Debate about whether the government should fund Planned Parenthood has been at the forefront of this year’s 2016 presidential race. Planned Parenthood, which provides health services for women, has come under fire for performing abortions. Lehigh’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action club works to emphasize the importance of women’s reproductive rights and stress the importance of Planned Parenthood, which utilizes federal funding to operate.
In the fall of 2015, Samantha Randall, ’18, founded the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club after attending a National Youth Conference in Harrisburg. Realizing there was no affiliated Planned Parenthood club on Lehigh’s campus, Randall asked officials if they could assist in her in installing the club.
“One of my main goals is political involvement, and trying to get our campus more involved because we’re very much politically apathetic,” said Randall, the president of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club. “I want everyone to know how important reproductive rights are, no matter your gender, age or if you’re actually planning to have children or not.”
The club hosted a Make and Take on Friday to inform students about safe sex and the services provided by Planned Parenthood.
At the Make and Take, students were given pouches they could decorate with slogans that raised awareness about safe sex and promoted Planned Parenthood.The pouches were filled with condoms, coasters, pens, buttons, pins and stickers provided by the club.
Since the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club is relatively new on campus, Randall is receiving help from many different organizations, including the Women’s Center and Break the Silence.
Rita Jones, the director of the Women’s Center, is the adviser for the club and has played a role in its growth. Last semester, the Women’s Center co-hosted a Feminist Friday discussion with the club.
“In the Women’s Center, we provide a space for people to really think through the complexities of reproductive justice,” Jones said. “Reproductive justice is not easy. It requires coalition building, people (talking) to each other.
“I think it’s fantastic that we have the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club. It’s a step in getting the conversation going and mobilizing people who feel the same passion. It’s one of many conversations that needs to happen.”
Like Randall, Jones wants to spread awareness of the services that Planned Parenthood is able to provide. She believes people can recognize the good Planned Parenthood has done in way of saving lives.
It’s a resource for both men and women, she said, and it’s one that those individuals can turn to if there is nowhere else to go.
“It’s good for any community to be able to have those spaces, when people are embarrassed to talk to friends or afraid to talk to their parents,” Jones said. “Maybe they feel really isolated and don’t know who to talk to. It’s important to have a space that people can go to that is trustworthy, medically sound and evidence-based.”
If Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, women across the country and at Lehigh alike may not have access to certain resources. If this were to happen, Lehigh’s Health and Wellness Center could be an alternative resource for students for some items.
“The Health and Wellness Center is already able to provide most of the services students might seek at Planned Parenthood,” wrote Susan Kitei, the director of the health center, in an email.
According to the health center’s webpage, the center is able to provide prevention and screening services for sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, the health center is able to provide the Gardasil vaccine, pap smears, oral contraceptive pills, the Nuva-ring, Depo-Provera injections and annual women’s health exams.
Although Lehigh students could use the health center as an alternative resource for some of the services that Planned Parenthood provides, Randall would like students to recognize many women and men who do not attend college do not have the same opportunity to receive health services.
“You think if you’re not using their services yourself, it doesn’t affect you, but it is statistically impossible to not know anyone who has used Planned Parenthood,” Randall said. “Whether it be family members or friends — it affects everyone. For a lot of underprivileged men and women, it’s their only form of health care. I want Lehigh to become more involved with helping the local Planned Parenthood and for students to know that it is there as a valuable resource.”