I had not paid that much attention to the gift certificates that some Planned Parenthood organizations in the Midwest made available this holiday season. There was such a furor over them, so many silly accusations (“they can only be used for abortions!”), so much angry anti-abortion chatter. I tuned out the news stories about them. Today, though, when I met with Rachel, it struck me what a practical and responsible thing they might actually be.
In her last year in college, Rachel was working two part time jobs to make ends meet. Applying to graduate school had eaten up a good chunk of her usual monthly budget–traveling for an in-person interview, a $40 application fee to this school, a $50 one to that one. Soon she needed to pay this month’s credit card and next month’s rent. She looked for somewhere to cut back. One of the expenses she cut out were her pills. “They’re almost $60 a month. I just figured that I’d skip a few weeks until I had more money and it would probably be okay. I could start back up with my next paycheck.” She and her boyfriend used either condoms and withdrawal through the first weeks of the month. She started her pills about two and a half weeks later, starting halfway through the pack. “I assumed that because I had been on them for so long, it would just be okay and that I couldn’t possibly get pregnant so soon after stopping them.”
When her period didn’t come, she knew immediately that something was wrong. She and her boyfriend were certain that they did not want to start a family yet. They were each preparing to graduate college and move to separate states.
What if Rachel had a gift certificate or a pharmacy gift-card tucked away in the back of her wallet exactly for an unexpected birth control budget-crunch? A friend of mine’s parents had always stuck condoms in his stocking when he was a teen–a teasing reminder to be prepared and responsible in his sexuality. A gift certificate that could be used to get an extra month of pills when your bank account runs dry is a really responsible gift, the more I think about it.