Women’s and gender studies department hosts Reproductive Health Panel, Planned Parenthood Meetup

On Feb. 28, the women’s and gender studies department hosted a Reproductive Health Panel alongside a few “Planned Parenthood Meetups” where students were invited to write postcards to senators and representatives urging them not to vote to defund Planned Parenthood.

According to its website, Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s leading providers of affordable reproductive healthcare, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education.

The organization is known for catering to men and women seeking birth control, abortion referrals and STD and STI testing. However, the organization also tends to transgender individuals seeking hormone therapy, in addition to various other kinds of care relating to reproductive health including pap smears, breast exams, issues of infertility, prostate exams and testicular cancer screenings, among other things.

Controversy has been stirring since actions were taken to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood in 2015. Federal funding makes up about one-third of the organization’s budget.

The Reproductive Health Panel was held in hopes to “break the stigma that surrounds women’s reproductive health and sexuality,” said Rachel Kubicki, senior criminology and psychology double major and women’s and gender studies intern.

“It’s rarely in the media, and when you try to talk about the stuff that isn’t sexy or fun nobody really wants to pay attention to it,” Kubicki said.

The panel included presentations from Deborah Zbenger, Dean of the Passan School of Nursing, Dr. Maria Grandinetti, assistant professor of nursing, Sharon Whitebread representing Caring Communities and women’s and gender studies director Dr. Jennifer Thomas.

Topics included birth control, STDs, reproductive screenings and Planned Parenthood.

Kubicki reiterated the importance of the panel.

“A lot of women really don’t know the signs of STDs in their bodies and how it differs from men’s, so we’re really trying to inform,” Kubicki said.

Thomas indicated that the department “tried really hard” to get a representative from Planned Parenthood to sit on the panel.

“With budget cuts, the local PP (Planned Parenthood) had to cut the community outreach educator position,” Thomas said. “This is a great loss.”

The meetup, which took place in the Henry Student Center during club hours and immediately after the panel, had a goal of distributing 100 postcards sent to Pennsylvania representatives.

“After the election, we became more conscious of the fact that these services could be gone, so we became more active in making sure that didn’t happen,” said Mary Cordisco, a senior English and philosophy double major who helped organize the meetup.

Cordisco added that “the overall goal is to get our voice heard” by Pennsylviania politicians.

“I felt like it was important to take action and do something about it instead of just talking about ideologies,” said fellow organizer Maddie Powell, senior English major.

According to Kubicki, the meetup ended with over 50 postcards filled out by students, and others that were taken to be mailed independently.