While writing about my yearly Lady Doctor visits, I thought of something I might like to share with all of you. After this last weekend’s tragic events, I think it even more important that I share it now.
When I was 18, I went on The Pill. Like most teenage girls of my acquaintance, I did this by visiting Planned Parenthood. All throughout college, I went to Planned Parenthood for my yearly exams and to buy birth control. During that time, depending on where I was, I happened to go to three different clinics in three different cities. The experience was always as pleasant as such things could be, but in particular I really liked the clinic I went to in Boston.
The Planned Parenthood in Boston was very close to my school–within a few blocks. It was housed on the first floor of a brownstone with apartments above it. It was a truly wonderful environment. The waiting room was cozy–more like a living room–the staff were warm and kind. Like most apartment buildings in the city, it had a buzzer in the lobby and when you pressed it, the receptionist let you in.
I never had anything but good experiences there. The staff really cared about what they were doing and their treatment was first-rate. It was there that I was asked if I wanted to see my cervix during an exam.
It happened that, while I was in Iowa during my Christmas break one year, I messed up my pill prescription somehow. I don’t exactly recall what I did but I must’ve forgotten to take my pill for three or four days in a row. In any case, the mess up was such that I needed to call Planned Parenthood in Boston to find out what I should do. I did this in the morning and talked to a very sweet woman on the phone who assured me that a nurse would call me as soon as one was available.
I went on with my day, I’m not sure what I did, probably read a book or something. I know I did not turn out a TV. Sometime in the afternoon, I made plans to meet up with a friend but I was still waiting for the phone call from Planned Parenthood. This was in the dark ages before everyone and their dog had a cell phone, so if I left the house, I would miss the call. So, I called the clinic.
Now, typically, when I called the clinic, my call was handled in a prompt and efficient manner. This phone call was a little unusual in that I got randomly transferred a couple of times and had to repeat my problem a couple of times. Things seemed to be a little bit confused, but the women I talked to were caring and professional just as they always were and I finally got my question answered and I hung up the phone.
A little while later, I turned on the TV for the first time that day. And then, I sat in stunned amazement as I listened to the news reports centered on Boston. That morning, sometime after I made my first phone call, a man had gone into two separate clinics in Boston and shot people. This included the Planned Parenthood I went to. And the receptionist, the one who was so nice to me on the phone, had been shot and killed an hour or two after I talked to her.
The most amazing thing about this story is that later that very same day, only hours after their colleague had been gunned down in that very clinic, there were people there answering the phones, people who very kindly helped me with my oh-so-trivial problem.
The next time I went to that Planned Parenthood, things were a little bit different than they had been. In the lobby was a Boston City Policeman and a metal detector. The policeman was friendly and jovial even while he searched my backpack, then looked for my name on the appointment sheet, then buzzed the receptionist, then allowed me into the building. Inside, the receptionist sat behind bullet-proof glass. The staff were just as friendly, just as competent, but the atmosphere had changed. It was no longer warm and comforting there. You couldn’t help but think about what had happened there. How terrible it was that the receptionist had in all likelihood buzzed her killer through the door. How scared and frightened everyone must’ve been. How scared they must still be, bulletproof glass or no.
My friends asked me why I continued to go there after the shooting. I could have gone to the student health center in all likelihood. But, I didn’t want to do that. It seemed to me that if I truly supported the mission of Planned Parenthood then I should continue to go there and give them my business. People like to say as a joke these days that if you [do whatever] then the terrorists win. Well, that’s exactly how I felt. The extremists wanted women to be afraid. They wanted to shut down the clinics that give good quality health care to women who might not be able to afford it otherwise. Well, the hell with that. I would continue to go and I persuade all of my friends to go as well. If I didn’t then the whackjobs had won.
On the Drugmonkey blog, I saw a reference to a post here which suggests that a good response to this last weekend’s events would be to donate to Planned Parenthood, perhaps in memory of George Tiller. You can do so here.
It’s not often that you’re given a chance to truly stand up for your convictions, even if it’s not the easy thing to do. Many women say that they are pro-choice, that they firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose, in a woman’s right to obtain good healthcare, in a woman’s right to obtain affordable birth control, in a woman’s right to have an abortion. But, how much do they believe in that? Do they believe in it enough to continue going to a clinic where a woman was murdered? Do they believe in it enough to support it not just with words, but with money, too? Do you?