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I first came to Planned Parenthood when I was at college in Boston to get a BA in theater education. I was working part-time at a local movie theater, often leaving shifts after midnight, only to wake up the next morning at 7am for my student teaching internship. I took the bus everywhere (when I had money for fare) and I had too many roommates for our tiny apartment. I had a typical Boston student life. I didn’t know what the future held but I knew I wanted take control of my reproductive health, and I knew I wasn’t ready for a baby.

I made an appointment at the Planned Parenthood health center in Allston and walked across town. I was nervous because although I knew Planned Parenthood would help me get the birth control I wanted, I had heard I might run into some anti-choice protesters. As I got closer, I heard them get louder and more aggressive. Some offered me pamphlets and sympathetic prayers, and some yelled and waved their signs. I walked in the front door, through a metal detector, and was greeted by a guard who asked me to sign in.

But when I entered the lobby, the feeling couldn’t have been more different. There was soft lighting, a playlist that could have been my own iTunes account, and soft couches with people from all walks of life. There were people by themselves, couples, friends, and people with strollers. There were teens, college students, and well-dressed professionals. It was like the whole city was represented in this waiting area. I felt right away that I belonged and would be cared for.

I checked in at the front desk and heard my name called quickly. They led me to a room where I told a nurse I was there to get birth control. She told me about my options, some of which I had never heard of. We also talked about my relationships and mental health, which I’d never done with a healthcare worker. I felt like the nurse was making sure I was healthy and whole, while never judging anything I told her. She helped me decide to start using the NuvaRing and answered all my questions. Although I didn't have health insurance, I picked up my prescription and they helped me access it on a sliding-scale payment based on my income.

I left feeling reassured and proud for finally taking the steps to get the health care I knew I needed. Since then, I’ve graduated and moved back to Maine. Now that I have a good job with health insurance, I still go to Planned Parenthood because of the unmatched quality and non-judgemental care that I know I can only get there.

Not many people come back to their doctor’s office after their appointment to volunteer, but when I moved back to Maine, I knew I needed to find a way to give back to the organization that had given me so much. I didn’t have money, but I had a lot of extra time. I attended a “Pink Salon” event where I signed up to phonebank every Wednesday. I’ve called voters across the state to ask them to contact their legislators, canvassed door-to-door for Medicaid expansion, and signed up new volunteers at events like First Friday Art Walk and the Women’s March. I’ve been honored to travel to DC three times as a Planned Parenthood Patient Advocate and have spoken directly with Maine’s Senators King and Collins about the importance of Planned Parenthood.

Unfortunately, as a Planned Parenthood patient, I don’t know the future of my health care because of continuous attacks and attempts to undermine Planned Parenthood and the services they provide. That is why continue to fight with everything I have to protect the lifesaving healthcare that me and millions of Americans depend on every day.

Every time I come to a phone-bank or sign up for a canvassing shift, I remember that first moment walking into the health center in Boston. I remember the relief and hope I felt when I realized I’d found a healthcare provider that would help no matter what. And I am determined to ensure everyone has that opportunity.

Tags: PatientAdvocates, Volunteering, birth control