A young woman of my acquaintance has no health insurance. At high school, she did not receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer. She is at an age and stage where many young women become single mothers. She and I are most anxious that this should not happen to her.
At Planned Parenthood we had a clinician write a prescription for Gardasil. ” Pick it up from the pharmacy just before your appointment” she said “It needs to be kept in the fridge.”
When we called Planned Parenthood to make an appointment, we were told to turn up today as a walk-in, any time from 9am to 5pm.
We went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription. It cost $189.11. “Make sure you get it in the fridge within 10 minutes” said the pharmacist. We hurried to the clinic.
At Planned Parenthood, the anti-abortion activists had taken the day off to prepare their potato salad and decorate their decks for July 4, but we still had to run the gamut of the fierce lady in the lobby. The fierce lady is there to intimidate young women into turning back. Unfortunately, she works for Planned Parenthood. When she wants to see “one less, one less” she means young women seeking bothersome treatment.
” No walk-ins until 1:30pm” she told us. It was 11am.
“But we were told 9am-5pm” I said.
“That’s the phone service” she said “You were told wrong”
“We are here for a HPV shot” I said “can we at least put the medicine in the fridge?”
“We don’t do those no more” she said.
” I got the prescription here” I said. “The doctor told me to bring it”
” I know” said the doorkeeper “But we don’t do them no more”
I prevailed on her to let me speak to someone in the clinic. She put me through.
I explained that the young woman with me needed protection, both from imminent threat of pregnancy and from the potential danger of cervical cancer. I explained I had spent nearly $200 on the vaccine, following instructions from the clinic.
” I hear you” she said “But there is nothing I can do. We have an admin problem and can’t track the paperwork”
She agreed to put me through to someone else, but instead cut me off.
“She’ll call back” said the dragon on the door “take a seat” She did not call back.
We waited until both the Gardasil and I threatened to reach boiling point. “We have to get this in the fridge” I pleaded.
“They’re still here” said the dragon lady redialing the mystery voice “the people with the Gardasil”
We were finally nodded through to the Planned Parenthood inner sanctum. A depressed and fed up receptionist took the prescription without a word and said “sign in” without making eye contact with me or the young woman.
“I need to get back to work” I said ” We’re here for Depo and HPV. Can I pay the bill upfront?”
“You have to pay at the end” said the receptionist,focused on her desktop, and added “How old is she?” , in case I was going to try to scoot off and leave her saddled with a minor.
“She’s 18” said the young woman in question.
I went back to work and the young woman waited. She was given her shots at about 12:40pm and presumably kept the clinician away from her lunch for 10 minutes. I thank the needle wielder from the bottom of my heart. I would have made a big deal out of thanking the receptionist too, but she was on the phone (personal call) when I handed over my $241.We completed the whole transaction without any eye contact or exchange
“Have a nice day” said my young woman as we left the empty clinic. The receptionist did not reply.
“Do you think you would have been seen if I wasn’t with you?” I asked. “No” said the young woman “and I wouldn’t have been able to get here and I wouldn’t have been able to pay”
Washington DC is coming down with teen moms and their babies. It is easy to understand why. Planned Parenthood is actually part of the solution, not part of the problem, but it doesn’t always seem that way.