Are you that awkward guest at a dinner party? You know the one. S/he finds one kindly ear and latches a hold of its owner like a life preserver? I am. Meh… sometimes. How do you keep them interested in hearing your screes, your vexations on inappropriate issues? My momma told me to be polite and reflexive in conversation. She said mirror your companion’s tone and verve as to not upset the apple cart. Well, mama didn’t prepare me for my dining companion’s talk about Planned Parenthood.
You see, I just thought everyone knew that talking about abortions, gynecological and breast exams at a dinner party was off-limits. But I was with passionate people. And the guest to my left had A LOT to say about babies, their birthing and the sham on healthcare Planned Parenthood Federation of America has put over on us. Boy, howdy!
OH. MY. DEAR. lord! It started out simply. S/he said, are you on Twitter? I had to leave.it.alone, s/he said. I was spending all my time on there! I nodded my head, me too I piped. But I’m still snarking-on. We share a laugh. “We’ve just won this grant, and geez, we gotta’ find a social media activist….” Did I just hear heavenly angels sing? I take a breath, it’s my big moment,
“I’m sorta’ guru of the sosh-media,” I reply. “I’ve used that and Facebook, even Google+ and LinkedIn to engage and ‘activate’ for causes. And I’m looking for a full time gig.”
“Well, I shouldn’t talk about this, my spouse’s giving me the eye,” s/he responds. Did this person just give me a stiff arm and palm to my face? Why aren’t I good enough, I wondered.
The person takes a breathe, casts shade to their spouse and launches in, “Yes, but are you ProL…” I interrupted and said “Choice,” nodding enthusiastically. Wait a minute. I mentally palm my face. S/he didn’t say the same word. Oops. Now what do I do? I stopped nodding my head. I relaxed my shoulders, kept eye contact and plastered a “Tell me your side of the story” smile across my face. And I kept it locked. Who says codependent behavior isn’t useful?
“Planned Parenthood. We’re after them. Do you know what? I’ve called them. Oh yes, I’ve called them to find out if they offer mammograms. And you know what? Not one of ’em do it. Not. One! It’s a sham. They are lying to the public about it. Did you know that?”
“Huh,” I said in that non-committal way Minnesotans have taught me. “You don’t say,” I blurt, “Gee!” That’s where I kept it. Upbeat. It’s a party, and it’s not mine.
S/he lambasted them. Skewered and fricasseed them while we ate satay. “But I do it for the women. The mothers. No one is thinking about the babies! I love babies. But we often forget about the women and their shattered lives after they get it. We, the people are not McDonald’s! But we treat these precious souls to drive-thru medical services. It’s not right. That’s why I’m in it. That’s where my passion goes.”
My delish coconut soup is coming back up. “Wow, I’ve never thought of it like that,” I’m not going to make it to the end of this dinner.
“I haven’t gone to Planned Parenthood since the 80s. I’ve got health insurance, so I can’t say exactly what they offer. But what about Men’s health? What about vasectomies?”
S/he paused to think and then shrugged, “I don’t know WHAT they offer men,” s/he replied.
“I’m pretty sure they offer tests for STDs and contraception outside of, ugh, you know,” I weakly add. My mind is screaming, ask them about the babies that are already here! Ask ’em about people on death row! Ask them what they’re doing for the fully-formed humans that aren’t in this reproductive BS!
“They’re not a health organization! They just refer people. They get them to come in, wasting people’s time and money and toss ’em to somebody else to treat.”
Ok. I’ve really had enough of this. “They’re a speciality clinic. If my foot hurts I’m not going to an ear, nose and throat guy, alright…!”
I kept face and remained polite for two hours. Then I came home and went to the Planned Parenthood website, entered 55101, because I thought their St. Paul clinic was the largest in the state, and I was impressed by the website’s layout. When I pressed the go button, it brought up the clinic’s address, map to the clinic, hours of operation and a list of the services provided there. I tried my zipcode and found their Minneapolis clinic and list of services as well. But what’s ah-may-zing, is that the national site offers a chat option, with a live person. You can also use their web-based mail system, which is super-seriously-secret (https, password protected, login), and send a message about your reproductive health to an on-call licensed nurse.)
I was impressed. So I created a private account on their system, and submitted questions about the clinic’s list of services. I got a reply the next day. Their reply was very professional, stating that they deal with health issues solely. Being a nurse and all. Then they directed me to contact Jen Aulwes, Communications Director, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and further provided me with her number. Did I say professional? Well, they own that!
I called Ms. Aulwes today and left her a voicemail saying: “Do you offer mammograms? pelvic exams? pap smears?” I let her know that it’s just for my blog, so no time sensitivity for a reply. And she got right back in touch with me. Bam. We split a couple voicemail messages and then I asked if she could reply by email. Pow. She just served this right up:
“Thanks for confirming and for letting people know what we offer! There are often misconceptions so we really appreciate it,” she wrote.
You’re welcome, (kicks the dirt, blushing.)
“We provide pelvic exams, pap smears, birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, breast health screenings and referrals for patients when additional / further diagnostics are required. In fact, more than 95% of our services are preventive services such as these. We plan to offer Vasectomy at our St. Paul health center in the near future. “
Aulwes took the time, twice, to make sure that the right information got out there. Here. And now I know, that no, they do not offer mammograms. But my general practitioner doesn’t either. He does an exam. And so does Planned Parenthood.
If I needed to learn how to use condoms, I could learn it at Planned Parenthood. If I had questions about hoo-ha discharge, at home alone with my PC I can connect online with a live person via chat. I guess I could have done it at the dinner party too. There is an app for the folks who visit PP’s Southern New England offices. Just not one for Minnesota. I’m re-assured, after perusing Planned Parenthood’s densely packed website, that they offer a lot in health maintenance. It has information and tools for everyone.
And based on my personal experiences in the 1980s and my virtual ones in 2013, they are still personable, caring and state-of-the-art. I’m empowered by them. And I’m ready for my next dinner party.