Reproductive Health

Summer Attacks on Choice Could Hurt Campus Safety

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It was a long tough summer for Planned Parenthood as opponents went beyond targeting abortion and started in on birth control. Krystie Yandoli says this harms rape survivors and the cause of safe sex.

(WOMENSENEWS)--College students this fall returned to school after a tumultuous summer for Planned Parenthood, one of the country's major providers of birth control- related services.

Indiana was the first state to defund Planned Parenthood on April 27 after a bill passed through Congress in February. Kansas, Wisconsin and Texas followed suit over the summer.

North Carolina overrode Gov. Bev Perdue's veto and stripped Planned Parenthood's funding from its state budget.

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On Aug. 1 a Kansas federal judge blocked a defunding law.

New Hampshire's legislature--which is female dominant--voted to defund local Planned Parenthoods on July 11.

Often, the political opposition to Planned Parenthood is based on the group's provision of abortion services, even though the provider of family planning services does not use any federal money to pay for that procedure.

But one New Hampshire lawmaker couched his opposition to Planned Parenthood in a different way.

"If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?" Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester told the Concord Monitor in July after voting to defund Planned Parenthood in the state.

Wieczorek's comment against public funding for birth control and condoms ignores a large segment of the campus population for whom sex is not necessarily a "good time." It also ignores the public health importance of using condoms.

One-in-four women in college today have been victims of rape, and nearly 90 percent of them knew their rapist, according to Robin Warshaw, author of the 1994 book, "I Never Called it Rape," after conducting original research of women on college campuses.

If Planned Parenthood can't afford to provide college rape survivors with emergency contraception this means "paying" for a good time may result in consequences beyond money.

Birth control of course also protects everyone from sexually transmitted diseases, but lawmakers such as Wieczorek don't seem to care about that. They appear happy to stop free condom programs.

Irresponsible Move

How irresponsible can you get when the HIV/AIDS epidemic marked its 30th year in 2011 and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this June flagged the dangers for people under 30, stating that "a new generation that has never known a time without effective HIV treatments and who may not fully understand the significant health threat HIV poses."

Local Planned Parenthoods generally don't keep separate data on whether someone seeking their services is enrolled at a nearby college or university. However, one Planned Parenthood in Central New York that is responsible for the Rochester and Syracuse region makes an underlying connection between the most common age group to use their services.

"The largest group of patients fall in the 18-29-year-old age range (68.4 percent), which is generally the same broad range that college students fall within," said Betty DeFazio, director of community affairs and public policy at the Planned Parenthood based in Syracuse, N.Y.

But some in this age group who can be an example are choosing not to. Instead of seizing the chance to discuss the seriousness of not using birth control and the importance of date rape in her memoir published in June, Bristol Palin, daughter of the ex-Alaskan governor, simply brushes over the issue. In "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far," she describes her first sexual encounter with then-boyfriend Levy Johnston, writing about "woozy charms" of wine coolers and eventually passing out drunk, only to wake up the next morning and realize she'd had sex for the first time.

"Suddenly, I wondered why it was called 'losing' your virginity, because it felt more like it had been stolen," Palin writes.

That doesn't help other young women who find themselves in the same position clearly recognize what just happened to them or seek recourse.

Jessica Valenti, author and founder of the blog, also took issue with that passage. "Not calling it assault," she wrote in a Washington Post column, "and blaming herself, as she does in the book -- sends a dangerous message to young women who may have similar experiences."

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