Planned Parenthood Is Health Care
Over winter break, I was driving toward the downtown of the small town I grew up, in Springfield, Ohio. As I crossed a busy bridge that overhangs some small office buildings, I noticed a new sign. It read, “Need help?” It was for Planned Parenthood, and it listed a series of services such as STD testing, cancer screenings, and pregnancy consultation.
I attend college on the East Coast and currently work as a Generation Action intern at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. Ohio and Springfield, in particular, can seem very far away most of my year but I tend to get little reminders from my parents about the place I grew up and left behind. On the phone, right before my finals period, my mother offhandedly said, as a fun fact, that Springfield was named the unhealthiest city in Ohio.
According to the local paper, The Springfield News Sun, the ranking is based on County Health Ranking and annual health survey conducted by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The ranking considered length and quality of life as well as behavior, clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors. It was a holistic approach to health. The county’s statistics proved it lacked in both these classical considerations of health such as physical activity and these environmental and social considerations. In particular, the county’s premature death, physical inactivity, unemployment, uninsured, and child poverty rates were considerably higher than national and state averages. In short, Springfield very much ‘needs help.’
Planned Parenthood provides a plethora of resources that could improve these statistics for my community but, more importantly, improve the lives of the people of Springfield. One thing that I have learned through my work with Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island is that the organization strives to take a holistic approach to health and improve the many factors that went into making my town unhealthy. Planned Parenthood provides health services, including general health services such as blood pressure screenings; flu shots and some health centers even offer treatments for skin diseases. Both Planned Parenthood’s website and staff assist patients in the health insurance process, and their information is vital to lowering the rates of the uninsured. Similarly, the low cost makes health care accessible to those living in poverty such as a high number of those in my community.
Also according to a Springfield News Sun article, Springfield has a teen pregnancy rate considerably above the state average. This is accompanied with a high infant mortality rate. And, according to the article, teenage mothers are more likely to fall below the poverty line. The pregnancy counseling, birth control accessibility, and the abortion referrals that the Springfield Planned Parenthood offers all work to empower people in my community to make choices about when and how they have a family. Such choices protect those who can get pregnant from the health risks and concerns that my community faces. For example, being offered choice of when to have a family will allow people to prepare for a child financially and reduce their risk of falling into poverty or risk the health of that child. Planned Parenthood has the tools to help my community, a community in desperate need.
I continued my drive, over the bridge and into downtown. I parked my car next to a mini-van. One of the bumper stickers on the van read, “Planned Parenthood kills.” I wonder if the image of Planned Parenthood, created by politicians, is causing my community to ignore the help offered. Help is advertised huge on a billboard, impossible to miss.
It is also impossible to miss the “Planned Parenthood Kills” messaging. As people who care about our communities and want these communities to accept and use the services Planned Parenthood offers, we find ourselves compelled to address that messaging.
Hopefully, by standing for reproductive justice, we can remind communities like mine that help is out there and extending a non-threatening hand.
The author is a Generation Action intern at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England in Providence, Rhode Island.