Defunding Planned Parenthood

Defunding Planned Parenthood

I've been reading a lot on social media and online about what happens when we defund Planned Parenthood, and what the repercussions of the new healthcare act will have on underserved populations.  I won't pretend to be a journalist and I won't pretend that I understand all the minutiae of what is going on.  But let me tell you what defunding Planned Parenthood means to me as a pediatrician. 

In my lifetime, I've had to tell two separate twelve-year-old girls that they were pregnant.  Two.  One when I was a resident one when I was an attending. 

For both, I don't know the outcome. 

What I do know is that neither girl wanted to tell her mom.  And while I could counsel her that she may need the support of a parent--no matter what her decision would be--legally I couldn't tell her mom without her consent. 

For the first twelve year old, I was not yet a parent myself.  I was in a bit of shock, to be honest.  And I tried to counsel her with as much information as possible.  The attending I was working with wanted to tell her mom, but I insisted on her rights. 

For the second twelve-year-old girl, I had already had three kids....I knew how much support I needed, both financially and mentally.  Again, I counseled her as best as I could, and then referred her to OB/GYN and other places for whatever decision she would make. 

When I was in residency, there was a twelve year old mom whose baby was hospitalized.  Grandma was very involved, and I remember cross-covering and updating grandma because mom was a young twelve-year-old and didn't fully understand what we were talking about regarding her baby's illness.

I want you to consider what I've just told you.  I won't go into the details because of privacy issues but I'm not talking about teen pregnancy.

I'm talking about PRE-TEEN PREGNANCY.

It's ironic to talk about someone being a "young" twelve-year-old mom when she obviously is not naive.  But at the same time, she is. 

Across the country, most people won't be surprised about what I've written.  But in the world where my children are growing up, they would be surprised.  My eldest is now 11 years old.  They've had the birds and the bees talk (and we've also discussed things at home), but these are just words.  And in my current private practice, this isn't the norm.

But for a decade plus, I had worked with under-served families, with complicated social structures.  I've seen many teen moms.  And I've seen many teens who have gone to Planned Parenthood or other clinics to obtain birth control, to have labs and studies done, to check if they are pregnant.  What happens to these teens if Planned Parenthood is defunded?

Are these just words and statistics to our politicians? 

They are real people to me.  And there are real repercussions. 

And, yes, I do believe that healthcare is a universal human right. 

And, yes, I do plan on calling my senators. 

Because we should be building MORE Planned Parenthood facilities.  Not tearing them down.  We should be building MORE clinics, not walls.  We should be building bridges, not burning them down. 

And we should continue to have the right to choose what to do with our own bodies.

If you have a moment, Paul Viviano, the CEO and president of Children's Hospital Los Angeles wrote an excellent opinion piece on CNN about what the proposed new health bill would mean for children.

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