Lai is a student, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, and a patient advocate. Here's her story about how access to birth control changed her life for the better.
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida as a first-generation Chinese-American and growing up in a low-income household, I had to rely on myself for my homework and education early on because my parents didn’t speak or understand English. I didn’t have the luxuries that other kids in my school had such as new shoes or clothes and for that I was bullied among also being a person of a different ethnic background. It was already difficult to depend on my parents, who depended on me as a bridge to the American world. I had to read and explain everything to them, from school field trip forms for them to sign to telephone bills and early on I developed my own sense of what it was like to be independent. I barely saw a doctor, much less a women’s health specialist, because of the lack of insurance.
It wasn’t until I was 18 and I obtained Medicaid under my parents that I took this opportunity to see an OB/GYN at FIU because I was experiencing strange symptoms in my vagina and I also needed birth control. Asian households tend to be slightly conservative, so sex and sex-related topics are pretty taboo; I still haven’t had “the talk” with my mom. I didn’t even tell my mom that I needed to have this visit. During my visit, I felt as though my questions were being dodged left and right. The instruments she used were cold and my body felt stiff as I was being silently judged by my doctor while she swabbed the insides of me. She broke the news that I had a yeast infection. I had never gotten one. When I asked what it was, my doctor blamed it on sexual activity, when I wasn’t sexually active at the time. She recommended me the birth control. I took the prescription paper and left, still clueless. I was scared to take the pill because all this new information was so overwhelming. I had too many questions and I wasn’t going to risk my own safety, so I just threw the pill pack out when I got home.
At the time that this happened, I was a volunteer with Planned Parenthood. It didn’t occur to me until 2 years later that I told my story to another person, that she advised me to Planned Parenthood. I’ve been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood for almost two years now. I know of the many benefits Planned Parenthood provided and I never even thought to access them on my own until I coincidentally told a Planned Parenthood staff that worked closely with my Generation Action chapter on campus, of my incident with the school practitioner and she pushed me to become a patient of Planned Parenthood in order to get my first well-woman exam several months ago. I was really nervous about seeking care after my visit with the gynecologist on campus. I also had irregular periods too that were becoming too difficult to track with my busy life as a student and student leader on campus. But their care fit my needs and their advice cleared up so many misconceptions for me.
For a Republican-dominated Congress and Senate that constantly voices for small government, it is hypocritical for them to try and control a woman’s health care decision. A woman is shamed if she seeks preventive care such as birth control. However, if she doesn’t have access to birth control and gets an abortion, she also gets shamed. Even when a woman decides to have children, there are not enough programs in place to support parents and their child(ren). These political attempts are harming, hurting, and even killing women. Millions of women depend on birth control for personal and medical reasons and ultimately, birth control is healthcare.
As a woman, college student, and a person who grew up in a low-income household, affordable and accessible healthcare that works for me, my needs, and my time, is important. Birth control has been a critical part of my healthcare. With the birth control that I am on, I have been able to track and anticipate my period in a more timely fashion and I am able to focus on school and my career goals without the worry of having children until later on in my life. At the end of the day, birth control helped me be able to take control of my life decisions.
Wanna join the #Fight4BirthControl?