The relentless winds and hail pebbles in 35-degree weather did not stop the crowd of students and faculty from gathering at 3 p.m. April 7 at the Free Speech Rock to stand in support of Planned Parenthood.
The rally was organized in February through Facebook by senior Christina Tudor and sophomore Tatiana Jorio, who are the heads of Ithaca College’s chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, a group advocating for greater awareness of reproductive rights. Students and faculty, including Carla Golden, professor in the Department of Psychology and coordinator of women’s and gender studies, and Title IX Coordinator Tiffani Ziemann, spoke at the rally while those in the audience snapped and cheered.
The rally was prompted by the looming threats and attempts made by the Trump administration to defund Planned Parenthood, club members said. The goal was to educate students and members of the Ithaca community about the effects of the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, and why it is important to speak out against the threat of doing so, Jorio said.
“I think the goal of this rally is just to have more of a conversation about reproductive freedom and also sexual violence on our campus,” Jorio said. “The defunding of Planned Parenthood will be affecting real people, and it will be affecting us if it isn’t already, so I think it’s just really important to have these sort of discussions not just in an academic setting.”
Many speakers talked about sexual assault and domestic abuse, since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and how Planned Parenthood is a resource used by many victims and survivors of assault. Victims of rape and assault often use services provided by Planned Parenthood, such as its Sexual Assault Resource Center, Ziemann said.
“If there’s one thing that I learned from my job, it’s the importance of letting people understand their options,” Ziemann said. “That’s exactly what Planned Parenthood does. It helps [assault victims] make informed decisions, and I can’t imagine a world without Planned Parenthood.”
Christie Taylor, a staff member at the Ithaca College Advocacy Center — a free support, advocacy and education service provided by the college for survivors and victims of assault — said she stands with Planned Parenthood because she knows students who do not know about the Advocacy Center and therefore have used services provided by Planned Parenthood. She also said that as a woman who has used Planned Parenthood services since childhood through adulthood, she knows how important it is to her health.
Sophomore Charlotte Hadley said she knows many people are unaware of the services Planned Parenthood provides and that safe sex and reproductive–health issues are not discussed on college campuses, which she said upsets her because students are not properly educated about sex.
“People don’t know what Planned Parenthood is,” Hadley said. “This doesn’t get talked about in a school setting, and it shouldn’t be this way on a college campus, where sexual activity is so prevalent.”
Planned Parenthood provides general health care, including anemia testing, cholesterol screenings, diabetes screening, physical exams, flu vaccines, help with quitting smoking, high blood pressure screening, tetanus vaccines and thyroid screening. Planned Parenthood also provides sexual and reproductive services, including abortions, birth control and emergency contraception. These services are used by both men and women.
Tompkins County has a Planned Parenthood located in downtown Ithaca, and Tudor said as a former volunteer and intern for Planned Parenthood, she often saw local patients’ using Planned Parenthood services because they had low incomes and it was the only place for them to get the help they needed.
Students expressed concern about the Trump administration’s actions to defund Planned Parenthood, like the Republican Health Care Bill and the negative rhetoric surrounding women’s health issues.
“We need to stand together with Planned Parenthood as it is under attack from our administration,” Jorio said.
Junior Aria Collins said she is protesting because she is furious that men are the ones signing in these laws, which prevent women from having autonomy over their own bodies, and she does not want the conversation about women’s reproductive rights to end at this rally.
“I stand with Planned Parenthood because brilliant and strong women before us fought for us,” Collins said. “It is not fair for a group of men to decide our fate. Don’t let the conversation stop here at this rally.”
The fight for women’s reproductive right is a large ongoing issue, and Golden said she is shocked and upset that in her older age, she is still fighting for the same rights.
“I am the oldest person here, and I relate to those signs that say, ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit,’” she said.