What It's Like Working For Planned Parenthood
The first time I ever visited a Planned Parenthood was at age seventeen when a friend asked if I would drive them there. Probably because I was a year older and no one else had a driver’s license yet, but also because they needed help and knew exactly where they could get it.
No, it wasn’t for an abortion.
No, it wouldn't have mattered if it was.
I recall a very pleasant experience, the waiting room was colorful, the faces friendly. There were some seemingly anxious young people in the chairs beside us, some relaxed. There for routine check-ups, tests, who knows. I read through some pamphlets, skimmed informational posters that were pinned up on the walls. Mostly I felt comfort knowing that nestled in our little community was a place where we were not judged for making decisions with and for our bodies.
I felt glad to know I had friends who cared to be screened for sexually transmitted infections. I felt glad to know I had conscious friends who out of love and concern, encouraged each other to act responsibly. I was glad to offer support, and honored to be entrusted with the task of doing so.
This Planned Parenthood was on a street that I drove up and down fairly often. Once in a while I’d see mobs standing on the sidewalk out front, agitated and wielding signs. Every time I saw this I’d be reminded of the scene from Juno when Elliott Page’s
character is told by a classmate that their baby already has fingernails. Then, naturally, I think about what a weirdo Jason Bateman’s character is in that movie and I quickly find something else to think about.
Most recently, while walking my dog down a fairly busy street in Los Angeles, I passed by a group of protesters outside of a Planned Parenthood location that had just opened. I sort of rolled my eyes, thinking how uncomfortable it must be to show up for your appointment and first be greeted with judgment and (sometimes) animosity. These protesters, most of them women in this instance, have surely required many of the services PP offers at some time or another. I thought of my own visits to the doctor, the gynecologist, the emergency room: ambiguous pains, ruptured ovarian cysts, yeast infections, UTI’s… all very normal experiences. Regardless of why a person is visiting PP, it is incredibly antagonistic to stand in a group, unwavering, ignorant, and project hostility onto someone seeking medical assistance. It is so often done under the guise of morality, so often with a holier than thou attitude. This is misleading, it is uncomfortable, and it is deceitful.
I wanted to take all this pent-up energy and make something of it. Luckily for me, I was able to chat with a Planned Parenthood employee (and also wonderful human) about what it's like working somewhere so “controversial,” and what she witnesses on a day to day basis. For her thoughtful responses to my questions, keep reading!
(some quotes have been edited for anonymity)
How long have you been working for Planned Parenthood?
I’ve been with PP for 4 years!
How often do you see protesters outside of your work?
When I worked at a different location a few years back it was definitely A LOT worse than it is at the location where I work now. We’d have people protesting almost every day, now they’re typically only here once a week if at all.
What is the most memorable time and why?
In 2016 when I first got hired there was a huge pro life protest out front, like 60+ people and then there was a group of maybe 5-10 girls in pussy hats on the opposite side of them holding their signs and doing their thing, it really warmed my heart. That and we have this recurring man who plays acoustic guitar and sings pro choice songs but that one’s more funny than anything.
Is it often the same groups/ same people protesting or different groups/ people?
It typically is the same group of people or at least one person that we’ll see coming every couple weeks/months at a time but new people definitely get added into the rotation.
What sort of comments do they make to staff?
They mostly just yell stuff about how our paychecks are stained or written in blood and they ask how many baby parts we’ve sold that day.
Do protesters affect the patients coming in for services?
They definitely do affect our patients, we’ve had girls screaming at them while walking into the clinic and they’ve even made some girls cry in the past. For the most part they don’t change their mind or anything like that, but it definitely upsets/angers them.
Has any anger/violence ever been directed toward you or a coworker?
They’ve definitely said hurtful things to my coworkers that have made them cry and consider quitting, I wish I remember exactly what was said. We had this guy where I used to work that we actually had to get a restraining order against because he was chasing patients to their cars and he also pushed one of my managers at one point!
Do you notice a difference in activity during stressful political times? Would you say there were more protesters/ heightened negative energy during the months leading up to the election?
Oh for sure! On Halloween the girls that work on Saturdays said there were 40+ protesters outside because there was a Trump rally down the street and it was the weekend before election day.
Do you ever receive negative reactions when people in your personal life learn that you work at Planned Parenthood?
I definitely have! When my ex and I were still together his dad and his family members would give me a good amount of shit for working there. He used to tell me the conspiracy theories about how PP is put in lower income communities of color to get rid of them and stuff like that.
Are the majority of protestors women or men? Or is it mixed?
It’s definitely predominantly men! There are a few women in there for sure but 9 times out of 10 it’s a bunch of men.
Is there any policy in place that PP has for their employees regarding interacting with protesters?
We’re instructed to not interact with them at all since they want some sort of reaction out of us to pretty much hold it against us in the long run. Man would I love to go off on them one day though.
What would you say is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part is not being able to help EVERYONE that walks through our doors, like sometimes what people are requesting is out of our scope of practice and there’s literally nothing we can do which breaks my heart.
What is the most rewarding?
The best part is definitely the gratitude that people show us when we are able to help them. They genuinely feel like they were heard and you can feel it when they say how grateful they are. PP has a high quality of care for a community clinic and people appreciate it, it feels good to be on the other side of that.