Human Rights and Planned Parenthood

Happy 4th of July! The American Flag in FireworksBeing uninsured is an opportunity for creative health planning. It’s one thing to be uninsured in your 20s when you’re young and healthy. It’s another thing to be uninsured when you’re my age (I’m not sure if I’m still considered middle-aged or if I’ve crossed over into the senior category) and have had 59 major surgeries.

After the fiasco at the medical clinic for medicaid and the uninsured, I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides a broad range of health services and screenings in addition to services for sexual and reproductive health. I knew Planned Parenthood could handle some routine screenings I needed, such as my annual mammogram and blood work.

The experience between the [indigent] clinic and Planned Parenthood could not have been more different. The appointment at the clinic was two-and-a-half months out, whereas Planned Parenthood was the following week. I received email and phone confirmations of my appoint with Planned Parenthood. The clinic input the wrong phone number so when they couldn’t reach me (which is very common for their population), they cancelled my appointment. When I showed up, they told me I’d have to wait another two-and-a-half months for another appointment. That’s when I decided to try Planned Parenthood.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to Planned Parenthood, but I can tell you I did not expect to see so many men! In fact, the only seat available for me was on a row of all men! They were filling out their own paperwork so they were there for themselves. There were a couple of other men with children so I assumed they were waiting for their partners. I was definitely the oldest person in the room!

Most of the time when you go to a medical office, it’s like a morgue. No one talks, not even people who are there together. The waiting area was very vibrant at Planned Parenthood. As soon as I completed my paperwork, one of the pierced/tattooed father’s asked me if I had children. I told him my sons were grown and I was actually a grandmother now. He asked me how I got through the teen years and that opened up a conversation that included most of the people in the waiting room. Not what I would have expected anywhere, especially at Planned Parenthood.

My name was called within 10 minutes of arriving! Often does that happen?!? The intake was very thorough, asking if I had ever been in an abusive relationship (most doctor’s don’t ask those questions at all), about my current relationship, sexual preferences all without judgment. Specific questions as well as the usual health history. I only waited a few more minutes before the nurse practitioner came in to examine me. She ordered blood work and the tech drew the blood in the exam room. Everyone – the receptionist, nurse assistant, nurse practitioner, phlebotomist, account clerk – was professional, thorough, and friendly.

I have already received the results from one of the labs! (My appointment was yesterday and I just got off the phone with the nurse practitioner). It was abnormal, which I expected, and she went over all my options since I do need to be seen by a primary care physician for ongoing treatment.

I’m a seasoned patient. I know how to advocate for myself and I am not easily intimidated by health care professionals. I have learned to listen to my body, but only after years of trying to ignore it. I cannot think of any better place than Planned Parenthood for a young person – male or female – to learn to take responsibility for their own health care in a safe, non-judgmental, you-and-your-body-are-special, environment. Even more mature men and women can feel safe learning and understanding the changes that are certain to occur in their own bodies as they age. That’s just plain good stewardship of the body and person created by God.

Planned Parenthood and other clinics that offer health care to to low-income or uninsured are being threatened because they offer reproductive health services. It’s really coming down to access to health care. And health care is a basic human right.

Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human rights because they are universal. Human rights are the rights to which everyone is entitled—no matter who they are or where they live—simply because they are alive.

Yet many people, when asked to name their rights, will list only freedom of speech and belief and perhaps one or two others. There is no question these are important rights, but the full scope of human rights is very broad. They mean choice and opportunity. They mean the freedom to obtain a job, adopt a career, select a partner of one’s choice and raise children. They include the right to travel widely and the right to work gainfully without harassment, abuse and threat of arbitrary dismissal. They even embrace the right to leisure.

The United States is celebrating independence July 4, founded on the premise that its citizens have these inalienable human rights. I, for one, intend to support organizations like Planned Parenthood to make sure those rights are available to any and all. Amen.


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