18 • Focus
Written by Emma Paquette // Photos by Loren Po Not too long ago, Northeastern second-year Monica Bhatia got on the Green Line with her boyfriend and took it to the Babcock Street stop, the closest to the Greater Boston Area Planned Parenthood. Bhatia was there for an IUD, a form of birth control, but protesters outside the clinic saw her holding hands with a boy and assumed otherwise: abortion. After Bhatia’s procedure was finished and she felt rested, she returned outside with her boyfriend. The protesters called out to her retreating back: “God will forgive you!” “It was a really weird experience,” said Bhatia. “Because, I’m like, ‘I’m actually trying not to get pregnant … but okay.’” Planned Parenthood has never been a universally loved institution. Recently, however, the opposition has been more intense, with Republican presidential candidates vying for the position of “who can hate the organization most” and using it as a symbol for broader antiabortion views. “The character of this nation cannot be about butchery of babies for body parts,” said Republican candidate Carly Fiorina at an event this fall at a South Carolina pregnancy center. Fiorina was likely referring to the leaked videos that apparently showed Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal parts to laboratories for scientific studies. Despite several investigations demonstrating misleading editing of the videos and no proof that any illegal activities were conducted by Planned Parenthood, these videos have cast another shadow over the organization’s image. “I don’t think it was right for these doctors to be saying things about medical procedures WOOF MAGAZINE • fall 2015
outside the office,” said Roxanne Anderson, third year eBoard member of NU Sexual Health Advocacy, Resources, and Education (SHARE) and their Sexual Assault Response Campaign (SARC) liaison. “But the only thing that was wrong was how [the doctors’ comments] were manipulated and spun through the media.” SHARE is a student organization that aims to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health. SARC is a subgroup of SHARE that works specifically on bringing survivorcentered resources to campus. Their most recent work was on a climate survey released at the end of September, which revealed student’s opinions and experiences regarding Northeastern’s handling of sexual assault. SHARE is a Planned Parenthood affiliated group. Said Anderson, “We get a lot of funding and guidance from Planned Parenthood.” A political attack against Planned Parenthood followed the video debacle, consisting of an addendum to a government funding bill that would have ceased all federal support to the program. It passed in the Republican-controlled House, but was blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate. This attempt to defund Planned Parenthood shows an escalation of a trend already prevalent at the state level. Alabama, among other states, has already withdrawn state funding for Planned Parenthood centers within their borders, leaving those clinics struggling for funds. So, what is it about Planned Parenthood that draws attack? What does Planned Parenthood stand for?
“I think that people think ‘Planned Parenthood’ and they think ‘abortion,’” said third-year Laney Chace. This association certainly oversimplifies the character of Planned Parenthood. Abortion is hardly Planned Parenthood’s only operation. They also offer STI testing, pregnancy testing, birth control options and other sexual health services. In fact, Planned Parenthood stated in their 2013-2014 annual report that only three percent of services performed are abortions. A check by PolitiFact last August places that number closer to 12 percent, but the sentiment remains the same: most services are not abortions.
“In general, there’s a lot of issues in supporting women-specific health care that are related to sexism and misogyny.” With its many operations, Planned Parenthood can be a helpful resource for anyone — including college students. While Northeastern University Health and Counseling Services offers sexual assault counseling and self-pay STI testing (where no charge will appear on your insurance and no bill will be sent home), its services are simply not as extensive or specialized as Planned Parenthood’s, which include breast and cervical cancer screenings and access to many forms of birth control (such as IUDs). The organization is an effective supplement to
on-campus services, especially because it is relatively close-by. “I was able to schedule an appointment for the next week [after I called],” said Bhatia, remembering her experience. “They have really flexible hours.” Birth control, often used for reasons beyond its implied contraceptive purpose, is especially important for college students with female reproductive systems. According to the American College Health Association in 2012, about 40 percent of female college students use oral contraceptives for reasons ranging from easing menstrual cramps to treating acne. A study by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011 showed only around 42 percent of all pill users in the US take the pill for the sole reason of preventing pregnancy. The other 58 percent take it, at least in part, for their physical well-being. “In general, there’s a lot of issues in supporting women-specific health care that are related to sexism and misogyny,” said Anderson. “It should be just as important as any other sector of our health care system.” These factors raise questions about the accuracy of the information the media gives about Planned Parenthood. “If you’re not informed, you shouldn’t be making a statement
on these kinds of things,” said Chace. “If you read, and you have a non-liberal position, that’s totally fine. Have your own opinion. It’s just the lack of information.” Planned Parenthood does perform abortions, so it’s only natural that some people may be uncomfortable with the organization. However, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land, and women have the right to have access to abortion services. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood cannot be pared down to a single service when it offers so many others. “I think Planned Parenthood is such a pervasive force in women’s lives in this country,” said Anderson. “No matter how many attacks there are against it, people will continue to support Planned Parenthood because they know that it’s an accessible and comprehensive health care service that’s super necessary.”
LEFT: Roxanne Anderson, RIGHT: Laney Chase
NU SHARE meets Monday nights at 7:00pm in the Social Justice Resource Center in the basement of 106 St. Stephen’s Street. More information and upcoming events for SHARE and SARC can be found on their Facebook pages.
fall 2015 • WOOF MAGAZINE