I recently visited my local Planned Parenthood and was surprised to find only men sitting in the waiting room.
While one was clearly a security guard, the others were not.
There are many reasons why men might be in the Planned Parenthood waiting room, of course: they may be there with a partner, friend, or family member, they may be transgender, or they may be one of the increasing number of cisgender men who are utilizing the health organization’s affordable services.
From 2002 to 2012, Planned Parenthood experienced an 83% increase in men using their services, and by 2015 men comprised 11% of Planned Parenthood’s patients.
Planned Parenthood provides a number of services for everyone, including STI testing, cancer screening, UTI treatments, family practice services, and more. The organization had 2.4 million patients in 2018, most of whom received STI testing or treatment, and/or birth control information and services like reversible or emergency contraception, preventing an estimated 402,000 unintended pregnancies.
And while most people feel (correctly or otherwise) fairly well-informed about the services available to patients who possess a uterus, I found that even I was thoroughly uninformed about their resources for the penis-wielders among us.
In case you were wondering, Planned Parenthood provides services in erectile dysfunction, jock itch, male infertility, premature ejaculation, testicular and prostate cancer screening, sterilization (vasectomy), and more.
Pretty cool, right?
Men choose to use Planned Parenthood for many of the same reasons women do: lack of health insurance, not wanting services to show up on parents’ insurance, or to support their significant other, friend, or family member in need of health services, including abortion.
Yes, some men go to Planned Parenthood because someone they love is terminating a pregnancy they may or may not have played a part in. They also go for other kinds of family planning services: referrals to adoption agencies, for example, or to learn how to support someone through pregnancy.
But I think all of this misses an important point: even if Planned Parenthood turned away male patients (which it doesn’t), the organization would still be for everyone.
Besides the organization’s educational outreach and condom distribution, which contribute to overall health through knowledge and disease prevention, the bottom line is that women’s health is everyone’s health. Melinda Gates understands this:
If any other significant health issue affected half the world’s population, it’d be an epidemic of apocalypse movie proportions. Instead, we act as if it’s okay that the health of the vagina-possessing half of the population is dispensable. We act like it has no bearing on the larger picture, and we couldn’t be more wrong.
Fortunately for us, Planned Parenthood pushes forward in its mission to provide reproductive healthcare for everyone. The organization has been making intentional efforts to reach more trans and gender non-conforming/non-binary people, too, which is awesome.
Not only is it for everyone because it’s for women, Planned Parenthood is for everyone because it has health services for everyone else, too.
As states restrict and even ban abortion and other pregnancy-related health decisions, and our elected leaders cut funding to Planned Parenthood, we need to remember that when women’s health suffers, everyone’s health suffers. When we restrict access to healthcare, it’s never just for a specific group of people, no matter how much it may appear to be.
And besides, everyone deserves access to comprehensive health care.