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The Carletonian

Campus prepares for threats to birth control

<f the Trump campaign’s anti-choice rhetoric, student organizations, SHAC and the GSC have raised and pondered many questions and concerns about what the Trump administration means for women’s access to reproductive care, birth control, and abortion.

The first executive order President Donald Trump signed on Friday, January 20 was directed at scaling back the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I think that we all felt really gutted. I know I did. It was scary,” said Maggie Goldberger ’19, a co-president of Pro-Choice MN on campus, about Trump’s election. “We’re not a single issue group because we are not single issue people, so there were a lot of things that we’re really concerned about, but especially as a group, just sort of the future of especially the Affordable Care Act and birth control mandate, just access to abortion services, birth control, the Supreme Court. A lot of things that we were afraid of, we’re still afraid of.”

Groups concerned with sexuality, access to reproductive healthcare resources, pro-choice activism and more have been impacted by the new administration, highlighting the urgency with which Carleton students confront these issues.

“I’ve seen that in a lot of different areas, but I think the election really got people–I don’t know, people aren’t complacent anymore,” Goldberger said. “I think there was this feeling that [the issue of choice] maybe was not the most pressing thing to be concerned about.”

After the election, Pro-Choice MN saw a spike in student involvement, after the club was struggling with involvement prior to the Trump administration.

“Now that I think these attacks on choice feel very real and very scary and right there, we just have a lot more people power, which allows us to do a lot more action, which is great,” said Goldberger. Kate Hoeting ’19, a member of the Carleton Advocacy Network of Doulas (CANDo), reflected on how the Trump administration has impacted student involvement in CANDo.

“We have so many Doulas,” said Hoeting.  “Our class meeting last week had 18 attendees. So clearly in the wake of Trump’s election, people are really trying to dig their hands into this issue, and becoming a doula is one way you can make a tangible impact. And people are definitely attracted to that.”

Hoeting emphasized the lack of abortion clinics in Minnesota and noted that CANDo is working towards creating a relationship with SHAC that will allow for more visibility and information about abortion services in Minnesota to students who need them.

From the Student Wellness Advocate (SWA) perspective, Alexa Botelho emphasized that the SWA program is focusing on pregnancy prevention and providing information about birth control.

“It’s something that’s important to speak to a provider about,” Botelho  says. “Obviously with Trump’s administration, that’s what people are worried about. For [the SWAs], we will continue to support that and I think now besides providing people with condoms and information, we will refer people to the SHAC who then will decide, ‘Ok we can help prescribe this.’”

According to SHAC’s Natalee Johnson, an Advanced Practice Nurse and Coordinator of Medical Services, SHAC offers birth control pills at a monthly rate of $10 and emergency contraception for $15. In addition, Johnson noted that SHAC is well-versed in helping students find and determine insurance coverage for intrauterine devices (IUDs), which “have a 99% satisfaction rate because they’re forgettable, long-acting, reversible contraception.”

“So we just help [students] explore all their options to access, and we’re committed to staying current to that in the changing times right now, and it’s something we’ve always been committed to, even before the Affordable Care Act,” Johnson said. “This is a key issue with this population, is to make sure they can avoid unintended pregnancies, because most of the students we see here would prefer to not be pregnant.”

In light of the new administration’s actions against the ACA, Johnson expressed some surprise. “I mean, I didn’t predict this sort of blast of dismantling so many things.” According to Johnson, women on campus are worried that, given the Trump administration’s unpredictability, birth control access could change at a moment’s notice.

“I do have women … requesting to get long-acting reversible contraception so that they don’t have to worry if things change quickly, but right now things are stable on that front, and we are still having women come in, and we’re getting their IUDs placed on their insurance, and it’s not problematic,” Johnson said.

Johnson also emphasized that SHAC always tries to follow and make affordable any updates in the reproductive health field. “We like to make sure we’re really staying current and accurate with the new research, and even though birth control’s been around a long time, we really know that it’s still a dynamic field and we keep abreast of all of that,” said Johnson.

While access to birth control and health services is one part of the equation, Laura Haave, Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), emphasized that social justice and conversations about these issues are also important to consider.

“I see SHAC as providing healthcare, clinical services,” said Haave. “I think that a counterpoint to that is giving people the opportunity not just to access care and services and contraception and STI testing, things like that, but also the ability to be informed about those choices, and be able to think about their own values, society’s values, critique how access to reproductive services is or is not provided, at Carleton or in the community at large.”

Programs like the Rainbow Retreat, and student-run discussion groups like FemSex and MSex, offer opportunities to have conversations about these pressing issues, which may have a new emphasis or importance in light of the new administration.

“The programs [the GSC] does might not change, but the need for them or how they’re perceived on campus, I think it just puts an entirely different context or frame around what we’re doing,” said Haave. “We’re not suddenly creating a new program to address all these things. These issues existed before this administration and they are going to continue to exist.”

Stripped, a GSC-sponsored performance happening Saturday, February 25, tells the stories surrounding the intersecting topics of bodies, sexuality, healthcare access, and more. In light of the Trump administration’s actions, the production this year feels especially poignant. While these issues, as Haave put it, have always been a priority for the GSC, “it’s even more essential to tell those stories now, and I think it is even more healing and connecting to hear them spoken out loud.”

Sarah Kochanek ’18, co-producer of Stripped this year, reflected on how the show’s emphasis on the “intersectionality of experiences” makes the production feel especially urgent this year.

“I think a lot of times there are struggles or experiences that go unnoticed by the majority of people, and that can make someone feel alone in their experience,” said Kochanek. “Hopefully, seeing Stripped will demonstrate to Carleton that it’s alright to not only talk about these issues, but important to everyone, even people we see every day on campus, to fight for reproductive rights, healthcare specifically for marginalized groups, and issues like those.”

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