Thirty-eight years ago Planned Parenthood began operations in Athens as Planned Parenthood of Southeast Ohio (PPSEO), serving the nine-county southeast Ohio region (including Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Ross, Vinton and Washington counties). Since then, many thousands of women (and some men, too!) have received reproductive health care through PPSEO clinics.
Currently, the clinic in Athens offers gynecological exams, birth control, pregnancy testing, pregnancy options education, sexually transmitted infection testing and prevention, HIV testing, male reproductive health services, and education and outreach services. In 2008, 1,136 patients were served at the clinic - 816 received birth control, 703 received annual exams, 359 tests were administered for sexually transmitted infections, and 520 students at five schools received education presentations.
PPSEO receives federal and state Title X grant funding that allows us to provide services on a sliding-fee scale, based on ability to pay. But grant funding does not begin to cover the need for reproductive health care affordable to all in the Appalachian Ohio region. Consequently, we rely heavily on donations from individuals and businesses to maintain our presence in southeast Ohio and continue to provide services to all, regardless of ability to pay.
Currently, PPSEO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, but all donations made to Planned Parenthood in Southeast Ohio stay here in our community and help to keep our clinic open and our services available to everyone.
Reproductive freedom and unrestricted access to reproductive health care are basic human rights everywhere - an integral part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But they are particularly important in southeast Ohio, where average household incomes are well below the national average, poverty is far too prevalent, and many citizens are without health insurance.
Many of our clients never get to see a health-care professional except when they come to our clinic. And preventing unplanned teenage pregnancies, keeping young women in school so they can get good jobs, and become good mothers when they choose to have children, are critically important in breaking the cycle of poverty in our region.
In the current climate of economic distress, combining an increased need for affordable reproductive health-care services with a decreased ability to pay for them, PPSEO is more vital to our community then ever.
We do not offer abortion services at the clinic in Athens. However, we do refer for abortion services - but also for adoption services and prenatal care, since women must have the opportunity to choose their own path.
Nationwide, abortion accounts for only 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. You see, Planned Parenthood isn't really about abortion. It's about empowering women to control their own futures.