Issues of women’s health have recently taken a front stage politically and socially. Many Planned Parenthood clinics have been defunded across the nation, causing concern over access to reproductive healthcare.
The Fight For Choice Forum was held on Feb. 10 at the Procrastinator Theatre. Organized by Students for Choice, The F-Word, Montana Advocates for Sexual Health and Planned Parenthood of Montana, the event commemorated the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in 1973.
Martha Stahl, CEO of Planned Parenthood Montana spoke at the event. She believes that women’s health is always a priority, but should be especially important to women today. Stahl spoke about the political issues concerning abortion and how disagreements over abortion also affect access to other women’s health services.
She discussed issues that occurred in Texas when a law caused many Planned Parenthood clinics to shut down. The remaining clinics became overrun and many women could no longer receive care. Stahl emphasized that pregnancies went up, and women were waiting longer to get abortions. She also discussed Colorado, which benefited from implementing measures to increase access to birth control.
Stahl said that location should not dictate a woman’s access to care: “Their ability to access abortion care shouldn’t come down to what their zip code is.”
Those wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, primarily staunch Republicans, have criticized the organization saying it does not actually serve women. Stahl responded to this saying, “As a person that works so closely with our healthcare providers, to say that providers like Planned Parenthood don’t have women’s best interests in mind is just preposterous.”
Stahl acknowledged that everyone has the right to either be for or against abortion, but believes that the majority of people actually agree about providing women with reproductive healthcare. She explained that supporting providers like Planned Parenthood makes sense even for people who are pro-life because access to birth control decreases pregnancy and abortion rates.
Stahl concluded by saying “In the end, the decision of whether or not to continue a pregnancy should be the decision of the woman.”
Bozeman community member Betsy Deleiris also spoke at the event, sharing her story about her own experience with women’s health. As a young woman, Deleiris became pregnant with a man she did not believe she could raise a child with due to instability in their relationship. “I knew that I was ill-equipped to raise a child on my own,” Deleiris said.
Planned Parenthood was already her healthcare provider, and she chose to pursue terminating the pregnancy. She had a consultation, and went through with an abortion. Reflecting on her experience she said, “When I left the office that day I felt absolutely supported.”
Amber Williams, president of the Susan Wicklund fund, which was founded to provide financial support to women who cannot afford an abortion, was also part of the panel. She read from Wicklund’s book “This Common Secret,” which tells the story of Wicklund’s involvement with abortion as a doctor.
Planned Parenthood is a Title X clinic, meaning it gets federal funding as a family planning service. Title X clinics also include local health departments, community health centers and private non-profit clinics. In Montana, there are 28 sites, serving around 23,000 patients yearly.
The event ended with questions and an open discussion. More information about women’s health for MSU students can be found at montana.edu/women.