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Experience Sarasota: Planned Parenthood

Experience Sarasota: Planned Parenthood

Sure, most of us know that Planned Parenthood is the place for condoms and birth control, but if you've limited your PP point of view to just that then you're missing out on the bigger picture.

 

Sure, most of us know that Planned Parenthood is the place for condoms and birth control, but if you've limited your PP point of view to just that then you're missing out on the bigger picture.  

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, which is an affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, opened its doors to men, women and teens in 1966, providing vital sexual health services and comprehensive sexuality education for all. "The path that our opposition has presented out there is that we're all about abortion, which is not only untrue but also harmful.  More than 90% of what we do is preventive sexual healthcare, including cancer screenings, birth control, breast health exams, and STD testing and treatment," says Sharon.  They also offer a scalpel-free vasectomy.  That's right. If you are interested in all of the intimate details of this procedure, the man with the blade free plan is Dr. Doug Stein.  So, gents, if you are interested in a less painful procedure, contact PP and ask for Doctor Doug.

On top of those services, Planned Parenthood provides "comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sexuality education, and advocating for policies that enable Americans to access comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, education, and information."  Kellie continues to explain to me what advocating for policies entails, "We try to address a wide variety of issues by informing advocates how they can affect issues, like Amendment 6 on this year's ballot, which speaks directly about abortion.  We let them know about forums, we send educational emails and inform them through social media."

That theme of educating their advocates carries through into healthcare.  "We don't tell them what to take or how to behave, but we do give them all of the medically accurate information so they can make the most responsible choice in their own lives," says Sharon.  And it should be stated that all sexual health services are individualized and confidential and welcoming to all, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age or any other possible discriminatory factor.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that one in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life.  However, that may also be because of PP's extremely competitive prices.  "A Well Woman visit is an $89 flat rate fee, which is well below a lot of insurance co-pays.  Which, yes, that is extremely helpful to people who are under or uninsured, but many wealthy or insured women still prefer the more affordable option, as well," explains Sharon. 

Speaking of insurance, some changes are on the way for Planned Parenthood.  "In early 2013, we started taking some forms of insurance. We've changed our business model in preparation for Healthcare Reform," says Sharon.  "Yes, the Affordable Health Care Act is doing great things to expand healthcare for men and women and goes along with our belief that everybody deserves access to quality healthcare," agrees Kellie.  Also of note is the fact that PP was one of the leaders in providing contraception with no co-pay.  "If you think about that," says Sharon, "having a cash business in which you undermine your own bottom line because you believe so strongly that women should have say over their own lives...well, we are very proud of that fact." 

Something else PP should be proud of is their amazing events.  Every year they throw their Safe Sex Halloween Bash, last year's theme was 'Deadtime Stories’; Twisted Fairy Tales', which was not only a super fun costume party but it also serves as a lighthearted way for PP to reach out to younger generations.  "We left Planned Parenthood messages throughout the event," Sharon tells me, adding, "We sent home lots of info in shag bags and also had awesome features like the 'Mirror Mirror On The Wall' spouting Planned Parenthood information."  More than 500 partygoers enjoyed the party at Michael’s On East as it was transformed into a land of sick and twisted fairytales. Costumed guests danced, drank and dined the night away. The décor ranged from creepy to hilarious and more than 50 volunteers and staff worked tirelessly to create an evening of fun while reminding guests about safe sex and the many reproductive health services provided by Planned Parenthood. Michaels on East will transform into “Studio 13: The Undead Disco” this year as party goers groove the night away amidst a sea of glitter, glamour & gore.

If you'd like to get involved please check out the volunteer link on the website or stop by PP headquarters.  "We can find out what you're interested in – from volunteering at tables in the community to joining us in legislative sessions," says Kelly.  There's a lot of incredible things happening over at PP, including their new conversion to electronic health records and their Breast Health Grant, a fund that helps cover cost of care for low-income women.  But, they still need your donations to make all these awesome things possible.  "Donations keep our patient fees low, so really any amount is appreciated and needed," explains Sharon. 

When I ask what is the one thing that these women want to tell the community about the Planned Parenthood message, both women agree, "Be educated, get involved and don't be afraid to use your voice."  And what a great message that is. 

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