Planned Parenthood is essential to me and millions more
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When I was without insurance and found myself with a seemingly unresolvable reproductive health issue, I, like millions of people across the country, turned to Planned Parenthood. They changed my life.

Right now Republicans in Congress are threatening to make that kind of life-saving, life-changing care inaccessible for millions of people like me. And with Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSean Spicer: After Trump's year 1, GOP poised to dominate again in 2018 Cornyn: Senate GOP tax plan to be released Thursday Pence to visit site of Texas church shooting on Wednesday MORE — a man who is on a crusade to shut down Planned Parenthood and end safe, legal abortion  — and Georgia Rep. Tom Price nominated to run the Department of Health and Human Services, the threat is more real than ever.

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These politicians do not understand the difficulty women often face when they need birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and well woman exams, and find themselves without access to affordable, high-quality care. In fact, Rep. Price has said he doesn't believe there's a single woman who's had trouble affording birth control. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, there are millions. Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE has repeatedly said that community health centers can easily replace Planned Parenthood.

Public health experts disagree, and my own experience proves him wrong.

In January of 2012, like so many women over the course of their lives, I had an urgent reproductive health issue. My period simply wouldn’t stop. After two weeks of worry, I called a local county health center to get an appointment. I was told they had no appointments available for three months, and if my situation became unbearable I would have to go to the emergency room.

For someone without insurance, going to the emergency room is not a solution. Six years before this, I went to an emergency room for a different issue and left with more than $2,000 in medical bills. After that experience, I decided I just couldn’t be sick, and spent years avoiding health care.

After Googling my symptoms, I became worried I had cancer, and developed panic attacks.

At a friend’s suggestion, I finally went to the Planned Parenthood in Atlanta.

When that first visit was over, I cried as I thanked my doctor. She was so kind. All the staff at the clinic were. There, I was treated like a human being, comforted, informed, and talked to.

I had a few other visits over the next few months. Each time, from start to finish, I was treated with kindness and respect by the staff at the Planned Parenthood health center. The total I spent over a few months on visits and tests with PP was significantly less than I would have incurred in debt, had I just gone to the local ER instead. That would easily have cost into the thousands and I'm not even sure they would've been able to truly diagnose my issues in just one visit.

When I got the phone call with the last results I was waiting on, Planned Parenthood confirmed that there was no cancer found in my biopsy. I was able to get the care I needed and soon after, I was back to normal.

Before I went to Planned Parenthood, I felt helpless. Afterward, I felt like I had someone on my side. Every person deserves access to the kind of care I received at Planned Parenthood - affordable, compassionate care without judgement or shame.

It is unthinkable that many of the people in charge of making our country healthier would be the same people who have spent their entire careers trying to take that kind of care away. Vice President Pence, Rep. Price, and Paul Ryan should not be making my individual health decisions for me.

Jen D. Rafanan is a board member of the Feminist Women's Health Center, an Atlanta reproductive health and advocacy group.

 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.