Students coordinate Planned Parenthood response on Facebook

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Rather than spend their Thursday lunchtime rushing inside Brooks to beat the routine noon crowd, over 90 Allegheny students dressed in orange gathered in front of the cafeteria to show their support for Planned Parenthood.

The demonstration was a response to a recent amendment to the national budget that, if ratified by the Senate, would strip the organization of hundreds of millions in federal funding.

KATRINA TULLOCH/THE CAMPUS Approximately 100 students, decked out in orange, attended a photo shoot on Thursday to show their support for Planned Parenthood after the House of Representatives voted to halt federal funding to the organization. The shoot was organized on Facebook by members of ReproCo.

The demonstration was organized by the Allegheny Reproductive Health Coalition, or ReproCo. Via Facebook invite, students were encouraged to wear orange and pose for a group picture which will then be sent to Planned Parenthood’s Facebook page in a show of solidarity.

ReproCo, a new group on campus, is working to give Allegheny students reproductive health care services by working with the Health Center to make contraception, Plan B and reproductive health exams and testing available on campus.

“There have been student movements before to get Plan B on campus, but the way in which it was approached wasn’t trying to work with administrators so much, so I think that’s been part of our success,” said Samantha Stanko, ’11.

The emphasis on spreading information through websites and Facebook is catching on among institutions like Planned Parenthood, said Maggie Rich, ’11.

“Most of the Planned Parenthood movement in response to this legislation has happened online,” said Rich. “I think they’re trying to reach our generation. If you go on Planned Parenthood’s Facebook there’s an entire album of photos documenting how people are standing with PP.”

Inspired by these photos, Rich created the “Allegheny Stands with Planned Parenthood” Facebook event, which ultimately reached about 360 Facebook members.

“Colleges are starting to participate, and I think it’d be fantastic if we were one of the first colleges to stand in solidarity in a largely conservative area of Northwestern Pennsylvania, to show that there is a bastion of students who are willing to speak up,” Rich said.

ReproCo is not the only group on campus to react to the legislation against Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.
President of the College Republicans Derek Dye, ’11, posted a “Speak Out Against Planned Parenthood” Facebook event, opposing the ReproCo event.

“There are a lot of other outlets that don’t have taxpayer-funded abortions where women can get primary care that is through federal aid, and at the state level there are health centers,” said Dye.

Dye’s alternative event takes place “in your dorm room” and encourages users to sign a petition in support of the legislation, read articles and watch videos on why PP was defunded.

Chelsea Beggs, ’12, president of the Students for Life club, said that despite providing abortions, Planned Parenthood does promote certain services that can actually support the pro-life agenda.

“I don’t feel like Planned Parenthood is entirely bad,” she said. “I’m not okay with abortion, but easier access to condoms? I think that is a fantastic idea and should be promoted. I think the idea to prevent the need for abortion or any kind of loss of life is a positive.”

Dye wants people to realize that across the board, organizations are being defunded, not just PP.

“I do think that Planned Parenthood in particular was the target in particular after the videos on,” Dye said.
“I just don’t think that [ReproCo’s] Facebook event and demonstration are necessarily going to tell that story. So that’s why we’ve created this other, sort of opposing silent protest on Facebook.”

Marc Hamerski, ‘14, agrees.

“I find no reason why we must continue to provide them with taxpayer funding,” said Hamerski. “If I can’t balance my checkbook at the end of the month, I can’t call Congress and ask for a bonus. Neither should they.”

However, not everyone protests in silence. Katie McHugh, ’13, experienced firsthand the backlash that can ensue when she posted controversial political opinions on her own Facebook page.

“Everyone’s posting things on Facebook, like, ‘Support Planned Parenthood!’ And I posted something like, no, that’s a bad idea,” said McHugh. “And people freaked out. People were like, how can you say this?”

“It’s a college campus, it’s liberal,” she said. “I’ve been very outspoken and I’ve gotten a lot of crap for it, but you can’t be surprised. If you’re not liberal, there’s a price for speaking out here.”

In spite of the personal confrontations she has encountered, McHugh is not rattled by either the bill or the shows of support for Planned Parenthood on campus.

“I think the rally will be a huge success, and everybody will go, and it will do nothing and mean nothing,” McHugh said. “Nothing will change if they protest.”

Even if it merely clicking “I’m attending” on a Facebook event or taking a picture, ReproCo still believes that their contribution can make a difference.

“A lot of the people this legislation affects are people our age,” Rich said. “People who don’t have insurance otherwise, people who are in college, people who are just starting to navigate their reproductive health. This bill is particularly important for them.”