Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I am Opposed to Planned Parenthood (and it's not why you might think)

{I wrote the bulk of this years ago when the governmental funding of Planned Parenthood was a matter of political debate. I decided to dust it off and pull it out of my draft folder after observing the most recent PP shenanigans.}

Image result for planned parenthood

No, folks, it's not just because of the abortions (I'm actually mostly pro-choice). 

This is a little personal, as all health issues are, and I was hesitant to write about it.  But with all the media and political hype about Planned Parenthood lately, I feel it's my duty to put my experience out there.

I lay on the examination table, my clothes neatly folded on the plastic chair, only a thin sheet of tissue paper between my body and the cold air of the cramped exam room. I had been lying there for at least 20 minutes before the doctor came in.

I went to Planned Parenthood several years ago and was seen as a patient.  It was actually a mistake; I had seen the (free) nurse practitioner at my grad school, and she told me about a doctor who worked for an office that had a sliding payment scale. Since I was broke and had no insurance, I decided to give it a try. I set up an appointment.

I arrived on time, but I was confused because there wasn't a doctor's office in the strip mall for the address I'd been given. I walked around for awhile until I realized the "doctor's office" was actually a Planned Parenthood. To be clear, my health issue involved neither planning nor parenthood (or reproductive health in general). Feeling a bit misled since I had not been told, either by my provider or the person on the phone, that the office was, in fact, a Planned Parenthood, I walked in for my appointment.  

The waiting room was freezing and dirty. The receptionists were linked to the room by a sliding window. Since the entire room was tiled, the sound carried and there was no privacy--everyone in the waiting room could hear your business. I confirmed with the receptionist that I was in the right place, and she directed me to sit and wait. I was called back after 15 minutes to give a urine sample. The facilities were dirty and cramped, and I had to place the filled cup outside the waiting room on an unhygienically cluttered counter alongside a bunch of other filled cups. I returned to the waiting room and was called back after another 45 minutes. I expected to see the doctor since my appointment time had been an hour prior, but instead I had to talk to a woman about "insurance." She instructed me to fill out a sheaf of paperwork for government funding, and then was upset that I didn't have a copy of my birth certificate. (True, I had been instructed to bring one when I'd called in, but it was at my parents' house and I didn't think they'd actually need it, especially since I'd brought my social security card and driver's license.) So I called my mom and asked her to fax the office a copy of my birth certificate.

I was directed again to the waiting room. It was so cold (freezing!)--the same temperature as the chilly February morning outside. Luckily, I'd brought a wonderful book, but I was frequently distracted from it by the very loud and very foul language another patient used as she talked on her cell phone, complaining to some friend about the wait. The rest of the people filing in and out were, for the most part, loud, rude, and vulgar.  

After waiting another hour, I finally asked the receptionist (after much knocking on the glass) if the doctor would be seeing me soon. She informed me that patients were seen on a first-come, first-served basis and that I would be taken back when it was my turn. I wondered what the point of making an "appointment" was in the first place, but I returned to my seat.

After another 30 minutes, two and a half hours after I'd arrived, a medical assistant took me back to an examination room. She instructed me to remove my clothes and sit on the examination table and handed me a skimpy sheet of tissue paper to cover myself as she left.  I asked her why I needed to get undressed, and she said that since I didn't bring proof I'd had a pap smear in the last year, I had to have one done in order to see the doctor (I had not been informed of this beforehand). Feeling increasingly uncomfortable, I watched the assistant leave and stripped down. I perched awkwardly on the exam table--sans clothes--clutching my thin tissue shroud around me.  I sat there and waited.  For 20-30 minutes. Naked. Cold. Uncomfortable.  

The doctor--who was, it turned out, actually a nurse practitioner--finally came in. She was nice and seemed competent, but rushed. Barely making eye contact before getting down to business up in my business, she asked me the purpose for my visit. I explained, and she told me, without fanfare, that she couldn't help me, and I would have to go somewhere else. She finished up the breast exam and left, and I put on my clothes.

I confirmed I didn't owe anything and asked the receptionist on my way out, "How will I know if I'm not approved for funding?"

She looked at me blankly. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, how will I know if I need to pay for this visit?"

She shook her head. "Well, I guess if you come back, we'll charge you then."

"So you won't send me a bill?" I asked. "You won't let me know if I owe you money? How am I supposed to pay something I don't know I owe? I don't want to be sent to collections or anything."

She shrugged. "We don't send bills."

With that, she handed me a large [unsolicited] bag of condoms, gave me a pack of birth control pills for six dollars ("They would have been free if your government assistance had gone through today," she told me apologetically), and sent me on my merry way. 

I found out later that my application had not been processed because, despite my mom faxing them my birth certificate, they never bothered to submit it.

To recap: I scheduled an appointment time that wasn't honored to receive treatment that wasn't provided and given services that weren't wanted. I wasn't charged for the visit, and Planned Parenthood wasn't paid for it, either. 

