I first walked into Toronto’s Planned Parenthood (PPT) when I was seventeen. I knew absolutely nothing about the services, the cost, or the procedures offered. Unsatisfied with my family doctor, I had simply looked up the address online, dragged a friend along, and took the subway over. Today, four years later, I have walked through that clinic door literally hundreds of times. PPT has been my primary healthcare provider for my every need.
What first struck me about the place was how low-key it was on the outside. I expected big signs, a white clinical look, a large complex. Instead, I found a brown-brick building with a couple of small signs out front. Inside was the most positive space I have ever been to in my life: rainbow flags everywhere, a dozen bowls of free condoms, posters and pamphlets on abortion, STIs, testing, mental health support services. At my first visit, I was asked about my preferred pronouns and was asked again each time I saw a new counsellor. I have never found anything hospital-like about this place; it has always welcomed me and made me feel safe and relaxed.
The clinic’s commitment to privacy and consideration is also what sets Planned Parenthood apart for me. I have never felt my concerns as validated as I do by the doctors here; they never make me feel like I’m overreacting and are always patient in explaining and talking through every little worry I have, from benign breast tumours to pregnancy scares. When I got my intrauterine device (IUD) in this summer, my doctor did everything in her power to make sure my insurance covered the cost (as a result, I paid $3 for the five-year hormonal IUD). She continually checked in and addressed my questions even during the procedure. When I came to the clinic with a friend for support, they invited us both in to talk about my questions, and then asked her to step out for a moment at the end in case I had something I wanted to say privately; though I didn’t, I felt that this was a great policy for anyone who might be uncomfortable asking a friend or family member to leave on their own. Additionally, in all the years I’ve used their services, my family never had to find out about any of it on anything less than my own terms.
Most people do not realize that Planned Parenthood does not solely cover sexual health; I have been here for low iron, an H.Pylori stomach infection, UTIs, a year of psychological counselling for anxiety, various tests — including STI, PAP, HIV, and more — as well as discounted birth control purchases. All these services, birth control aside, were free. The only complaint I would have about PPT is the wait time. Sometimes, I can get a same-day appointment. Other times, I have to wait around two weeks. But in the end, the quality of the service never disappoints.
When I first came to the clinic, I barely knew what my options were. Now, after years on the pill, the patch, the ring, and the IUD, I feel like my journey with Planned Parenthood has been as much of a learning experience as a health support. I can’t recommend visiting this place enough – they have shelves of free sanitary products in the gender-neutral bathrooms, and even provide TTC tokens for my travel. Like the University of Toronto’s Health & Wellness Centre, they are also conveniently located nearby, and are great at dispelling students’ qualms about asking too many questions. And they are the reason I feel as in control of my health and body as I do now.