by Lorraine M. Willis
If the author of “Women have healthcare options other than Planned Parenthood” had spoken to any of the women who are patients of Planned Parenthood, she would know we choose to go there because we know we’ll be cared for compassionately and confidentially. Planned Parenthood’s doors have been open for almost 100 years to provide health care for women, help prevent unintended pregnancies and offer STD testing and treatment.
But Planned Parenthood is more to Alaska than even just a trusted health care adviser — Planned Parenthood is absolutely necessary, as we are already in a crisis with our STD epidemic and fewer options for quality, affordable health care. According to an Alaska Dispatch article published May 3, 2011, gonorrhea and chlamydia rates in Alaska are among the highest in the United States, and with the help of Planned Parenthood, have received additional attention and funding to be brought back down.
All across the country, 73 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood health centers provide primary and preventive health care to many who would otherwise have nowhere to turn. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six in 10 patients who receive care at a family planning health center like Planned Parenthood consider it their main source of health care.
With more women than ever needing access to health care in these tough economic times, Planned Parenthood’s life-saving cancer screenings, contraception, breast health services, prevention and treatment of STDs, pap tests, sexual health education, information and counseling services are there every day to keep women, men and teens healthy.
Yes, a very small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion, but that is because they believe that women, not politicians, should be the ones making their own health care decisions. The fact of the matter is, no organization does more to prevent unintended pregnancies. Planned Parenthood sees 2 million patients for birth control, conducts 750,000 breast exams and provides 4 million STD tests and treatment every year.
Pregnancy tests are also available through Planned Parenthood, and a woman can feel comfortable knowing that she is supported whatever her decision is. When I went with a very close friend to a Planned Parenthood health center a couple of years ago, the staff was gentle, supportive and left her in control. While we waited for the results of her test, they explained all of her options. They gave her the information she needed to make her decision and offered resources to help her every step of the way. When the test came back negative, they gave her information on reliable contraceptives so she could avoid finding herself in the same situation again. She hasn’t needed to take a pregnancy test since.
Most Alaskans recognize that Planned Parenthood and family planning are common sense, and that is why they continue support Planned Parenthood in our community and among our friends and family.
The smartest thing we can do for women’s health and fiscal responsibility is invest in Planned Parenthood’s family planning programs and ensure that women have access to the reproductive health care services they need.