The Capitol building never looked so rosy as it did on Aug. 25, as hoards of people in pink gathered in support of Planned Parenthood.
The rally and press conference was held in response to Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order issued Aug. 14, stopping Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding through state agencies. A counter-rally was also held inside the capitol.
Thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters flocked to the capitol building steps, and a few dozen anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood supporters stood on the grass facing the building.
“I went to Planned Parenthood when I had nowhere else to go,” said Leah Weisgal, a speaker at the event and president of Westminster College’s Students for Choice.
As a victim of sexual abuse, Weisgal said she received a life-saving abortion at the age of 14.
According to Planned Parenthood, only three percent of its health services are abortion services. Regardless, that statistic was on the lips of speakers and protesters alike.
“To tell people that abortion is something they should really consider is hard because any of us here could have been considered to be aborted, and all of us here are making something big,” said Abby Jamieson of Roy High School.
Planned Parenthood estimates its affordable contraceptives prevent approximately 515,000 unintended pregnancies each year. Of those unintended pregnancies, it estimates 216,000 would have had an abortion.
But Planned Parenthood’s abortion services remain an issue, highlighted by recent viral videos alleging the sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood staff members. The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, filmed these videos undercover.
In a report to congress, Planned Parenthood said an analysis of the videos shows it’s been doctored. Completed investigations by other states that pulled funding have not found Planned Parenthood at fault.
“[Planned Parenthood] is depicted wrongly in the media,” said Ilikea Arakaki of Utah Valley University. “It’s way more about healthcare and letting women take care of their own bodies and not making it a political issue.”
Affordable healthcare is also the issue for Kylie Taylor of Bonneville High School.
“Planned Parenthood is more affordable than a lot of doctors offices,” Taylor said. “There will be a lot more cancers that will go untreated.”
Combined, Planned Parenthood provides 900,000 breast exams and pap tests each year in addition to nearly 4.5 million screenings and treatments for STIs.
Of those people who receive services, 79 percent have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s an annual income of about $17,000 for a single person. The average college student makes less than that at $14,400 a year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
“You’re trying to support yourself as an adult, but you want to make adult decisions regarding your sexual health,” said Madelyn Strait of Barnard College. “But in order to do that, you need to be buying birth control and taking care of yourself and getting tested and getting education about all these issues. If Planned Parenthood doesn’t have money to do that, then where are people going to learn? Certainly not from our schools, because Utah has a terrible sexual education program.”
Easton Brady, a recent graduate of Olympus High School, disagrees.
“I feel like [Utah’s sex education] is great,” he said. “I didn’t see anything bad with it. I think it’s got to come down to the parents and their own kids’ sex education. It should be up to the parents, not so much the government, to take care of our lives and tell us what we should and shouldn’t do.”
Although Larissa Atchinson sits on the other side of the argument, she shares similar sentiments.
“It’s your body and you should be able to choose what to do with it and you should have the resources to do those things,” Atchinson said.
Regardless of opinions, Samantha Wise suggests: “Just talk about it instead of brushing it off. I’m very apathetic to politics because I don’t really feel like I can do much. I can just read about all these different perspectives and go ‘OK’ I’m fine, I don’t really need to voice anything, I don’t need to act up, I don’t need to say anything, because it’s already here and people are already contributing.”
But Madelyn Strait said she believes it takes more than just talking about it.
“We aren’t really used to having to fight for these things,” Strait said. “I think it’s really important that we realize that there is still a lot of pushback against programs for women. I think we really need to be out here being the next generation on this fight, because it’s not over yet.”
Students who have an opinion on Planned Parenthood can tweet @wcforummedia or send letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.