Contrary to the beliefs of the Wisconsin GOP, Wisconsinites can do everything “right” and still get crushed by life circumstances. Life is unpredictable, and even the best-laid plans can be decimated by unexpected events like divorce, job loss, or illness. Even if we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, those bootstraps sometimes break, through no fault of our own, and we may be forced to rely on government-funded safety nets. Years ago, I relied on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings and follow-up, and it most likely saved my life.
I rarely discuss my health problems publicly, because they sure as hell don’t define me as a person, and because I don’t want James Wigderson or Mark Belling to go easy on me because of it. But I can’t sit idly by while Scott Walker makes cuts to the Wisconsin Well Woman Program and places women in my state in peril, simply because he doesn’t seem to understand or believe that Planned Parenthood saves women’s lives. I won’t remain silent as Wisconsin women suffer so Walker can please his base and rake in campaign donations.
So, here’s my story.
As a seemingly healthy young woman in my early twenties, I didn’t expect Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to find abnormalities during a routine cervical cancer screening. Since I thought I was invincible at the time, I tried to put off follow-up care after a test came back abnormal. Planned Parenthood staff was persistent, and I ended up having pre-cancerous cervical cells removed. Since then, almost certainly due to the care I had received from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, my tests have been normal.
When I reached my thirties, I thought I was one of the healthiest people around. My risk factors for disease were very low due to smart life-style choices and contingency plans. So when I woke up one day in May of 2009 and couldn’t see, I panicked. Luckily, I had private health insurance and I was able to access a health screening.
Over the course of the next week, I lost my vision, my ability to walk normally, feeling in most of my body, and much more. I couldn’t even feed or dress myself without assistance. I thought I was going to die, and I was scared out of my mind. I spent a week in the hospital, and it was the longest, most brutal week of my life for myself and for my family and friends, despite the delicious milkshakes hospital staff kept bringing me.
Not knowing what was wrong with me was the hardest part, so when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the end of that week, I cried tears of relief, even as I knew I was now the proud owner of an utterly vicious neurological disease.
Due to early detection, I was able to begin treatment right away, which has been proven to help stave off further damage in many MS patients. I was very lucky.
I was lucky that Planned Parenthood was there for me when I needed the cervical cancer screening and follow-up in my twenties, and I was lucky to have private insurance when I needed screening for MS in my thirties.
But why should some Wisconsin women have a safety net, while others suffer needlessly? Life happens. Sometimes people need help. Those who think otherwise live in a fantasy land.
And a Wisconsin woman’s worth cannot, should not, and will not be based on how much tax revenue she can generate per year, or her ability to make campaign contributions to legislators.
That Scott Walker is making it more difficult for low-income women in Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, and Outagamie Counties to access life-saving screenings because he thinks Planned Parenthood is “controversial,” is illogical and morally reprehensible. It clearly illustrates a lack of basic human empathy for the women of our state, those he has been elected to serve.
All Wisconsin women deserve a safety net as they walk the tightrope of life, and this is just one more reason it’s imperative that we recall Scott Walker.