Editor’s Note: Susan’s column was written a month prior to the recent shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and at Clinica Hispania, a woman’s health clinic in Houston, that have left four persons dead.
By Susan Chatzky
You may be blissfully unaware of the raging controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood right now. You may not even really know what Planned Parenthood does, or where the nearest one is. Planned Parenthood may be completely off your radar, and that’s totally understandable.
Here in Chappaqua and many of the surrounding towns and villages, most people can afford excellent health insurance, there’s no need to go to a health center that accepts Medicaid or that has a sliding scale fee structure. If you have teenage kids you have most likely talked to them about sex, STDs, birth control, and personal responsibility. You may even have taken your daughter to your own OB/GYN.
We live in an amazing community where most of the people who live here do so because it’s such a great place to raise kids. Raising my own children here was an incredible privilege. The schools are great, the other parents are all dedicated, many parents volunteer. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. So even though I really couldn’t afford it, that is exactly what I chose to do.
I raised two kids in the Chappaqua School District as a single mom with a low paying job. I was a personal trainer, which had really flexible hours, but the pay is pretty terrible (the trainer you pay $100 dollars an hour for probably sees $35 of that, and that’s before taxes), I had zero benefits, no health insurance, no vacation, no sick pay. I probably should have moved, but I wanted my children to have all of the advantages of going to such excellent schools.
It’s not easy to be poor in a wealthy neighborhood. My kids didn’t have the same clothes, vacations, or camp experiences. Our house was a tiny little rental. We ate a lot of pasta. It was a struggle, and it was humiliating. It is humiliating and degrading and soul crushing to be poor. To know you don’t belong somewhere. I’m sure it was hard for my kids.
While my kids had health insurance, I did not. There was no ACA, and I didn’t qualify for Medicaid. I did however need healthcare. I’m a mom; it’s my responsibility to stay healthy. I went to Planned Parenthood. Unlike private practices, they took me without health insurance, they charged on a sliding scale, and no one even blinked when a poor, single, mother of two had the nerve to want birth control. No one judged me, or made me feel like I was less than a person. No one made me feel bad for having a sex life.
Recently, someone from Chappaqua wrote on Facebook that women could just go someplace else for care. It actually brought me to tears. There is something special about Planned Parenthood that can’t just be replaced. It is a place you can go and receive excellent care without anyone judging you. It is a place where teenagers can go to ask questions about their bodies and get real answers.
It is a place where someone will hold your hand if they are giving you bad news after a PAP smear. It is a place that will take you, and help you, and care for you no matter your ability to pay them. And yes, it is a place that will help you if you find yourself pregnant unexpectedly. I’m married now, and I have health insurance. I finally “belong” in my own community. But there are other women who, like I did, struggle. They sit next to you at parent teacher conferences, are on line behind you at Walgreens, they volunteer for PTA events, and they live here because they want their kids to have a good foundation and to have better opportunities than they had themselves.
Planned Parenthood is here for them, so I will always be here for Planned Parenthood.
Susan Chatzky is a mom, step mom, wife, blogger, and sometime yoga teacher. She rescues dogs and sits on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. For more info, please visit www.pphp.org.