A&F Staff Writer
When the Supreme Court gave women the right to terminate a pregnancy as a constitutional right to privacy in 1973’s landmark case Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood had already been fighting for this right for 57 years.
“Planned Parenthood started in a time when not only abortion was illegal, but birth control was illegal in the United States and I think it is very indicative that this organization prospered through that and pushed to breakdown stigma,” said Kelli Early, an executive member of UNC Asheville’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action Organization.
Social stigma surrounding Planned Parenthood remain pervasive in society, leading to the valuable resources within to go under-utilized by the ones that need it most, Early said.
Early actively seeks out information on North Carolina’s reproductive healthcare and during their two-year internship with the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, a pro-choice organization located in Washington, D.C., they expanded their education and crafted their professional development, bringing that knowledge to PPGA.
“The advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood that we are under is so necessary, because I don’t think this stigma just originates out of people inherently,” Early said. “People are taught it by people in power to try and disincentivize them from participating in something we all deserve, which is bodily autonomy.”
PPGA promotes advocacy for abortion, birth control and health equity, using students to educate from within on more than 300 college campuses across the U.S.
Planned Parenthood relies heavily on educating people and changing people’s minds by presenting facts rather than being emotional, since many get angry about Planned Parenthood’s advocacy, said Carolyn Meyers, co-president of PPGA.
“A lot of students hold these progressive views but a lot of students are not educated on what reproductive justice means and what their rights are and what is going around policy-wise related to reproductive justice,” Meyers said. “Not only are we an advocacy organization, but we also care a lot about education of things that are important that have to do with your own body that people don’t know.”
In 2014, North Carolina had 37 abortion-providing facilities, with 90 percent of counties having no clinics and 53 percent of North Carolina’s women living in these areas, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the U.S. and globally.
“I think it’s good to give them the facts on what Planned Parenthood does,” Early said. “I know for a fact volunteering at Planned Parenthood that there are anti-choice people that have to go to Planned Parenthood for services.”
New restrictions on abortions for North Carolina went into effect on Jan. 1. Abortions are no longer covered under any health care policy unless the woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy resulted from a rape or incest. Women must additionally receive counseling which discourages the abortion and undergo a 72-hour waiting period and ultrasound before the procedure is provided, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“Bodily autonomy, which is the idea that you should be able to control your body in whatever way you want to, we specifically see there are restrictions on that for women, for people of color, different types of ethnic groups within the United States have had their body legislated or socially restricted in one way or another,” Early said. “We believe that you should have the right to be medically safe in whatever decision you make with your body.”
Planned Parenthood operates as a nonprofit, with a nonpartisan health care clinic providing professional care aiming to provide everyone with the health care they need, Early said.
“Just because we are in this little bubble of liberal progressivism, Planned Parenthood is an organization that is under attack constantly and it’s not going to stop, the fight for reproductive rights is not going to stop,” said Paul Ruback, co-president of PPGA. “It’s even more important for us being in this bubble, whether it be to raise funds or support our Planned Parenthood in any way we can, just because of how under attack it is everywhere else.”
Early said Planned Parenthood provides services no matter the patient’s ideology, with abortion accounting for only 3 percent of the services provided in 2017. STD treatment and education is the largest sum of Planned Parenthood’s services, which are genderless.
“What if you needed to get a cancer screening, what if in the future you wanted to get a vasectomy, right? There are so many different services that people get all the time that Planned Parenthood provides and they may end up in there one day even if they are anti-choice, they might be a patient,” Early said.
UNCA’s chapter of PPGA officially registered in the fall of 2017. Before then, students organized around reproductive rights advocacy but had not been formally recognized. Now tabling events educate students on things like the Hyde Amendment that blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortion services are at the center of their mission, Meyers said.
“It’s a healthcare facility, it’s healthcare, just because they happen to provide this one healthcare service of abortion, people dismiss the whole thing,” Meyers said.
PPGA partnered with UNCA’s Peers Educating Peers about Health to present on consent and the use of safe sex materials in any consensual situation, Early said.
“Reproductive justice, which also encompasses working with children and families and promoting reproductive health, is so multifaceted that we can work with anybody really that wants to work with us,” Early said.
PPGA offers resources on campus which educate other students who might have questions about reproductive health or be confused about something in the news, even Planned Parenthood’s mission and a safe place to receive educated answers, Meyers said.
“Basically, we do things for our community. It’s a community outreach. That’s all Planned Parenthood is about. Community outreach and being involved and making a happy and healthy campus,” Ruback said.
General meetings are held Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in Rhoades-Robinson 103. More information about PPGA and Planned Parenthood can be found on the UNCA Planned Parenthood Generation Action Facebook page.