The women’s health community, including Planned Parenthood and the UConn Women’s Center, is concerned following the election of Donald J. Trump.
President-Elect Trump has vowed, among other things, to appoint “pro-life justices to overturn Roe,” the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 that enabled women to safely access abortions, according to CNN.
“Politicians should not be involved in a personal medical decision about a woman’s health or their pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Kafi Rouse said. “Women, not politicians, should be making the informed decisions when it comes to her body.”
Planned Parenthood has been the source of much discussion in the wake of the election.
“There has been an outpouring of support since the election,” Rouse said. “We have seen a more than 70 percent increase in contributions in comparison to where we were last year.”
Nationally, roughly 25 percent of donations to Planned Parenthood have been in honor of Pence, according to CNN. Pence has taken an against abortion stance since his time in Congress, proposing six separate measures to block funding for care to Planned Parenthood centers.
As governor of Indiana, Pence has attempted to redefine rape to inhibit woman’s ability to seek information regarding an abortion and has unsuccessfully required that women who were able to get an abortion have a proper burial for the fetus, both blocked by Planned Parenthood litigation, according to CBS.
These actions have launched an outcry from women who started a grassroots movement in Indiana called, “Periods for Pence.” These activists and participating members placed calls to Pence’s office with updates on the status of their menstrual cycles.
“I am just appalled by Mike Pence’s stances and the fact that he (and Donald Trump) are going to be in office,” seventh-semester Anthropology and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies major Jillian Provost said. “His stances, his voting history and the bills he has supported are terrifying. They would be devastating to women (and of course, people generally), but especially women of color and low-income folks, particularly his stance to defund Planned Parenthood and bar funding to any health coverage costs related to abortions.”
Provost works with the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP), an educational program through the Women’s Center, that is “dedicated to addressing and preventing all forms of sexual violence through education, outreach and advocacy,” according to the UConn Women’s Center.
“We want to prevent the negative harms as much as possible and in doing that, that means actual change in [school] climate,” Associate Director of the Women’s Center Kathy Fischer said. “In order to have [the school] climate change, the community needs to be involved. It’s not just the Women’s Center that needs to do this work, this conversation needs to be had in many different places.”
The harms to women’s health have not come solely as repeals to the Roe decision and the prior actions of Pence. The proposed Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) amendments by Speaker Ryan would cut women’s free access to birth control.
“We have seen a significant increase in online appointments for birth control,” Rouse said. “There is also a more than 900 percent increase in women seeking IUDs [Intrauterine Device]. Women are worried about losing their healthcare.”
IUDs are another form of birth control that last from three-to-ten years and are currently covered by insurance providers under the ACA, more long term than the traditional 28-day ‘Pill.’
Many misconceptions exist about what Planned Parenthood provides, many often thinking that it is solely for access to abortions.
“The law [ACA] helps ensure that millions of women still get basic health care, basic screenings, STD testing’s and well-woman exams, which Planned Parenthood all provides,” Rouse said.
Of the 500 million Planned Parenthood receives each year in federal funding for its 650 health centers nationwide, very little is spent on abortion procedures.
Forty-two percent of Planned Parenthood services are dedicated to STI/STD testing, 34 percent to contraception (birth control and refills), 11 percent to other Women’s Health services, nine percent to cancer screening and prevention and three percent to abortion services, according to the Washington Post.
Students have noted the importance of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut but also see that there are some imperfections.
“It has been my experience when speaking with individuals that use their services an in talking with the women from shelters I have worked in in Waterbury, that many centers are under resourced and the wait for services is often several hours,” fifth-semester Human Rights and Political Science major Emily Steck said. “I think this demonstrates that their services are certainly needed in the state, as many women don't have access to other means of attending to their reproductive health, however, I worry that accessibility will continue to be a problem moving forward.”
Most of the work done by Planned Parenthood and through the Women’s Center on campus surrounds education for women about the choices that exist for them for their health.
“When women are armed with comprehensive, good information they are able to make the best choice that matches their values,” Fischer said. “If we don’t have information, we will not know what we are trying to prevent.”
Through legislative actions, such as the Hyde Amendment originally passed in 1976 following Roe, there is a ban on federal funds being allocated to women seeking information and access about abortions, unless in case of rape, incest or health concerns for the mother, which is often contested. This bill is not solidified into law, however, and is renewed each year. Trump has proposed that he plans to make the Hyde Amendment a permanent part of U.S. law.
“Community accountability is critical to hold people accountable and make these issues visible when the media choses to ignore them,” Fischer said.
“If people are interesting in helping Planned Parenthood, they can volunteer, donate or help share information,” Rouse said.
Students also believe in informing one another with the speculated cuts to women’s health access.
“We can each be doing our best to advocate and create dialogue around these issues within our perspective communities,” Provost said. “We do live in a democracy, albeit how poor it is right now, and informing those around us of the importance of these issues will always be vital and helpful work.”
Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.