College sophomore and Penn's Black Pre-Law Association events coordinator Joelle Goldston thinks sexual health on campus still has a long way to go.
In college, “reproductive health is reduced to the availability of free condoms," she said. "Reproductive health is not something that is advertised or discussed in the mainstream.”
But several campus organizations — Penn Association for Gender Equity, Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation and Penn’s Black Pre-Law Association — wanted to change the college discourse on sexual health. On Thursday, the groups held a panel to discuss the reproductive resources that Philadelphia has to offer.
The panel featured Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania organizer Danitra Sherman, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient advocate Erin Grant and Women's Medical Fund organizer Tabitha Skervin.
They emphasized the importance of “reproductive justice,” differentiating it from reproductive health and reproductive rights. While reproductive rights advocacy focuses on legislation and reproductive health advocacy focuses on inequalities in health services, reproductive justice is an intersectional approach that links reproductive rights work with activism in support of disenfranchised minorities.
“We understand and recognize that in order for our efforts to be effective and sustainable, we have to uplift those that are affected the most by shitty policies,” Sherman said.
In light of the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the Pennsylvania state legislature's consideration of Senate Bill 3, which prohibits abortion past 24 weeks, Grant said the landscape for reproductive rights is "bleak." The panelists were also concerned about the possibility that Planned Parenthood would be defunded.
“Through Title X and Medicaid funding, we are able to see low-income and minority women, and without that we realistically wouldn’t be able to stay open.” Sherman said.
“In Philadelphia alone, around 100,000 people of reproductive age are not covered for abortion right now,” Skervin added.
When asked for suggestions for impactful activism, the panelists recommended audience members volunteer at Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics as escorts to accompany patients and to support women during protests at the clinics. They said clinics need more volunteers because of the 40 Days for Life campaign, which began on Feb. 13, and because there is a lack of diversity in race and language among escorts.
The panelists emphasized the importance of calling elected officials and holding them accountable, for example, for voting “no” on repealing the ACA. Skervin also stressed grassroots activism.
“People forget how powerful and impactful ‘people power’ is,” Skervin said. "Just because the political climate changes, doesn’t mean that my goals and values change. So if I want to see abortion access, if I want to see the end of Hyde, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
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