By Rosie Driscoll, Olivia Laura and Reid Maglione
Picture this: You’re a first-semester freshman. You’ve been on campus for three weeks, you don’t have a car and don’t know anyone well enough to ask them to drive you to a doctor’s office. You don’t feel comfortable asking your parents for help. Where do you go if you need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
The College is the only campus in New Jersey with a Planned Parenthood Health Center located on site. This means that students have access to all of the important reproductive health care that Planned Parenthood provides right on campus. The services include STD testing and treatment, pregnancy tests, counseling, pelvic exams, birth control and pap tests for cancer screenings.
Planned Parenthood is widely known for its professional, nonjudgmental and quality healthcare, and is a convenient and affordable option for students at the College.
For freshmen and other students without transportation, the on-campus Planned Parenthood health center may be their only easily accessible source of reproductive services. That’s why it matters that it not only remains open, but also have a variety of hours for students to access those services.
In 2009, Gov. Christie cut $7.45 million in funding for family planning services in New Jersey according to an article on NJ.com. This money had previously been reserved for health centers, including Planned Parenthood locations. It allowed them to provide their lifesaving services at affordable costs. The results of the funding cuts were that six New Jersey health centers closed.
Some, including our Planned Parenthood location, reduced hours and staff. This decreased the organization’s accessibility to those in need of care. Our students only have access to this convenient health care on campus three days per week. If you have classes or an internship on the few days of the week when the center is open, you may wait longer for care and put your health and future on the line.
“I needed care from Planned Parenthood, but they weren’t open on campus that day,” said a senior who chose to remain anonymous. “I don’t have a car on campus, so my friend had to drive me, and we both missed class. It would have been easier to just get what I needed on campus.”
According to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, sexually transmitted infection rates have risen 27 percent across New Jersey since family planning funding was cut. In some counties, the rate has risen nearly 50 percent according to a study done by Planned Parenthood.
This is unacceptable. If we want to reverse this trend in our state and ensure that health centers remain open and accessible, we need to step up and take action.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help restore funding to health centers. One easy way to take action is to contact your state legislators. A bill to restore funding recently passed in the state legislature, but Gov. Christie quickly vetoed it. This fall, there will likely be a vote scheduled to override his veto. Call or email your legislators’ offices and ask them to support funding for family planning services. You can find out who your legislators at njleg.state.nj.us.
Other ways to take action to support Planned Parenthood on campus include signing up to volunteer with Planned Parenthood, educating others about Planned Parenthood’s services, making sure you and your friends are registered to vote so that you can elect legislators that support reproductive health and access and following Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ (PPAFNJ) on social media to stay up to date with their current campaigns and issues.
You can also sign up to attend PPAFNJ’s Reproductive Health Summit: Student Activist Training, which is set to take place right here at the College on Wednesday, Sept. 17. There, you can learn more ways to get involved. By taking action, you help ensure that our campus health center always remains open and accessible for all students.