Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I didn't have an abortion.

Because I never got pregnant in the first place.

I lost my virginity, and entered into a pretty regular sexual relationship, at age 15.

I knew about condoms, well, first because I was a smart kid and also horny as fuck and had researched all this stuff on my own, but also because when I was 13, Planned Parenthood came to my high school and did a presentation on safe sex and birth control. The teachers wouldn't, for whatever ridiculous reason, talk about condoms themselves, but they let the educators from Planned Parenthood do it. They told us about all the options for birth control and they showed us exactly how to put on a condom.

I couldn't possibly afford to have a baby at 15. I was in college, I was rather lost and confused, I didn't have a lot of family or community support, I was living in a dorm, I really had no idea about the basics of surviving on my own, and my financial means were pocket change. So I knew how to use a condom when I lost my virginity, and did not get pregnant, and did not have an abortion.

A couple years later, I wanted to get on backup birth control beyond condoms. I was working part-time and didn't have health insurance. I didn't have a primary care physician. I was also living at home, and had to fly way under the radar with anything that could indicate I was having sex.

I went to Planned Parenthood. They didn't charge me much. They were kind and supportive and told me what my options were but not what to do. They kept everything confidential and didn't call my home or mail me anything that could have gotten me in trouble. (I know, evading parental authority! Yeah, well, you want me obedient or you want me happy, healthy, and not pregnant?) They encouraged me to get a Pap Smear while I was there, did STI tests and a general GYN checkup, and gave me a prescription for the Pill. So I took the Pill, and did not get pregnant, and did not have an abortion.

I'm a goddamn Pro-Life success story.

Thanks to Planned Parenthood.

(The good news is that the bill to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations probably won't pass the Senate, or won't be signed by Obama if it does. The bad news is that the House is made up of people who--or pander thoughtlessly to people who--are more interested in thundering how they can't possibly tolerate even one abortion, than in actually reducing the number of abortions.)


  1. Holly,

    I really like your blog but I have to raise an issue with the implications of this post...sometimes contraception fails, even when everyone has taken precautions and done the right thing, and people can get pregnant. People who have unplanned pregnancies haven't necessarily been lazy or stupid. Nothing is 100%. It's an achievement of yours that you got knowledgeable about contraception and have been as responsible as you could have been. But it isn't an achievement in itself that that conctraception has worked so far without problems.

    I get the message you're trying to send - if more people practised safe sex, there'd be less abortions and that's a good thing - and it's a good message. But let's not criticise those who do get pregnant, either through forgetfulness, ineptitude or actually being just damn unlucky, or pretend that you can ever be 100% safe when it comes to contraception, except of course, with abstinence.

    That sounded like a fairly aggressive comment but I do genuinely really like your blog, particularly on gender issues. But I think on issues of contraception in particular one should be as clear about the facts as possible.

  2. Bunny - Oh, I know I was lucky. This wasn't meant to be a "if everyone was smart like me we'd never need abortion!"

    In addition to contraception failure, there's also people whose financial or life situations fall apart while they're pregnant, people who have severely deformed fetuses, people who discover they would be harmed by continuing the pregnancy or giving birth, and people who are raped. And hell, there's people who have no good excuse but that just didn't use contraception, and what're you gonna do now? These people are always going to need abortion as an option.

    But I think that reducing the number of abortions is a worthy goal--if nothing else, they're expensive and often painful. So I just wanted to highlight how Planned Parenthood, which often gets characterized as "the abortion people," works to do that.

  3. If I may be mildly less serious on this point.

    As for the fact that the measure will likely not pass the Senate...GO HARRY REID.

    I'm a dork about the Majority Leader.

  4. To me, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood is rank madness-I am sure that if abortion actually becomes illegal, they will stop providing that service, just like they won't provide me with crack and meth now no matter how politely I ask. But if they just cut funding to an organization as a punishment for doing something that they disapprove of (but is still entirely legal) we will lose everything else that they do, things which actually do a lot of good to a lot of people and have nothing to do with abortion.

