In 1970, Carol Corbin was a nervous, newly sexually active 19-year-old when she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic to get birth control for the first time. Instead she left with orders to get a tumor on her ovary looked at immediately. Follow-up tests revealed it was the size of a football, and Corbin had stage 3 ovarian cancer.
Decades later, Corbin, now 65, credits that Planned Parenthood clinic in Silver Spring, Maryland, with not only providing a “haven” for women seeking judgement-free reproductive health care, but with saving her life ― and she’s joining efforts to highlight the role the provider plays in cancer screening and prevention.
“If I hadn’t been able to go to Planned Parenthood,” Corbin told The Huffington Post, “I’m quite sure that I would have been dead within a year.”
The conversation around the ongoing GOP efforts to pull federal funding for Planned Parenthood has been dominated by birth control access, and with good reason. Preventing women who rely on federally subsidized healthcare from using Planned Parenthood ― which is what the effort to “defund” the provider essentially does ― would curb access to contraception and broader family planning services.
But with a vote on the GOP healthcare bill looming, Planned Parenthood is working hard to round out the conversation by highlighting the stories of women and men, like Corbin, who rely on the provider for preventive cancer care and screenings. Prohibiting the federal government from reimbursing the healthcare provider for patients who rely on Medicaid or Title X family planning programs would mean that many low-income women will miss out on that potentially life-saving care.
And that’s particularly important because research already shows that low-income women and women of color face much higher death rates from cancer.
“We know that for the women whose cancer has been detected at our health centers, this is a matter of life or death,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood, said in a recent press release. “We are steadfast in our fight to make sure anyone can receive the care they need, no matter what.”
According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, its affiliates performed more than 363,000 breast exams between 2014 and 2015, and more than 271,500 pap smears, which can help in the early detection of cervical cancer. As a result, more than 71,700 women in the United States either had their breast cancer detected early or had abnormalities identified, Planned Parenthood says.
Its president, Cecile Richards, recently told NPR that the “vast majority” of Planned Parenthood patients rely on some form of federal program.
Planned Parenthood is working hard to hammer home the role it plays in cancer prevention through the recent release a million-dollar television and digital campaign that focuses on the personal stories of survivors.
One recent ad features Jamie Benner ― a Medicaid patient and member of the “Cancer Survivors Network For Planned Parenthood,” of which Corbin is also a part ― who describes going to Planned Parenthood to have a breast lump looked at. When it turned out to be stage 3b breast cancer, she was reassured her care would be covered.
Corbin also believes the organization saved her life. Following surgery, radiation and chemotherapy ― a grueling treatment plan that kept her out of college for a full-year ― she has long been cancer-free. She went onto become a college professor specializing in media studies and now that she is retired, volunteers for reproductive rights and environmental causes. That life would not have been possible if it weren’t for Planned Parenthood, she says.
“It’s the place where we went in the 1970s and it’s the place where women still go,” Corbin told HuffPost. “I get very upset when I hear about ‘defunding’ because I probably would not have lived past 1971 had Planned Parenthood not been there.”