Mary Numair is one of the more than 3.5 million American women who go to Planned Parenthood to refill her birth control prescription. But the 29-year-old copywriter from Portland, Oregon, is also willing to admit she relies on Planned Parenthood for a slightly more embarrassing medical service: to treat her yeast infections.
In a creative response to several anti-abortion protesters near her local Planned Parenthood clinic, Numair staged a one-woman counterprotest, chanting the phrase "Yeast infections!" over and over. According to her Twitter, she was able to drive away a crowd of anti-abortion activists that had initially taken over both sides of the street outside Planned Parenthood.
Raising a homemade cardboard sign thanking the health care provider for helping her with her vaginal health issues, Numair said she hoped to illustrate the numerous invaluable services Planned Parenthood provides.
"Planned Parenthood is a vital resource for so many people," Numair told BuzzFeed News. "We have to look beyond the pro-life/pro-choice debate and recognize this organization is out there providing some of the most important care to our sensitive medical needs."
Highlighting a very real problem: Although Numair's counterprotest was admittedly hilarious, it also emphasized the need for the more mundane reproductive health services that Planned Parenthood provides. In addition to providing reproductive health care treatment and performing a (relatively small) number of abortions, Planned Parenthood also treats minor health conditions like yeast infections, which affect the majority of women at some point in their lives.
According to the organization's most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood treated 47,264 urinary tract infections in 2013. Such treatments, as well as other women's health services (such as preventive care or treatment for other chronic conditions) comprise an estimated 11% of the medical services the organization provides, compared to just 3% for abortion services.
Treatment for all those UTIs is in no small demand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 75% of American women experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetimes, while an estimated 50% experience at least one urinary tract infection, a bacterial condition that typically recurs 30% to 40% of the time within six months of treatment. Both conditions can cause extreme discomfort and pain, not to mention serious health issues: Untreated UTIs can result in kidney infections that potentially reduce organ function.
Of course, women aren't the only ones at risk. Although the incidence of both yeast infections and UTIs is lower for men, they too can experience the utter bliss of both conditions, symptoms of which might include anything from clumpy, cottage cheese-like penile discharge to reddish blisters on the head of the penis. That's just in the case of a yeast infection; UTIs can cause blood and/or pus to appear in urine.
For obvious reasons, these infections require immediate treatment. Thanks to Numair's protest, hopefully a few more people will know where to find it.