  5. Yes Baby, Yes! There's a ridiculous amount of non-logic behind the attacks on planned parenthood, and Title X's general premise that, gosh, we should really be spending money to give people access to reproductive health services.

    One of the funkiest ones I've seen is that, "PP helps kids get access to services without telling their parents!"

    Also I think the general message that PP is pushing: Sex positivism, which is the idea that we need to be talking about sex and making it a non-issue and par for the course that we get tested on a regular basis and use safer sex practices... Is probably going to do a lot more to lower rates of unintended pregnancy, than just handing out condoms alone.. Which goes to address your point Holly, of some % of people are always going to need abortion as an option.

  6. It's not a strict "anti-abortion" move, although I'm positive the majority of House members who approved it would very happily have taken it as a strict anti-abortion move if they thought they could away with it.

    It's a move made after PP blew a lot of its own political cover with a long series of stings involving Planned Parenthood employees and clinic managers being repeatedly caught on tape skirting around reporting laws designed to prevent sexual exploitation of minors. This'll give you the gist, but it also doesn't mention this is only the latest round- Live Action performed the same trick before in many different states with less blatant scenarios than "hi, I run a child sex ring and I want abortion/contraception for my slaves" and PP kept biting on it.

    I agree with you, and I think this was absolutely done by Live Action not out of concern for girls and women but to shut off abortion period.

    I also think this is not just about "let's shut down access to contraception and abortion", and that Planned Parenthood waited way, WAY too long to realize that they needed to do some housecleaning.

  7. Holly, I couldn't possibly agree with you more!

  8. @Living in Babylon

    I suspect that eliminating those other things Planned Parenthood does is at the very least a welcome side effect for many of those who are supporting this measure. The most vociferous opponents of abortion rights are frequently the same people who think sex is icky and gross and should never be done ever and those damn women should get back in the kitchen making sammiches and babies.

  9. My mom told me, when I was about fourteen, that if I ever needed anything for my sexual health I could go to Planned Parenthood and they would treat me. I love my mom.

  10. -LabRat: Here's a pretty good all-around debunking of that "sting".

  11. Easy hackish solution: Start a new organisation named something like "Pro-Life Contraception Services, Ltd."

    Offer absolutely no abortion related anything at all. Explicitly make it a stated goal of the organisation to reduce the number of abortions performed in the country. Hell, make it the #1 slot Company Mission Statement.

  12. Perlhaqr - Unfortunately, without the ability to at least refer people for abortions, that organization would be doing harm to some of its clients.

    With the ability, that's 90% of Planned Parenthood offices. They're really not the One Stop Abortion Shop; most of the locations only provide birth control and healthcare services.

  13. Unfortunately, without the ability to at least refer people for abortions, that organization would be doing harm to some of its clients.

    I disagree. The group of people titled "Clients of Pro-Life Contraception Services" does not overlap with the group of people titled "Pregnant people". The inability to refer people for abortions doesn't hurt their clients because their clients don't need abortions because their clients aren't pregnant. Pregnant people are completely outside their scope.

  14. There are also those of us who are opposed to funding Planned Parenthood not for anti-abortion reasons, but because we can't find any mention of paying-for-doctors in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

    Of course, we're the group that agrees with Obama when he says we shouldn't use a machete on the budget--where we disagree is that when he says "scalpel," we say "chainsaw."

    Point is, there's more than one reason to want the funding canceled.

  15. Anon - The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    "General welfare" is broad.

    Also, for every dollar spent on preventing unwanted pregnancies, the government saves money.

    Also don't be a dick, that's like living in a lavish house with a widescreen TV and a nice boat and then not taking your kid to the doctor because "I just don't like spending money."

  16. (I know, evading parental authority! Yeah, well, you want me obedient or you want me happy, healthy, and not pregnant?)
    I suspect pretty much everyone who wants to defund Planned Parenthood, and a noticeable minority of people who don't care one way or the other, would pick "obedient" in a heartbeat.

