February 16, 2017
On Thursday, Feb. 9, Hamilton community members came together for a “party with a purpose.” While participants ate brownies, Opus cookies, cheese and guacamole, they also thought of the ways in which they could aid Planned Parenthood and prevent its being defunded. Besides a handful of male faculty members, the room was filled with women. Half were faculty and staff and the other half were students, although a significant majority of these students were seniors. Still, faculty members expressed appreciation that students were interested in being involved in this fight.
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Katheryn Doran, organized the event. She requested that “Hamilton students and other members of the community committed to women’s health and reproductive rights: please come together for a post inauguration Grassroots Planning Session.” Beth LeGere, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson was initially scheduled to lead the discussion. However, as consequence of the snowy weather, LeGere was unable to make it.
Doran started off the event speaking about the local branch of Planned Parenthood, Mohawk Hudson. The Mohawk Hudson branch covers 11 counties and has a total of 10 centers, reaching as far east as the Massachusetts border. In Utica alone, over 7,000 people are seen. Clients are going for basic health care services such as routine annual exams, STI testing, behavioral health services (including addiction, a larger issue in Utica), birth control, colonoscopies and abortion services.
Planned Parenthood has a very high approval rate, especially when compared to other healthcare systems. Hillary Clinton called Planned Parenthood the most trusted service for abortions, sexual assault victim aid and hormone adjustment medication. In the Mohawk Hudson branch, Doran explains, “Only seven percent of our funding comes from federal funding but this quickly adds up.” While reproductive rights used to cross party lines, such is no longer the case. Doran goes on to note that the only thing that stopped a loss of funding last cycle was Obama’s veto, an act very unlikely to happen this time around. This will affect health centers here and across the nation.
Doran then shifted the conversation to a dialogue about “your sphere of influence,” and what impact those in the room can make. She noted that many struggle as they want to focus on the biggest issues at hand, however “some of the places where you’re likely to have the most impact is unglamorous at the local level… think hard about your local reps and how you as a constituent can keep them accountable.”
Planned Parenthood has a text number to which one can subscribe to receive a list of daily tasks one can do to show support for the organization. These are simple tasks such as calling your local representative. The text provides not only the number and name of representatives but also a brief description of issues about which to speak them. A student in attendance related this to #WhereisClaudiaTenney. District Representative Claudia Tenney has been critiqued for her support in some cases, and lack of pushback in others, in regards to many of the Trump administration’s action. The hashtag is a critique of her inaccessibility in person, online and over phone.
There is also a group in Utica called “Claudia Tenney: One and Done” that vows that Tenney will not be at a public hearing without a member from the group also there, asking her the hard questions that need to be addressed.
One woman recommended Invisible Guy, a book written by former congressional staffers to be a practical guide for resisting the Tump Agenda and a how-to guide to get congressmen to listen. She summarized that phone calls are in fact the most important form of communication and that one should call both their local and Washington D.C. office. The book also highly recommends providing identification to prove that one is a constituent because that gives more weight to one’s opinion.
The conversation then moved to the rally which would follow the next day in Utica. Many refugees use Planned Parenthood and as such the rally provided a great way to simultaneously show support to Planned Parenthood and the people it serves.
Barbara Perego ’17 then announced the new PPGen (Planned Parenthood Generation) group chartered on campus. She asked, “What is the most helpful way for us as a chapter to get our resources and help the local Planned Parenthood?” All participants brainstormed, coming up with actions on the Hill, such as a Planned Parenthood edition trivia night, speakers and a film series, as well as actions off the Hill such as volunteer and counter protesting anti-abortion protesters outside of the clinics.
The event ended on this brainstorming note, with participants thinking in ways to make their message heard. Doran stated, “The Hamilton campus needs to be active in support of Planned Parenthood.” So talk to the people you know who aren’t activists, says Doran. Get more people involved and in support so that our mission may grow.