She couldn’t afford $30 a month for the pill but she had no problrm couging up over $500 for an abortion (calling the decision the “best I have ever made”).
Renee Bracey Sherman is a reproductive justice activist, abortion storyteller, and board member at NARAL Pro-Choice America. Ahead, she shares an open letter she’s written to Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dear Rep. Tom Price,
Congratulations on your recent selection by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his secretary of health and human services. It’s a huge responsibility to oversee a department with a budget of over $1 trillion. As a former orthopedic surgeon, I know you’ve spent much of your life practicing medicine; however, I’m worried about your record of putting your ideology before the needs of your patients. As a Black woman, I am distraught that your opposition to the Affordable Care Act will leave many of my sisters without basic health care.
But what’s deeply troubling to me are your comments on abortion and birth control, and your misunderstanding of why access is so crucial. With a president-elect who has vowed to “punish” those who have abortions, and a vice president-elect who, as governor of Indiana, stood by as two women of color were prosecuted for miscarriages, I would hope that you, as a medical provider, would ensure that the government does no harm and guarantees access to health care for all of its people. Yet, you have consistently voted to deny access to abortion care, even when against medical advice. And in 2012, you doubted the very existence of people who have a difficult time affording birth control. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” you told a ThinkProgress reporter at the time. “Bring me one. There’s not one.”
Well, Rep. Price, I am one of those women.
When I was 19 years old, I struggled to afford birth control and became pregnant because of it. At the time, I was working a retail job earning just above minimum wage while I attended college. Though I was still living at home, my parents taught me about personal responsibility, and I paid for most things on my own — gas in my car, meals, and my birth control co-pays. This was before the Affordable Care Act made birth control available without a co-pay. That meant I had to spend $120 every three months for generic levonorgestrel, better known as the brand name, Seasonale. At one point, I didn’t have the money to pick up another pack — the cost would have been most of my paycheck. So, I thought I’d wait until the next pay period and use the little money I had to get to work.
At the time, I didn’t realize that I could get pregnant if I missed a week or two of pills. In my high school sex-ed classes, the teacher preached about his kids and their purity vows and showed us slides of STDs, rather than giving us helpful information about sex and family planning. Like most teens, I turned to my friends to fill in the gaps, asking them the questions that I didn’t feel comfortable asking my parents, or looking for answers I didn’t get in class. One of the myths my friends told me was that if I’d been on birth control for a long time, it would build up in my system and I couldn’t get pregnant (definitely false, as I later learned). And, like many teens, I didn’t know how to negotiate consent or condom use in my relationship, which later turned abusive. Eventually, I became pregnant.
I knew I wasn’t ready to become a parent. So I made an appointment at the abortion clinic, and maxed out my first credit card, which had a $500 limit that was supposed to only be used in emergencies. This was an emergency. I was relieved, and to this day, the decision to have an abortion is still one of the best I have ever made.