Here's how it went: when I decided to become sexually active, I took a sexual health class from my top-tier college. I then worked at the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, where I had access to up-to-date literature about just about every aspect of sexual health. I also read The Guide to Getting It On, which I strongly recommend to anyone who is thinking about having sex, who is currently having sex (why are you having sex and reading my blog??), or who has ever had sex. It's just really good. I also had internet access, and depended heavily on the information provided on sites like Go Ask Alice! to guide my choices about birth control. I learned the ways that different forms of birth control prevented pregnancies and STIs, and I made the choice that was right for me. Until this last month, I have never--not once-- had sex without some form of birth control. When we did have a birth control failure, I was able to access Plan B through my college health center. I also had a really kind partner who supported me and trusted me to make important decisions about my body.
Later, I got a job, and used my employer-provided health insurance to pay for a doctor's visit. At that doctor's visit, I got a prescription for the birth control pill, which my insurance partially paid for. Again, I used literature available to me in books and online to help me decide that I wanted to be on the pill, and which kind of pill I wanted to be on. When I needed Plan B one more time, I was able to go online, print out a coupon, and find a pharmacy that provided the emergency contraception (this time without a prescription!). Luckily, I had a job, so while the pill wasn't cheap, I could certainly afford it. I was also grateful that I was able to access information about the morning after pill. I knew I probably wouldn't get an abortion, so I was happy to learn about the differences between abortion and emergency contraception.
And now my husband and I want a baby. When we made this decision, we did a lot of reading. We knew what would happen when I stopped taking the pill. I downloaded an app so that I could track my fertility. When I get pregnant, I will use my insurance to see my doctor. I have disability insurance and maternity leave. I have a partner who will (after med school, damn it!) also bring in a salary. Throughout my pregnancy, I will use social networking to quiz my experienced friends and then make informed decisions surrounding my ob/gyn, the hospital where I deliver, and my birth plan. I will read all the books. No one is ever ready for parenthood, but I will be as ready as anyone can be.
What is my point? Well, this was my long-winded way of pointing out that education and access to healthcare matter. Because I have always known where to get information and have had insurance and money to take care of myself, I have been able to pretty much plan out my life. I've never had an STI, and I've never had an unplanned pregnancy. I've also always had partners who respect my autonomy when it comes to my body. But what about women who aren't so lucky? What about kids who have crummy sex education? What about women who have to take time off work to drive for hours to reach packed health centers where they barely have time to get a birth control prescription, much less advice from a doctor? What about people who have partners who refuse to wear condoms? What about people who don't have computers at home or nifty phone apps to identify the fertile window? It could be easy for me to say, "Listen, I never got an infection; I never needed an abortion. Everyone should be like me." The problem with this kind of thinking is obvious-- not everyone is as lucky as I have been. However, as I see it, it's an easy fix. If we can use organizations like Planned Parenthood to provide care and education to communities, and if everyone in our government finally understands that healthcare is a basic human right, we can do a lot to put ourselves on the right path. Having a plan is easy if you know how to make a plan.