It made me wonder, if Planned Parenthood's business model is so inefficient that no effort was made to recoup costs for my appointment by either filing the paperwork to receive a government reimbursement or, failing that, billing me for their services, why the government is so hell-bent on funneling millions of dollars a year into this organization that turns healthcare into a DMV or Social Security office experience, complete with unfriendly, inefficient, incompetent employees, dirty floors, and long wait times. 

I think I just answered my own question.

But, hey! Free condoms!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Women in Church History: A Call to Action

In my church, we hear no shortage of words about how important women are. Essential, even. Incredible. Which is nice, right? Because we all like to feel appreciated. 

But sometimes, when confronted with all these general insistences that women are really great and have such valuable roles to perform, my inner Eliza Doolittle bursts into song:

Words, words, words 
I'm so sick of words 
I get words all day through... 
Is that all you blighters can do?

Sing me no song, read me no rhyme,
Don't waste my time, show me!
Don't talk of June, don't talk of fall,
Don't talk at all! Show me!

There are many areas that we as a church could put our money where our mouth is in regards to women (and I won't make a list here, however sorely I am tempted), but one is in recognizing women's contributions to church history, both past and present. 

If women really are essential, are incredible, are important, then why don't we value their contributions more? Why don't we celebrate them and quote them and tell their stories to coed audiences on a weekly, church-wide basis? 

For over ten years, our Relief Society and Priesthood lesson manuals have exclusively contained the words of male prophets. In the future, can we hope for a manual containing exclusively the words of our female leaders? What if, one year for Sunday School curriculum, instead of rotating through the standard works, we focused on women in the scriptures? Imagine a General Conference with more than two female speakers (versus 27 male speakers).* Imagine a woman speaking in the Priesthood Session of conference. Imagine women being invited to address priesthood groups, women given leadership callings that, though they don't require priesthood, are traditionally given to men, women included on all church decision making councils, female stake leadership speaking in wards like high councilors do. Imagine rooting out patriarchal traditions on the ward level by having women frequently speak last in sacrament meeting or having as many weeks where there are only female speakers as there are weeks of just male speakers.

I would trade all of the talks about how wonderful women are for even one of these concessions. The talks praising women would become redundant if we showed that we really do believe women are spiritual and human equals to men in the way that we treat their contributions.

(So much for not starting a list. Turns out I can't hold back that tide. But I digress.)

So why does any of this matter? What's the big deal? Everything on that list seems so petty when compared to the vast scope and beauty of the gospel, right? Why nitpick? 

Because that list, while only the tip of the iceberg, demonstrates that our church culture systemically and subliminally perpetuates the idea that what men have to say is important and relevant for everyone. What women have to say, however, is important and relevant for women and children, but not so much for men. This view (patriarchy) is damaging to both women and men. 

But I'm not going to delve into the harmful effects of patriarchy today. My purpose in writing this and breaking my self-imposed ban on posting overtly feministy stuff on my personal blog (because people get judgy, yo, and I'm not interested in being summoned to my bishop's office again) is to share a rare opportunity to do something about it.

Ardis E. Parshall, my newly discovered Mormon historian heroine, is seeking funding so she can write a book about Mormon history told through the words and experiences of women. So cool, right? And the icing on the cake is that Ardis isn't a feminist hothead like me. She doesn't rant. She is thoughtfully diplomatic and articulate, and she's a legit historian. So don't let my angst turn you off: go check her out.

To explain the need for such a volume, read her post here. If statistics and graphs aren't really your thing, just skim that one and read some of these fascinating posts she wrote about how women, for better or for worse, are portrayed in church history:

Finally, read her vision and call to action here:

"What we don’t have is a history of the Church itself that incorporates the contributions of Latter-day Saint women to any significant extent. The active, achieving, contributions of women are largely reported as the history of women, segregated from the history of the Church itself.

It’s time to change that."  - Ardis E. Parshall

If you want to order a copy of the book or are in a position to contribute to this important project, please visit her Kickstarter page.

*I just found out that the church [finally] recognized the Women's Meeting as an official session of General Conference. The numbers above don't include the Women's and Priesthood session speakers; if you include those, there are 5 female speakers and 34 male speakers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yay for The Friend

When I Grow Up … I Want to Be a Pediatric Transport Nurse

The Friend is my church's magazine for children. I'm not really a church magazines person because a few of my religious views are a bit heterodox, and every once in awhile there's an article that either makes me flaming mad or makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I let my Ensign (adult magazine) subscription lapse years ago, but last year I decided Kate would probably enjoy The Friend, so I signed up.

For the most part, it's been fine. Sometimes we read it; sometimes we don't. It usually sits benignly on our coffee table. Occasionally there's an article that makes me want to shred the whole thing into a fluffy pile of fiber (I'm looking at you, stories that tell little girls they need to keep their shoulders covered. Hell's bells.) But mostly, Kate enjoys looking at her "maget-zine" and gets excited every time it comes in the mail.

Recently, though, I've noticed a few things in The Friend that have made me happy and hopeful. Things that mark the beginning of a trend toward inclusion and openness that challenge (just a tiny bit) our intensely patriarchal, gender role oriented culture. 

