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‘Reproductive Justice’ forum attracts large crowd at Sierra College

Panelists spoke about healthcare access, abortion
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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A panel of experts shared about reproductive issues facing women to a packed house at Sierra College Thursday. The topics, ranging from healthcare access to abortion, zeroed in on some of the social and political factors that impact women’s health. Some students said they were glad to hear the viewpoints represented, while others said they would have liked to hear more of a balance between pro life and pro choice viewpoints. The speakers said while people may have different opinions, openly discussing issues regarding women’s health is crucial. Liz Figueroa, vice president of public affairs for California Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and former state senator, said she was taught growing up not to discuss sex, politics or religion, but has learned that dialoguing about these topics is central to creating change. “Those are three subjects that now dominate every aspect of my life in women’s health,” Figueroa said. ““How much money is made in advertising based on a woman’s body? But heaven forbid those women’s breasts get cancer, heaven forbid another part of her body gets cancer or some dysfunction. Then all of a sudden society pushes you away.” Megan Seeley, a sociology and women’s study professor at Sierra College, said while issues regarding women’s health have been thrust into the media lately, the speakers were confirmed over a year ago. “It is interesting that we have seen this topic explode in the last couple of weeks, but we chose to focus on this almost a year ago,” Seeley said. “It is also an issue that is very relevant to our students today that are exploring their own options and their own reproductive health.” Topics of abortion, rural healthcare addressed The panel tackled a variety of health topics, including abortion. They said outlawing abortion was not a solution because many women have died in the past trying to get illegal abortions in the past. Aside from issues of abortion, the speakers covered many other topics. Jan Flint Robinson, executive director of Black Women for Wellness Los Angeles, said she had a friend who died of cervical cancer, despite the fact that it is highly curable and detectable, because she didn’t have access to healthcare to detect it sooner. “If we don’t provide healthcare services, we will have death and dying,” Robinson said. “After you vote, hold your elected officials accountable. Show up at their office. Give them a report card.” Other topics of contention were the $50 price tag on Plan B emergency contraception and the lack of healthcare access in rural areas. Sharon O’Hara, vice president of Nevada County Citizen’s for Choice said the forum was important. She said options for those who have no insurance or are underinsured are limited in Nevada County and the Auburn-area. “The reason it’s important is the audience and the chance to educate people who are still questioning or making up their mind,” O’Hara said. “What I want to get out of it was to be a voice the for the small entity, the grassroots entity. We need to bring reproductive health to everyone.” Mixed reactions to discussion The audience was allowed to write questions for the panel to answer, which ranged from a variety of topics. Shannon Bradley, 28, and a student at Sierra College, said she was glad to hear someone talking about the issues so openly because she has come across many people in Placer County who do not support abortion. Regardless of views on abortion, Bradley said topics related to women’s health affect everyone “It’s important that we broadcast these voices and given that it’s Placer County it’s important that we give that opportunity to all,” Bradley said. “We all are a woman or came from a woman.” Reyes Ortega, a counselor and history professor at Sierra College, was a coordinator of the event, which is a part of the Cesar Chavez Higher Education Speaker Series. “This particular topic of reproductive justice is close to everyone, man or woman,” Ortega said. Katie Graves, a Sierra College student, said she was disappointed that none of the speakers represented a pro life viewpoint. She said while the forum was interesting and she kept an open mind, it was overtly biased. “I believe they underrepresented pro life viewpoints, therefore ideas are misconstrued gravely and there is an unfair advantage to pro choice activists,” Graves said. “To balance it would have been appropriate.” On the contrary, Miranda Lanon, a supporter of Citizens for Choice and member of Planned Parenthood, said she was disappointed to see so many pro life supporters opposed to the speakers’ message. “I was actually kind of appalled at how many anti-choice people came to specifically oppose the speakers, but the panelists were all great,” Lanon said. “I think they were really informative about the current state of women’s reproductive health and the availability or lack thereof.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.