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Today a band of Barnard students, including myself, ventured down to lower Manhattan to voice our support for women's reproductive health care. It was extremely encouraging to see the large turnout completely engulfing Foley Square and the steps of the Manhattan courthouse, waving signs large and small, and showing their support for women's health care. There were men, women, genderqueer people, and many a person with dog in tow. As I believe is the purpose of a rally, people from very different organizations and backgrounds were brought on stage and united the people with their message. Overall, it was a peaceful and positive rally that brought me new hope in our grave situation.
Yet there were some dissenters - one man with an anti-choice sign was parading around the area, showing off a grotesque doctored image of a dead fetus. This time, however, the tables were turned. Planned Parenthood supporters with tambourines and large signs tailed the guy, jeering at him with good-natured smiles and obvious enthusiasm. Eventually the police came and escorted him away from the area; this simply wasn't the place for him.
Now why was this rally called, you may ask. Put simply, the reproductive rights of women have been put under attack in recent months.
I think that if you are unaware of the current situation, Feministing has done a great job of covering Congress' vested attempts at taking away our reproductive rights through a number of bills - the most insulting of which, I believe, is the proposal to cut all funding from Planned Parenthood.What many of these proposals fail to recognize is that reproductive rights does not amount solely to accessing abortions. While safe access is a very important part of reproductive health, there are many others that Planned Parenthood addresses and that these proposals plan to take away. These include basic health care for the uninsured, sex education, affordable contraceptives, and STI testing. The ramifications of taking away reproductive health care, especially women's health care, is a reduction in the rights of all people to access information and services about one of the most important aspects of life: health.
So, I ask you to sign the petition for Planned Parenthood and read up on the proposals that Congress is attempting to pass. As Senator Schumer told the crowd today, they want to take us back to the 1950's with this legislation. But, in the words of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, "we ain't goin' out like that!"
You may also be interested in reading my opinion piece Single Sex Education for Women and Girls.