Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Huskies for Reproductive Health

Posted on November 12, 2016 in Community
By USM Free Press

By Johnna Ossie, Free Press News editor

On Wednesday night in Luther Bonney, seven students sat in a circle with Assistant Dean of Students and Title IX coordinator Sarah Holmes, and gave their names and the pronouns they use for themselves. They are the Huskies for Reproductive Health (HRH), a USM Student Organization whose goal is to help USM students stay sexually healthy and know their options for sexual health services. This could include where to get access to free condoms, where to get STI screenings or resources offered by the USM health center and Planned Parenthood.

Holmes led the group through a series of exercises designed to look at what she called the Gender Unicorn, which looked at sex assigned at birth, gender identity, gender expression and sexual and romantic attraction. The exercise was designed to have students look at gender and sexuality as a spectrum, explore their own identity, and understand that everyone’s Gender Unicorn looks different. Buttons were passed around that read, “Ask me about my pronouns!”

After Holmes’ was finished, a representative from Planned Parenthood spoke with the group about the most effective practices at tabling events, and explained how to assist other students with registering to vote, as well as how vote via an absentee ballot.

The Planned Parenthood representative emphasized that reproductive health and reproductive justice don’t always fall along bipartisan political lines. Laughing, she reminded the group that both Democrats and Republicans need reproductive health care. One of HRH’s goals is to get students involved in politics and to support politicians that support reproductive rights and reproductive justice, whether they are Democrat or Republican.

Emma Donnelly, a sophomore with a double major in women and gender studies and social work, is the president of HRH. At the meeting, Donnelly wore a shirt with the word “FEMINIST” written in block letters across the front.

Donnelley wants students to remember that reproductive health care is just a regular part of health care, and she wants students to have access to the resources and knowledge they need to take care of themselves. USM has resources to test students for sexually transmitted infections, and many don’t know they have access to that on campus.

“Reproductive health affects everyone,” she said. “In fact, one in two people who are sexually active will have an STD by the time they are 25. Not to mention, one fourth of all college-aged students already have an STD.”

Donnelly also discussed that one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is an incredibly stigmatized and polarizing topic, but the numbers show that one third of women will need to have the procedure at some point, and Donnelly wants to make sure those women have access to safe and affordable care.

“It’s important to keep abortion safe and legal,” she said.

Right now the group consists of mostly women, but Donnelly says they are hoping to get a larger variety of people involved. The members’ majors range from women and gender studies to math to health and sciences, and these members bring a variety of experience to the group.

This semester they have been focusing on the upcoming election, doing phone banking as well as working to register students to vote. Donnelly stressed the importance of students caring about and partaking in politics, as well as remembering to vote in local elections, which can have a large impact.

“I hope that we elect officials, at a local, state, and national level who defend Planned Parenthood’s values and protect the people of this country,” she said. “I also really hope that people look into who their local candidates are and get energized about electing officials to their state legislature.”

HRH has many community events coming up in the following weeks and months on campus. In October, they will be hosting a Sex Trivia night as well as celebrating the centennial of Planned Parenthood. They will also be tabling for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 27.

Students who wish to get involved can attend meetings on the Gorham and/or Portland campus. The group switches between the two campuses weekly, meeting in Luther Bonney 302 on the Portland campus or Bailey 113 on the Gorham campus. Meetings are held on Wednesdays and start at 8 p.m. Emma Donnelly can be reached at emma.donnelly@maine.edu.

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