. Because it's a doctor's office. It's a place full of people of all ages and all backgrounds waiting to be seen by professionals who specialize in keeping other humans healthy. 

The war on Planned Parenthood will no doubt continue, and I will continue to be vocally thankful for its existence in my life. From the unassuming little health-care hut I first encountered in high school to the many other locations across the city I have visited in times of need, Planned Parenthood has been a resource and a refuge. Its website, hotlines and online chats have handled countless questions from me and my friends when we didn't know where else to turn.  

If, like me, you want to support Planned Parenthood in an effective way, donate to the organization directly. Talk publicly about it — the "I Stand With Planned Parenthood" movement/mantra is not a new one.  Everyone needs affordable, safe, non-judgmental healthcare: Don't let Planned Parenthood disappear. 

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies

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