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Pro-choice students speak up for Planned Parenthood

Voices for Planned Parenthood table during the fall involvement fair on Sept. 20, 2010.

Pro-choice students at Ohio State have a message for Congress: women’s health is nonnegotiable.

Seven executive board members of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood at OSU will join activists from across the country Thursday to canvass Capitol Hill at the Stand Up for Women’s Health rally.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America spearheaded the rally, which was conceived in response to a series of bills introduced in the House of Representatives. These include proposals to eliminate Title X, the national family-planning program, raise taxes to end private health insurance coverage of abortions and bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds, said Lisa Perks, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio. On Friday, Congress and the White House are expected to reach an agreement on the spending cuts, including the issue to defund Planned Parenthood, to avoid a federal government shutdown.

“We really feel that these assaults on women’s health under the guise of deficit reduction are unacceptable,” said Perks. “It’s time for voters to contact their elected officials and let them know these are dangerous proposals they don’t support.”

The members from OSU’s VOX will attend the rally as “special guests” of Planned Parenthood, said VOX president Lauren Zacks, a second-year in political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Having beat out VOX chapters nationwide in a month-long competition in February to collect the most petitions for Planned Parenthood’s Birth Control Matters campaign, the OSU student group was awarded a flight to D.C. There, they will lobby congressmen, attend networking events and workshops at Planned Parenthood’s national conference from April 6 to 8. On the last day, VOX members will participate in a photo shoot with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood.

Zacks sees the rally and concurrent conference as an opportunity to meet the people leading her cause and a chance to “get in the ears of our representatives.”

“We don’t want our rights to just be thrown under the bus just because people are trying to balance the budget,” Zacks said. “We want to make sure that our representatives know that people care about Planned Parenthood, they care about their reproductive rights and they care about their own sexual health.”

Under an amendment to the proposed Title X cuts, Planned Parenthood would lose the estimated $75 million in federal funding it receives every year to provide family planning and preventive health care services. The largest family planning provider in the country, Planned Parenthood operates more than 800 health centers nationwide that serve about three million patients, many of whom are women with low to moderate incomes who lack health insurance, Perks said.

Linda Bernhard, VOX adviser and associate professor in nursing and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said the proposal to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding may pose particular challenges to college students.

“If we don’t have places for students to get services at a reasonable price, they’re not going to have services. They’re just not going to get them,” Bernhard said. “Then people are going to have all kinds of problems. They’re going to have sexually transmitted infections. They’re going to get pregnant when they don’t want to get pregnant.”

Not everyone in the OSU community agrees with the Planned Parenthood mission. Meaghan Tranovich, a fourth-year in biology and French, and co-president of The Pro-Life Club at OSU defends the proposal to defund Planned Parenthood. She said community heath centers offer the same services as Planned Parenthood, excepting abortions.

“I really think that funneling that money that Planned Parenthood receives would be going to a much better cause if they gave it to these federally funded community health centers,” Tranovich said. “It just has a much wider range of services that it provides. It’s quality health care, so it seems like a much better option.”

But for Zacks, her cause to support Planned Parenthood could not be more clear or critical.

“Health in general is something that everyone should care about, everyone should value in others. It shouldn’t be something that only the privileged have access to,” Zacks said. “And especially on college campuses, sexual health and just being aware of what’s going on with your body and taking care of yourself is something that’s really important.”


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