Letter to the Editor: In defense of student activism

UMass Students for Reproductive Justice presented Nostras Voces on February 24. (Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

By Josie Pinto, in conjunction with members of UMass Students for Reproductive Justice

A couple of days ago, Bradley Polumbo wrote an Op/Ed to “liberal snowflake” activists, specifically stating several organizations that he believes are engaging in activism that doesn’t actually matter. UMass Students for Reproductive Justice (USRJ) was one of the organizations named for our involvement in the International Women’s Day event, which was actually not a protest, but a rally aimed at raising awareness around a variety of women’s issues. We think it’s necessary to respond to these claims and hopefully clarify the truth surrounding Planned Parenthood’s work and our own.

The author, along with 31 percent of voters, presumably believes an entire organization (that millions of people rely on for a wide range of medical services), should be defunded because abortion is one of the many medical services they provide. While they are proud and unashamed to provide abortions, Planned Parenthood has also created accessibility to other important services such as STI testing/treatment, information and consulting around sexual and reproductive health, contraception, physical exams, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, breast/chest exams, prenatal services, pap smears, and much more.

It is important to note that abortion is a legal medical procedure. The 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in this country, but we know that the legal status of it is often not enough to ensure access. The fight for this access continues to be an ongoing battle. Although federal funding through Medicaid has been prohibited from being used for abortion since the Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1976, anti-abortion legislators have continued to try to cut federal funding for the entirety of services provided by Planned Parenthood. It’s apparently not enough to make abortions financially inaccessible, as they insist on passing as many restrictions as possible.

One category of these restrictions is the “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider” laws, or TRAP laws for short. They include restrictions that make it harder to perform and receive abortions by creating unnecessary regulations beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety. They force clinics to comply with requirements that are costly or sometimes not feasible for their facility, making them very vulnerable to being shut down. They require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local nearby hospital, yet many hospitals will not give admitting privileges to doctors that perform abortions.

These are just a few examples of the laws in place prior to a patient actually attempting to access an abortion, where they often face their own barriers. Some examples of this can be the cost of the service and lack of insurance coverage, the distance to the nearest facility and a lack of transportation to it, along with mandated waiting periods between consultation and the procedure.

The author also cited a false claim that Planned Parenthood sells “body parts” of aborted fetuses for profit. In fact, the anti-abortion activists responsible for the filming just received 15 felony charges for invading the privacy of medical providers. They used fake identities, created a fake bioresearch company and edited footage all to advance their own agenda of trying to target and take down Planned Parenthood by whatever means necessary.

When we show up for Planned Parenthood, we’re showing up for the rights of students on our campus. We’re actively working with University Health Services and the Women’s Health Clinic to increase access to reproductive health services. We want to make sure that trans and queer people are able to be in these spaces knowing there is ease of access, compassion and respect. We want to address some of the barriers that pregnant students may be facing in accessing abortions. We want to ensure that confidentiality and transparency are top priorities. We want to ensure that the services are comprehensive and that financial and scheduling constraints don’t deter anyone.

It is evident that movements have formulated and transcended on college campuses. Activists have been the leading organizers, participants, minds and ultimately bodies creating these movements, and therefore, change. Activists are those that push for progress to be made, and we don’t find comfort in systems that have continued to stay the same. Part of the reason there are rallies, protests and other educational spaces is to foster awareness around silence-inducing, short-sighted and under-researched voices. There is a lot of work to be done right here, and right now.

If you want to join in on the “good fight”, get in touch. Connect with UMass Students for Reproductive Justice through Facebook, or stop by our meetings on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Room 413.

Josie Pinto
President of UMass Students for Reproductive Justice