Planned Parenthood Is My Regular Doctor's Office, So Please Leave It Alone

I'd rather get a urinary infection in India or Thailand than in the US, or why this debate is about so much more than abortion.

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:02am | Leave a comment

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I am prone to urinary infections. I’ve spent much of my adult life traveling in developing countries, so I tend to get them whenever and wherever is most inconvenient to a toilet -- on a train in India or on a tiny sail boat on the Nile right as the wind disappears.

Luckily, I can self-diagnose a urinary infection with near absolute certainty. They strike suddenly and leave me shivering and hunched over in agony, they are often accompanied by spotting, in the bright shade of blood that comes from a head injury (a story for another time).

I know the kind of medicine I need, Cipro, and I know that if I’m in another country, in even a modest-sized town in Indonesia or Thailand or Egypt, it will be no problem whatsoever for me to pop by a local pharmacy and get a strip of the stuff. I will then be able to calmly wait for my infection to pass while lying on my bed staring up at a broken ceiling fan or some mutated lizard running back and forth across the ceiling.

I would far rather have a medical problem in many of these places than in the US. Here I don’t have health insurance.

This is basically no problem when I'm abroad -- drugs and hospital stays are ludicrously cheap in the places I’ve lived -- but it is un problemo grande when I get sick in back in the land of Manifest Destiny.

Several years ago I woke up with a urinary infection that was so bad I was peeing aforementioned skull-colored blood. I crawled into the kitchen, found the New York City phone book and began dialing local doctors. Because I wasn’t covered, I wouldn’t be able to see a doctor for weeks and when I did it wouldn’t be cheap.

“I just need to get the lab test so I can get prescribed the Cipro,” I told them from the floor, my vision blurred by pain.

I knew that if I could just get my hands on the Cipro I'd be fine. But I couldn’t. It was all the more frustrating to picture the bottles and bottles of it within a mile radius, stocking the backrooms of Duane Reades and Walgreens, so close and yet just out of my grasp. Planned Parenthood was the only place that would take me.

Since then, whenever I’m in the US, Planned Parenthood has been not just a place to get STD screenings and birth control, it has been my primary source of health care.

Many Planned Parenthood clinics provide general medical services -- vaccinations, testing for diabetes and high blood pressure, physical exams. These are services that could save an uninsured women’s life. (Or a man’s. They also treat men.)

The physicians at Planned Parenthood have always treated me humanely and professionally, and their offices provide a sense of stability and safety for women.

But right now a bunch of men, and a smattering of women meant to represent us, are standing between a woman and the medicine that will prevent infection from spreading into her kidneys. Wisconsin, my home state where at 16 I went to get birth control pills (and yes, I'm positive I would have had sex either way), is set to be the fourth state after Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina to defund Planned Parenthood, though on Friday a U.S. District judge halted the process in Indiana with a preliminary injunction.

 It isn't just women's right to choose that's at stake, it is her right to health. Until the government provides an affordable alternative, nobody has the right taking away the modest funding of one of the only places that still provides medical services to people with low incomes. There's absolutely nothing pro-life about denying people health care.