Hi TAPPED. I'm Julianne Hing, a reporter and blogger over at the race and politics daily news site Colorlines.com. I'm still getting caught up on the news cycle as I've been sniffing around a story that involves more than my usual -- which is inhaling the Internet. For example, on Friday, when I looked up from my notes and the House passed Mike Pence's amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, a vote that was preceded by a flurry of impassioned floor debate. You miss a little, you miss a lot.
I find it difficult to summon the energy to be angered or even shocked by the news anymore. I wouldn't describe my reaction on Friday as either of those two. It felt like something much deeper -- like an attack on women and women's access to health care. I took it personally.
I have a gaggle of young female cousins who I thought of immediately after Friday's news. They are funny and intelligent and goofy people; in short, perfect teens. We've all grown up in a family where the unspoken understanding is that everyone in my family waits until they're married to have sex. Therefore no one talks about the topic at all, which is exactly why I want Planned Parenthood to be there for my cousins the way it was for me.
I was between insurance the first time I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic, and was very nervous. Prior to that visit the only other physician I'd seen with any regularity was my lifelong pediatrician. In the waiting room of the Planned Parenthood clinic I went to, I found a lot of young women like me with companions of all kinds. Most showed up on their own. In the exam rooms I was met by nurses who, as Monica described in her own account of her experiences with Planned Parenthood, were adept at creating a nonjudgmental environment. That environment was one of the biggest reasons I went back, and an environment I've not always enjoyed since.
Planned Parenthood nurses walked me through my first breast exam and taught me how to do my own at home. I got my first pap smear at a Planned Parenthood clinic -- and that wasn't even the reason for my visit. Planned Parenthood nurses also took me seriously when I told them I'd prefer if they didn't identify themselves if they happened to call my family's land line and I wasn't available to talk. What I also got at Planned Parenthood was a thorough education in contraception and sexual health, including on how to protect myself and my partner, that I just never was exposed to at home or school. It was low cost, judgment-free medical care that I was too scared to seek out elsewhere -- or in the case of the pap smear, didn't know I needed.
Stories like this can be interpreted as confession. Maybe they are a little bit. After the House passage of the amendment, I learned that many more people in my life had benefited from Planned Parenthood services than I knew about before. So long as medical care is made difficult for women -- and well, everyone else -- to access, and so long as women's rights to make decisions about our own bodies is considered criminal, they will be.