Follow @neilsteinbergAdults waved off Courtney Everette’s painful menstrual cramps. Just part of the joy of being a woman, the teenager was told. Deal with it. So she did, for years. Until one day when she was 17, staying with her grandmother.
“She recognized things seemed a little more intense,” said Everette, now 35. “I was really rundown. The level of pain was getting worse.”
Her grandmother took her to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed endometriosis, a condition where the tissue usually forming each month inside a fertile woman’s uterus instead grows outside it, in the abdominal cavity, leading to scar tissue, cysts, pain.
Added to those woes, for Everette, was fear of infertility.
“Even at 17, I knew I wanted to be a mother,” she said.
Endometriosis can be treated, however.
“I was lucky,” Everette said. “My doctor told me my best option was to use hormonal birth control, and that would reduce pain and preserve my fertility.”
Time went by. She attended graduate school at DePaul.
“Back then, you got kicked off your parents’ insurance at 21, 22. So I got booted and found myself unable to afford the hormonal birth control I needed to manage my endometriosis,” said Everette. “I called a good friend, crying, and told her ‘I’m in pain and really worried this is going to hurt my chances to be a mother.'”
The friend replied: You’re in a big city. Chicago has to have a Planned Parenthood.
It does. So Everette went.
“They got me treatment, the same type of birth control I needed at a cost I could afford,” she said. “So I wasn’t put in a position to make a decision between birth control or groceries. I was able to focus my energy on school and career goals.”
Follow @neilsteinbergThat last sentence, in my opinion, is the unspoken reason Planned Parenthood is the whipping girl of the Republican Party. Easy to sneer at mullahs forbidding women to drive in Saudi Arabia; harder to recognize how America narrows women’s life choices by undermining their health care. The outraged reaction to the GOP’s effort to gut Obamacare — which was to have been voted on in the House Thursday, but was delayed — has focused on the 24 million Americans who would lose health insurance. But the new bill would also cut all funds to Planned Parenthood, a drastic measure most Americans oppose that has been obscured by the larger health care scuttling.
“While this bill is catastrophic for so many people, including a provision about Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood directly impacts millions more,” said Julie Lynn, manager of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “They’re playing politics with women’s health care.”
The nation’s single largest provider of reproductive health care services, Planned Parenthood has 650 clinics in the U.S. In 105 counties across the country — six in Illinois — there is no federally certified clinic for women other than Planned Parenthood, offering cancer screenings, medical tests, treatment for STDs and AIDs, plus safe and legal abortions. Sixty-thousand patients in Illinois are treated annually by Planned Parenthood; 2.5 million nationwide.
“If Planned Parenthood were to go away in those counties, those patients wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” said Lynn.
I asked Everette: Why are you sharing your gynecological history in the newspaper?
“I had two beautiful babies, and I really credit Planned Parenthood,” she replied.
Her son, Dru, is 7, an avid reader who loves karate, swimming and plays the cello. Kinlee is 4, loves to sing, anything purple and sparkly, and enjoys ballet, telling jokes, and the violin.
The Republicans slur Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill. But Everette credits the organization with allowing her to become the mother of children.
“The voices of real people are getting lost in all the politics,” said Everette. “It saddens me that stories like mine, completely ordinary people whose lives are impacted by Planned Parenthood, aren’t heard.
“This is not an organization that people should be ashamed of having used its services. This is an organization that has supported women for over 100 years and will continue to support women no matter what. It’s so scary to think what a girl like I was will be facing a year or two from now if she doesn’t get the support and treatment she needs.”