Hotlines

Last night I attended the 40th anniversary of the (volunteer staffed) Counseling & Referral hotline of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM). Some 30 years ago I was one of those volunteers and took calls from distraught teenagers or married women who didn’t know what to do about an unintended pregnancy. For the teenagers, if they were over 3 months pregnant, they needed to go to court to get consent when two parents were not able/willing or asked to give this. Imagine that, 2 parents, while many of the callers had no dad at home! That was the law. We had an elaborate network of lawyers who prepared those girls to go to court, stand before the judge and get the consent so they could have an abortion. Our current Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts was one of those. It was a labor of love.

We also got calls from young men and women asking whether you could get pregnant the first time, doing it standing up, etc. We defused all sorts of myths and counseled people on what to do or referred them to others. We also would put them on hold and check with our fellow counselors when we didn’t know what to tell them.

Now almost 30 years later, the hotline still gets some 20.000 calls a year, despite the wide availability of the internet to answer questions (although not always correctly). Clearly, the need for sexual, family planning and reproductive health education is there. Some of these might be children of those we counseled way back.

The competition, the so-called Pro-Lifers have now established their own hotline pulling people into an orbit that is full of misleading information.

The celebration and reception given to old and current volunteers was inspiring with wonderfully touching and funny stories about our work. I must admit I had forgotten much about it other than the camaraderie and the excellent training we were given.

This morning I looked for my diaries for that time to see if I had written anything about that experience and discovered a big gap for that period. I did not write anything between 1985 and 1987 – for reasons I will never know.

But that got me reading my lines before that period when Sita was about the same age as Faro is now. What I found is an account of how I came to be what I am now – something I had forgotten. I decided to start typing my entries that started in 1976. It will be an interesting journey.

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