The first thing that greets you when you step off the elevator at the Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn is a metal detector. “I didn’t necessarily expect it,” a first-time patient told me. “But as soon as I saw it I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right, that makes sense.‘”
Many Planned Parenthood clinics across the country rely on security measures like these. The services provided by these clinics—specifically, abortions—have long been at the center of a raging political debate in the U.S. But it’s not very often that we hear from the people who rely on these clinics for health care.
Over a number of days this past winter and spring, we collected interviews at the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Brooklyn. Patients volunteered to talk with us while they were waiting for their appointments. They were there for STD checks, pap smears, birth control prescriptions—no one seeking an abortion talked with me on the days we were there. But for many of the people I met, abortion was an important part of their history with Planned Parenthood.
“Here it was just very reassuring,” a patient named Sarah, who was at the clinic for her annual exam, told me about her abortion three years ago at Planned Parenthood. “No one wants to do it, but life, you know, happens.”
We also talked with some of the abortion protesters who stand outside the clinic every Saturday, rain or shine. And I interviewed several staff members and volunteers at Planned Parenthood—like Rhea, who greets patients as they walk in the door downstairs. “If you’re wondering if this is the right choice and you’re there and you’ve made the appointment and you’ve been thinking and you’re like, crossing the line…somebody being a jerk to you could totally just melt you down,” she told me. “Or, somebody with a smile and somebody who holds your hand, could just make you feel calm and make you feel good. At a time where maybe you don’t feel good.”