Q&A with a Planned Parenthood Sex Educator

by Sasha Fine, Opinions Contributor

Past protesters and through the metal detector, I arrive at Planned Parenthood, where I train to teach sex-ed. Thursdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m., when the Get Real Teen Council (GRTC) meets, have quickly become my favorite part of the week. 

Over pizza, the 13 of us lounge in a conference room, learning unbiased, medically accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. The first half of the GRTC year is dedicated to this training, and after January, we lead in-school sex-ed workshops around the state. 

In just my first year on the GRTC, the work has already been so rewarding; I’ve been able to remedy my knowledge gaps and break down stigma and misconceptions around sex and sexuality — after all, sex is not a bad word! 

In fact, talking about sex will help us move toward a more inclusive future. So, in pursuit of bettering our futures, as your resident sex-educator, I’ll answer some questions from readers about reproductive healthcare. 

Q: What are CPCs?

A: Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are illegitimate abortion clinics that aim to keep pregnant people from having abortions. The centers promote abstinence and evangelism. CPCs can be federally funded, state funded or affiliated with religious organizations. 

In Massachusetts, pro-life speciality license plates fund CPCs. CPCs falsely advertise providing abortions to deceive pregnant people, and they’re far more widespread than legitimate clinics. In MA, there are 25 CPCs and 4 Planned Parenthood clinics. 

Q: Can you tell me about the abortion pill? 

A: Yeah I can! If somebody is seeking an abortion, a medical (or pill) abortion is one option. A medical abortion means taking a regimen of Mifepristone and Misoprostol (or Misoprostol on its own) to end a pregnancy. 

You can get the pills from your medical provider, an abortion clinic or telemedicine (Aid Access and Women on Web are two good providers). In terms of efficacy, using both pills is ideal, but Mifepristone is generally more legally restricted than Misoprostol because Misoprostol is not strictly an abortion pill.

According to Scarleteen, a great sex-ed resource, the combined pill regimen is between 95% to 99% effective, whereas just Misoprostol is about 75% to 85% effective. After taking the pills, a person should be aware of indicators to know if and when they should seek help.

Scarlateen has an excellent step-by-step guide to taking the medications and their warning signs. If the person looking to terminate the pregnancy has a need for secrecy (especially in states where abortion is restricted or even illegal), they should spit out any remains of the Misoprostol tablets to ensure no trace of the pills can be found in their system.

The difference between Plan B and a medical abortion is that Plan B prevents pregnancy while medical abortions terminate pregnancy. According to FDA statistics, by 2021, over half of abortions in the US were medical abortions. 

Q: What services does Planned Parenthood offer to minors? 

A: Such a good question! I’ll answer in regards to in-person services available at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM). 

PPLM offers routine pelvic, cervical and breast exams to screen for abnormalities. Additionally, PPLM offers vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B. You can also get tested and treated for sexual transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, and vaginal infections at PPLM clinics. Every center offers many different options for birth control including but not limited to condoms, the pill and diaphragms, as well as emergency contraceptives, as well as emergency contraceptives.

Other PPLM services are gender affirming hormone therapy, pregnancy testing, acne treatment and referrals for adoption. Clinics offer medical and in-clinic abortions too. You can find a full list of PPLM services on their website. 

Minors in MA do not require guardian consent for any contraception, pregnancy testing or diagnosis/treatment for STIs/HIV. Minors do need guardian consent for vaccines, routine preventive care exams and abortion procedures (judicial bypass can override the requirement for abortions). To combat inequity, fees are dependent on a person’s income. PPLM offers so many more services than just abortions, which makes it all the more important to keep the clinics available and accessible.