    LabRat: That's ... somewhat of an oversimplification, as perlhaqr noted. For people who don't want to follow the link or want a different version than Amanda's: None of the clinics in the sting turned anyone away, but they did contact the authorities, and the person who gave advice on evading the law was fired. Also, Live Action made 12 videos and released two, which suggests that the sort of thing you say defunding is meant to punish might not be typical. Any legal, moral, or ethical obligation Planned Parenthood has to report trafficking to the authorities -- and I'm not going to argue they have no such obligation -- does not affect and certainly does not abrogate their moral and ethical obligation to provide the care they are there to provide.

    for every dollar spent on preventing unwanted pregnancies, the government saves money.
    Not according to what I suspect that Anon's viewpoint is: the money the government doesn't spend when unwanted pregnancies are prevented goes to services he (I'm pretty sure) would chainsaw out of the budget in any case.

  17. And not just any chainsaw: a Stihl MS880 with a 5' bar.

    I'm not necessarily saying the service shouldn't exist, just that it shouldn't be a service. If we read the interstate commerce clause as broadly as you want to read the general welfare clause, we end up with a federal government of unlimited power. Which appears to be where we're headed, at disturbing speed. Your reading of the general welfare clause parallels the Supreme Court's reading of the interstate commerce clause in Wickard v. Filburn and (later) in Gonzales v. Raich. As Justice Thomas put it, "[i]f the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress' Article I powers -- as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause -- have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to 'appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.'" Further, "[i]f the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison's assurance to the people of New York that the 'powers delegated' to the Federal Government are 'few and defined', while those of the States are 'numerous and indefinite.'"

    So: working with your "broad" theory of "general welfare," what would be outside the purview of the federal government?

    And for the record, your comparison is close, but not quite on the mark: it's like living in a nice house and enjoying my boat, but not paying to take your kid to the doctor. Don't pretend that you're being responsible by spending other people's money. I pay for my kid. Every time, without fail, and I do it with a smile. And every time he smiles at me, it's worth it.

  18. If people don't have access to social services, they go to emergency services, which are less helpful and MUCH more expensive. Someone who doesn't get a $150 STD treatment at Planned Parenthood will come to the ER for $2500 worth of treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease.

    And if people don't have access to emergency services, they... just die? Our country isn't exactly set up to tolerate kicking aside bodies in the street with a shrug and a "gosh, guess he should've saved up better." That's not just heartless, it's a great recipe for massive crime and violence.

    So yeah, you should pay for my kid to go to the doctor, because regardless if I should, I can't, and "just don't treat him then" is not an option.

    As for whether it's state vs. federal, I don't really care except that some states wouldn't, and then you get the above-mentioned $2500 ER visits and WAY WAY WAY more expensive unwanted births and children.

  19. Hershele OstropolerMarch 3, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    I pay for my kid. Every time, without fail, and I do it with a smile. And every time he smiles at me, it's worth it.
    Wow, that's insulting (and is part of why I disagree with Holly on the extent of classism). Poor people don't love their children?

  20. Exactly!

    I started birth control originally for medical reasons, but now that I am sexually active, it serves a dual role. Because I have a low-dose medication, I have to be very timely. I lost my pills once, and had to pay $70 (that I didn't really have) to make sure I kept taking it exactly on time. If I miss the time by over 30 minutes, I also use alternative birth control for a week afterwards, as recommended by my doctor.

    Why I am so careful? Because if I were to get pregnant right now, I would have an abortion, and I don't want to have to do that. While the idea of pregnancy is scarier right now, the idea of an abortion is scary too. It also takes that thing called money. Second, and more importantly, because I don't want a child right now, and NO child should be an unwanted child. It's not just that I don't actively want to have a child, it's that the idea of having a child right now, especially the idea of going through pregnancy, makes me a little sick. I am not ready, financially or emotionally. Children are great. One day, I may be ready to give birth, or I may be ready to adopt. If someone wants children, have them, and enjoy them. But it makes me so angry that people want write laws to make me give birth to a child I don't want.

    My current birth control is through my doctor, not Planned Parenthood, but I've had great experiences with them in the past, both for myself and my friend whose parents were uber-conservative. They provide invaluable services, and, as you said, if they're so damned concerned with preventing abortions, do something about reducing the number of abortions that are necessary.