Here are a few of them:

The October 2014 issue had a centerfold titled "Stand as a Witness." It talked about how to, well, stand as a witness for God and then had several examples of people from the scriptures and church history who stood as witnesses. The cool part, the part that literally made me yell with happiness, is that three out of the five examples given were women (Emma Smith, Abish, Mary Magdalene, Enoch and Alma). Do you know how rare it is to see even one woman used as an example for a mixed-gender group, let alone a majority? Granted, there are far more male than female central characters in the scriptures, so I don't expect there to be 50/50 representation all the time, but I could tell that whoever wrote this article had really made an effort to include female role models. I loved it. I meant to write a letter to The Friend to tell them how awesome and wonderful and heartening I found that simple two-page spread, but I never did.

April's issue had an article titled "When I Grow Up... I Want to be a Pediatric Transport Nurse" that's part of a series highlighting different careers. I was excited to see that the woman they interviewed appears to have children at home and have a career. I was also pleased that the article just focused on her job and didn't say anything about her kids, showing that a woman can have kids and a career and it's normal and good. The best thing about this article was what it didn't say (for example, excuses like that she worked because her husband lost his job, or she only worked part time, or that her career was a back-up plan, etc.). She appeared to work because she wanted to and because she liked it.

March's issue had a story called "Telling Secrets" about a girl who decided not to keep a secret her friend told her because she was afraid her friend would get hurt. At the end, it says,

 "What would it be like if Luisa told her secret and Carlotta didn't want to be her friend anymore?....Then she had another thought. Right now the most important thing was what was best for Carlotta--not what Carlotta might think about her. Carlotta needed a true friend, a friend who would help her be safe. ....Carlotta might end up being mad, but Luisa knew this was the right thing to do. She would be a true friend."

But the really cool part was the article on the next page, titled "When Should I Tell?" It has a fairly comprehensive list of things that should not be kept secret, and I was so pleased to see these included:

  • If somebody shows pictures of people without clothes
  • If somebody asks you to look at or touch their body or let them look at or touch your body
  • If somebody asks you to keep a secret about something that makes you feel bad
  • If something makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable
Then it has a list of people the child can go to for help, and concludes with this: "You don't need to feel alone with a secret. An adult can help you know what to do. Keep telling people until you get the help you need."

In our church, we're pretty conservative, which I view as a good thing. Unfortunately, however, this can cause us to be really tight-lipped when it comes to teaching our kids about sex, including consent and abuse. When abuse is perpetrated by an adult who is a trusted friend, family member, or authority figure (as it often is), children get scared and confused and often keep silent. These topics are ugly, but we must educate our children. We need to have casual conversations about it frequently. I hope to see this list taught in Primary sharing time to all of the children at least once a year. 

Yay for The Friend!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

That One Time We Bought a Dental Practice

{Kate in daddy's soon-to-be office}

Jay is closing on his dental practice tomorrow. We are two days away from being Business Owners. Though, technically, on paper, I'm not a part of this thing at all. It's weird how this huge endeavor, according to the government and anyone else that matters, is all solely in Jay's name even though it's affecting both of our lives astronomically.

Sometimes I think we're getting into the wrong racket. I mean, if you're going to buy a business, why not go for something that makes people happy, like a Krispy Kreme franchise? But then I think about how all I would do is eat donuts. There's a time in my life I would have wanted nothing more, but now that I'm getting older, my body likes to treat me like I'm a five year old by punishing me anytime I do something fun but slightly irresponsible. I get a headache when I eat too much sugar now. I can't even blame it on something else (my kids) because it's a specific kind of headache that coils like a spring right behind my forehead. And I seriously hear my body talk to me in a patronizing tone (she likes to blather on about choices and consequences) while my five year old self sits sullen with folded arms and says, "well, it was worth it!" even when it wasn't.

So I guess, all that considered, it's a good thing we're buying a dental practice. (When you think about it, a dental practice is kind of the anti-Krispy Kreme.) 

Jay has made so many spreadsheets for the business that I can't even keep track of them anymore. It's all he can talk about. He's excited and anxious and passionate about the potential of this fledgling practice. For all the time and attention it requires, I'm pretty sure it counts as our third child. Or triplets. 

The whole experience has been rather overwhelming and all-consuming. I'm not nearly as much help as I would like to be because it turns out that it's difficult to get anything done when I only have sporadic time chunks when my two year old isn't trying to lie on top of her baby sister. I used to be super strict about Kate's TV consumption (meaning she only watched three specific movies and only at times when there was no other option), but that has gone out the window this last week. And I mostly don't feel guilty about it because I'm sure I've heard a saying that goes, to every thing there is a season: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to be a great parent, and a time to be a really sucky one.

Mostly I am just tired. I have told Jay that I want to be sedated for the next year because it's going to be a doozy, but he seems to think the girls need a caregiver who is not a medicated zombie. 

I'm going a little bit crazy, but we're excited and hopeful and grateful for this new chapter in our lives.

Saturday, January 24, 2015