On the afternoon of the election, I sat counting ceiling tiles at my local Planned Parenthood clinic.
“Have you ever been to a Planned Parenthood clinic before?” the receptionist asked me when I approached the front desk.
“Please fill out these forms. All your information will be kept confidential.”
I found a seat in the back corner of the waiting area and slowly raised my eyes to look around the crowded room. To my right, there was a young girl — maybe 15 or 16 years old — with her arms crossed rigidly over her chest. She was wearing fishnet stockings, a transparent black tank top, and dark eyeliner painted thickly along the lids under her eyes. I wondered why she was here. She looked too young for an annual pap smear.
I looked back down at the forms on my clipboard:
Name: Chelsea Roff
To my right, I heard the door open again and in walked another woman — probably 35 — wearing lululemon pants and a long, flowy shirt that easily could have served as a dress. Her hair was dark and curly, her skin a sun-kissed bronze. She approached the reception desk timidly, her eyes darting rapidly around the room.
“I’m not an American citizen,” she said to the receptionist. Her accent sounded British… maybe South African. “Will they still see me?”
“Yes, of course, honey. Do you have an appointment?
“Fill out these forms. We’ll get you in.”
I looked back down at the clipboard in my lap, subconsciously breathing a sigh of relief for the woman at the desk. What was she here for? Emergency contraception? Abortion? STD test? Was she pregnant? I wondered if she had a national health care system in her country of origin, and thought about how frightening it would be to have a medical emergency happen and be so far from home.
Finishing my paperwork, I re-approached the reception desk, getting in line behind a mother-daughter couple and a young man. To my left I saw a small framed sign on the wall adjacent to me:
THE TRUTH ABOUT TEEN PRIVACY
We encourage teens to discuss their health care concerns with their parents or other adults, but you can give us your own permission for the following:
- Birth Control
- Pregnancy test
- Abortion services
- Sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment
You can also talk to us about the following and be sure they will remain private:
- Alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, or drugs
- Personal, school, or family issues
- Sex and sexuality issues
I thought about my younger sister, about the handful of times I’d walked her into a clinic like this. I’d forgotten what that was like… being underage and in the foster care system, Planned Parenthood the only place you knew to go.