What do you think of when you see the words “Planned Parenthood”? Perhaps it is a sense of pride, knowing that it is a place where anyone can go to access help. Likely you also think of abortions when you encounter the organization. “Planned Parenthood” can be interpreted in numerous ways, but more than anything, its core meaning is literally its name. This organization is a resource to help safely plan your future parenthood. Do not let the name fool you- not every service is related to being sexually active. Their variety of care includes (but is not limited to): men and women’s health services, STD testing, patient education, LGBTQ services, pregnancy testing, abortions, and referrals. Moreover, Planned Parenthood is a healthcare provider invested in fighting for women’s rights; the proof is in their unwavering message of equality during the Trump administration. Therefore the question should be asked: why is this organization solely thought of as an abortion clinic?
The services of Planned Parenthood are substantially important for teenagers. As a teenager who has endured almost twelve years of public education, I can say with confidence that I feel a sense of failure in terms of my sexual education. Although many public schools provide more than adequate sex education and reproductive health classes, I did not receive it.
My first encounter with a topic broadly labeled as “Family Living” occurred in fourth grade. My class was split into two sexes: the boys went to the library while the girls were forced to sit in a circle. A middle-aged woman talked to us about our “changing bodies”. We were subject to this talk, that at the time seemed like a punishment for something none of us had done, once a day for around two weeks. Us nine-year-olds listened to this woman talk about periods, sperm, pregnancy, and sexual predators. I always questioned why the boys got to escape this lesson. Sure, they would not personally experience female reproduction, but nonetheless, they should still be informed. Perhaps if they were from a young age they would not squirm when a woman mentions tampons and they might understand the fear set in girls at a young age of people around us, especially men. Maybe if certain men experienced that lesson as boys, they later would not become the sexual predators fourth-grade girls have to learn about.
My second encounter with a reproductive lesson happened in seventh grade. This time the sexes were mixed together, and the teacher was male. In this trimester-long class, we touched upon sexual education. We were taught what pregnancy was and how to avoid it: use a condom. We were shown male condoms and told to “play with them”, a weird concept to me still. Us middle schoolers all uncomfortably laughed and stretched the rubber, but none of us had learned anything new. The most important lesson my health teacher taught us was about STDs and STIs; a lesson I still appreciate. But he failed to talk about miscarriages or stillbirths, an occurrence from reportedly one in four pregnancies. He also neglected to talk about consent, rape, or anything of that nature. If he had handed out Planned Parenthood pamphlets that informed us of where to go to learn about these sensitive topics, many students would have explored the subject matter further.
My last encounter with sexual education was in tenth grade. Although our health class was a semester-long, our sex ed was whittled down to about a week or two. Again, I had a male teacher. He was a Physical Education teacher so his curriculum was not geared towards sex ed. The main thing I took away from this high school sex lesson was abstinence. I did not learn how to apply a condom. I did not learn about the side effects of birth control on a woman’s body. And, once again I learned nothing about consent, rape, sexual abuse, or anything that daunts high schoolers. I was also not pointed in the direction of Planned Parenthood resources so I could find more information to help.
The importance of being educated sexually is crucial when it comes time for college. Many studies state that one out of three women gets raped on a college campus. Essentially, if you are in a room with a handful of college graduates, odds are at least one of them has been raped. As a privileged teenager in the age of technology, I was able to learn about these overwhelming topics on my own as needed. As the president of my school’s Women’s Rights Club, I am aware of the relationships high schoolers endure and the abuse that could have been prevented if only we, as impressionable young adults, were taught about them.
Planned Parenthood services must be provided in schools, in workplaces, or anywhere an undereducated person may be. The resources this organization provides include much more than just abortions. Therefore, the defunding of an entire company that simply strives to inform the population of sexual health is as close-minded as it is dangerous for future generations of parents.