Colby group advocates reproductive rights

by Heather Jahrling

Colby’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action team advocates for reproductive rights.

Founded in 2018, Colby’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) team advocates for reproductive freedom, raises public awareness concerning reproductive health and rights and creates lasting change. Serving as an affiliate branch of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves as a health care provider, educator, advocate, and a global partner, PPGA chapters span across the nation. Rachel Powers ’21, Advocacy Chair for the Colby PPGA chapter, is a passionate Planned Parenthood supporter who oversees all social media accounts for the organization.

While Powers’ political activism began long before Colby at the Planned Parenthood in Mid-Hudson Valley, she was thrilled to join the recently founded PPGA team by Adrienne Carmack ’18. Members of the PPGA team frequently table in the Spa to register votes and provide critical information regarding sexual health. While Planned Parenthood is commonly exclusively associated with abortions, Powers pointed out all of the other services the federation provides such as birth control, emergency contraception, general health care, HIV services, LGBT services, men’s health services, patient education, pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and educational as well as advocacy programming. As Powers remarked, “The impact of Planned Parenthood extends to every corner of this country for those of every gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ability, and political party.”

Under co-presidents Jane Franks ’19 and Claire Caputi ’19, Colby PPGA holds monthly meetings as well as “action events” which occur based on legislative developments. These meetings consist of phone-banking, constituent letter-writing, or discussing pertinent legislative topics. According to Powers, the atmosphere is a “casual, welcoming environment for all students to have meaningful civic engagement.” These meetings culminate in programming projects that campus organizer Oliva Pennington helps assist.

While Colby PPGA is exclusively for students, Powers expressed how residents of Waterville can volunteer with Planned Parenthood through the Maine Action Fund if interested. Volunteers can make weekly commitments or participate in an event to be a part of the team. By signing up online, residents can receive information about local issues and meetings to stay informed. Powers’ also encourages both students and residents of Waterville to “always communicate with their representatives at their own time and pace” regarding critical legislative issues.

Regardless of political stance, being informed is essential for all citizens. Therefore, Powers’ went on to express statistics such as, “In the 2017–2018 annual year, Planned Parenthood provided 9.7 million health services to 2.4 million patients, 48.7 percent of which were STI testing and treatment and 27.1 percent of which provided contraceptives. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood provided 614,361 patients with cancer screenings and prevention procedures.” Powers’ explained how even though “Most of the stigma surrounding Planned Parenthood is directly related to the organization’s abortion services, it is important to note that abortion only made up 3.4 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services nationwide in 2017–2018.” While Powers’ remarked “we are proud to be an abortion provider” the full 2017–2018 annual report can be viewed on Planned Parenthood’s website. All are encouraged to view the site to formulate their own opinions and learn about the matter.

Powers and many other PPGA members support Planned Parenthood because “for many patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of primary health care.” According to Powers, “For many patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of primary healthcare. Reproductive freedom is a necessity, and it’s a travesty that reproductive healthcare is so highly politicized and riddled with false claims and rhetoric. By supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood, we give our friends and peers the chance to live more equitably.” While Powers and members of Colby PPGA support Planned Parenthood, learning about the federation, whether one chooses to support it or not, is valuable for meaningful discourse. To learn more, visit https://www.plannedparenthood.org.