I am Her and So are You

When something happens that hinders the safety and rights of one of girl, the ripple affect flows down the line and topples us all. The topic of de-funding Planned Parenthood is a conversation that has seemingly taken the back burner since there is constantly so much turmoil to discuss and debate in our country. However, the issue has recently been brought back to the forefront of my mind as I read the novel “The Girls Who Went Away”.

 

This novel unleashes a plethora of real-life horror stories of what is was like to become pregnant in the years before Roe v. Wade. If we do not acknowledge the not so distant history of women’s rights, it is scarily likely to repeat itself. “The Girls Who Went Away” addresses true stories of young women who became pregnant before marriage-in their high school years and early 20’s-and were publicly shamed and sent to “homes for un-wed mothers” as they had remotely no other options. The options of birth control pills, abortions, or even purchasing condoms were completely obsolete. One woman recounted that a girl in her college dorm used to sell birth control pills to girls in her hall like a drug deal because they had virtually no other way of accessing them. Completely deprived of knowledge on contraceptive care, these girls failed to realize the pill had to be taken daily and became pregnant anyway. If young and unmarried girls ever confided in their primary care physician or, god forbid, a gynecologist, to ask for a birth control prescription they would be sent away. Left with no options, handfuls of young women were becoming pregnant at alarming rates. With no preventative care, no knowledge, and no support, they were sent away to homes for unwed mothers for the remainder of their pregnancy until their children were taken from them and forced into the adoption system.

You might be wondering how these horrors of the past (not very long ago, only the 60’s!) have any relation to Planned Parenthood today. Planned Parenthood gives girls that need it a safe space. Planned Parenthood is about more than just abortion-despite popular discussion around the topic. De-funding Planned Parenthood also means denying the health-care to those who need it for cancer screening, STI/STD testing, contraception, and other women’s health services. A world where teen girls who rely on safety-net health care providers have no access to contraceptive care, women’s health check-ups, or safe abortions is a world that has been rewound a full 45 years for those girls.

I am truly not trying to push a political agenda, I am only extending my heart to girls today who see Planned Parenthood as a safe space filled with caring physicians who provide their only source of knowledge and care for women’s health. Ann Fessler in “The Girls Who Went Away” states, “I mean, the lack of information in 1966 was astounding. If you wanted to get birth control pills you had to be flashing a diamond solitaire. Doctors really didn’t give them to you. Why would you need those? You shouldn’t be having sex anyways”. The reality for girls with no access to safety-net providers without Planned Parenthood is a frightening reflection of this, though maybe not an exact replica as you cannot completely erase progress that has been made.

 

Every girl needs to keep her neighbor in mind as we do not all have access to the same health care, support, and knowledge as each other. Nevertheless, “The Girls Who Went Away” is an undoubtedly intriguing read that brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Every girl deserves to feel safe and know that she is deserving of options and knowledge, because a girl like her is a girl just as deserving as you.