Following last Friday’s vote by the Republican-led House of Representatives to defund the reproductive healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, students on campus, angered by the unprecedented move by Congress, have swung into action. In an effort to give the issue visibility, thank Congress members who voted against the bill, and rally support to prevent the measure from passing in the Senate, students have organized a rally to take place on campus this weekend.
“This rally has been generated by the student population at Wesleyan and surrounding CT colleges and universities,” wrote the Public Affairs Fellow for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Jennier Paradis in an e-mail to The Argus.
Tomorrow afternoon, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Cecile Richards, and President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southern New England Judy Tabar will be speaking to students and Planned Parenthood supporters from across Connecticut to galvanize support for the organization in Exley 150.
“We just started discussing what possible things college students could do to respond to this,” said Hannah Adams ’13, who is organizing the event. “I think the point of it is to show support. I think Blumenthal and the other speakers are going to come here to get people excited or pissed. The rally is about everyone coming together and to show support.”
Moved to energize the student body, Adams started working with Elijah Meadow ’13 and Planned Parenthood campus interns Zak Kirwood ’12 and Susanna Banks ’13 to put together an event on campus.
Although some students have questioned the value of holding a rally on a campus where a large majority of the students identify as pro-choice, Adams, Meadow, and Kirwood all agreed that an event on the Wesleyan campus is advantageous. In addition to giving the issue visibility, they hope that this will inspire students to write to Senator Joe Lieberman to encourage him to vote against the bill in addition to Blumenthal.
“I think it’s important to have local shows of solidarity,” Kirwood agreed. “Not all of us can go down to Congress or go down to NYC [where other rallies are going on].”
“I think the critical thing is attention,” Meadow said.
Kirwood pointed to the fact that Wesleyan is central in the state and makes it easer for college students from other campuses to attend. He also pointed to the sway that the Wesleyan administration could potentially have on a larger scale in the country.
“I think that certain administrators at this institution have a lot of political power and can put pressure on legislators who haven’t taken a firm stand against this attack on sexual and reproductive health,” he said.
Currently Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using the federal funding that it receives under Title X, which funds reproductive health services, for most abortions; however, the new measure, which was approved 240-185 in the House, would deny the organization funding for contraception, cancer screening for low-income patients, as well as a number of other services that Planned Parenthood offers. The Title X program is currently funded at $317 million according to a press release from Planned Parenthood.
Although the bill is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate where it must go up for vote before March 4, Zak Kirwood ’12 stressed the gravity of the situation.
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “It’s the biggest step backwards we’ve ever seen.”
Although there is a potential that organizations opposed to the rally may attend, such as the Family Institute of Connecticut, the purpose of the event is meant to galvanize support for Planned Parenthood and the tone will be a positive one.