Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts after my tour of North Milwaukee Avenue.

I left work at The Media Consortium this afternoon (Yes, work, not interning. Don’t use that dirty word in my presence) and braced myself for the headache that would ensue.

I was about to brave traffic at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon. Why would I embark on this silly adventure, you might ask.

Two crucial reasons:
1. Ran out of birth control pills.
2. Needed to exchange shoes at the Gap outlet.

Before you start complaining to your computer screen that I’ve now crossed the line to talking about my contraceptives, slow your roll for a second. Or maybe you’re appalled that I’m not only shopping at the Gap, but mentioning it on my blog.

Either way: Bear with me. For one thing, I like the Gap. I can’t help it. Their sweaters are comfy and brightly colored! Hooray!

Second, and more importantly: the birth control pills. Because I no longer have the luxury of IU health insurance and my fabulous ob-gyn in Bloomington, once my prescription ran out earlier this year, I had to resort to what I did in my poor college days—becoming a patient at Planned Parenthood (PP).

In order to get the sliding-scale cost, I had had to go to the only location in Chicago that still has the funding necessary to make these services possible. (Note that I said the only location. In all of Chicago.) And how lucky for the women of Chicago, this location is in a pretty bad neighborhood that made my K-town bred self a little frightened in broad daylight. Seriously. I felt like a police officer should have escorted me into the building.

Although when I was there, the receptionist took one look at me and argued that I wasn’t eligible for the reduced rate—maybe I was wearing an especially brightly colored Gap sweater day?—after I showed her my miserable paycheck, my situation improved. I was able to get my annual exam, STD testing, an HIV test, three months of pills, and more condoms than anyone could possibly need in a lifetime, all for free. Yes. FREE.

Was it the best treatment I’ve ever had at a doctor’s visit? No. Was it the most comprehensive? Probably not. But either way, my uninsured self was able to get crucial health services that otherwise I’d have to forego this year. Bless you, Planned Parenthood.

Back to today: I braved traffic and headed to the PP location at Milwaukee and Division, praying that I’d be able to pick up my pills there rather than at the location where I had been forced to go for my first visit.

I had tried calling on my way there to double check that I could pick up the pills at this location, and was greeted by a message that I had an out-of-service number. So I thought, whatever, I’ll just drive there.

Once I finally arrive at the shady looking building that is boarded up—for privacy reasons, I’m sure, but it really doesn’t give a young lady the best feeling—I realize that they’re closed. And they’ve been closed since 1:45 p.m.

What. The. Fuck. That’s my first reaction. But as I turned right back around on Milwaukee Avenue, hoping I don’t hit a cyclist or get run over by an SUV, the terrifying thought hit me—they probably close early for financial reasons. Maybe they haven’t realized that they have an incorrect number listed on their website because they don’t have the resources to keep that information maintained.

So I drove back toward the Gap outlet minus my pills, annoyed by the fact that I now have to get up an hour early tomorrow to make it to PP before I go to work.

I mention all this not because it was a minor annoyance in my day, or because I’m pissed that PP closes at weird hours. Not even because I want to frighten you all with mentions of birth control and condoms and STD testing, oh my!

Now, more than ever, PP is a crucial organization for women. As if we already didn’t survive the terrifying years of the Bush administration, yet again our health care is being threatened and overlooked. You know what I’m talking about—Stupak.

Read this fantastic New Yorker article to get a better idea. An excerpt:

Restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion go back to the Hyde amendment, which became law more than thirty years ago; for example, there has long been a ban on abortions under Medicaid or in military hospitals. But the implications of the Stupak amendment are broader, because of the structure of the exchange. To start with, Stupak states that anyone who buys insurance with a government subsidy cannot choose a plan that covers abortion, even if that person receives only a small subsidy, and even if only a tiny portion of the full premium goes for abortion care. And the influence of the amendment reaches beyond the recipients of federal subsidies. Stupak would prohibit the public option from offering any plans that cover abortion. Further, it is expected that each year more Americans will use the exchange, including people who don’t need subsidies, but under the Stupak amendment insurance companies would have no incentive to offer those people coverage for abortion services, since doing so might cost them the business of subsidized customers. Today, most policies cover abortion; in a post-Stupak world, they probably won’t. With a health-care plan that is supposed to increase access and lower costs, the opposite would be true with respect to abortion. And that, of course, is what legislators like Stupak want—to make abortions harder, and more expensive, to obtain.

Hat tip to Feministe for the link.

Are you terrified yet? I am.

If you have the means to do so, support Planned Parenthood. Stand up for women.

As Tobin wrote in his article, "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights 'center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.' Every diminishment of that right diminishes women. With stakes of such magnitude, it is wise to weigh carefully the difference between compromise and surrender."

One free, easy way to help women: Sign this petition to send a coat hanger to the 20 (formerly) pro-choice Democrats who voted to pass the Stupak amendment. 

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Gap outlet was having a sweet-ass sale today. After all these scary Stupak thoughts, I really deserved a new sweater, don’t you think?)


  1. Fabulous post, darling.
    It makes me furious about the government STILL trying to control everyone...with the focus here on women. They can't stay the fuck away from our uteruses (sp?!) and just enjoy the fact that their mother's choice life!!!

    P.S. I received your card/CD in the mail...I loved it! Thank you...I really appreciate it. It made me smile...and that's a hard thing to do right now. : )

  2. PP sounds amazing. I wish they had them in Australia. There are like sexual health clinics you can go to, but I dunno. PP sounds like it's quite good for girls in particular. Is it? I like the idea of a place where women only can go and talk about their lady problems.

  3. @Abby: YES! The mailperson has succeeded once more. Hope you're enjoying the tunes! And did you know Bukowski was so hot for redheads?!

    @Susie: PP really is great, and particularly for teens, cause they actually recognize that some young women can't talk to their parents about safe sex and other issues. Let's just hope they continue to get funding here in the states!

  4. does the founding of planned parenthood's association with eugenics trouble you at all?

    just curious.

  5. Much of the arguments you'll find in the news about PP's association with eugenics is pro-life propaganda trying to make PP seem like a racist association. Unfortunately, there is a disproportionate number of abortions by minority women, but this is directly related to economic situations. If orgs like PP had more money, OR, better yet, if we had comprehensive sex education in all public schools along with easier access to condoms for teens, I really believe this could be avoided.

    But then again, what do I know. I'm just a poor white chick trying to get some bc pills.

  6. I am absolutely appalled at this post. I have enjoyed reading your work for a while, and have an immense respect for your voice, intelligence and perspective but this post may change all of that.

    The Gap?

    :) Just kidding. As for Stupak. You said it. Full disclosure, I'm not a sistah, but it still rankles me to my core that social services -- and I consider PP a vital one -- have to struggle to fund their efforts and outreach simply because the federal government lacks the cahones to recognize that this is an issue that prevents women from having a life that is equal in substance to their male counterparts. Plus Stupak just seems so damn insidious. And it's a dumb name. Or should I just say it's stupak. So there.

  7. I knew I was taking a risk mentioning the Gap.

    Keep the faith, and I'll avoid mentioning pretty sweaters ever again.

    Glad you're on my page with Stupak.