Planned Parenthood Day of Action 2019 Reflection- Women's Caucus Chair Lauren Cuevas

Today, my fellow College Dem, Kayla, and I attended the annual Planned Parenthood Day of Action. At this event, historically, these volunteers from all over New York State have lobbied for the basic rights for all genders and sexualities on the spectrum. Reproductive Healthcare is Healthcare and Healthcare is a right, not a leisure.

That said, this year’s convention had a very different vibe, because we have flipped the house, we were able to pass the Reproductive Health Act that would ensure women’s right to an abortion if either it occurs before the end of the 24th week of the pregnancy, the abortion is necessary to protect the patient's life or health or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the ability for the fetus to survive outside the womb. In multiple cases this is a matter of life or death for a woman. The phrase “late-term” abortion is not a medical term, nor should it be used to describe abortions that take place past the 24 week period. In a lot of cases, the fetus viability is absent, meaning: the essence of life that may have been producing is no longer able to sustain itself, that said the mother will seek an abortion to avoid the physical scarring of giving birth to a stillborn child, (a dead infant, born dead) IN ADDITION to her emotional scarring of just losing a baby. It breaks my heart and frankly makes my skin boil to know that people, at times, misconstrue this information, for the benefit of their conservative party, or just for the wretched inclination to hand out disinformation. These are women’s lives, women’s lives matter, women of color are four times more likely to suffer from Maternal Mortality than their white counterpart. This is an alarming statistic and leads me into my next point.

Hundreds of volunteers split up into groups, each assigned 3-4 legislators, then we lobbied for three issues.1. Comprehensive Sex Education required by all schools in New York State 2. Maternal Mortality Rate Research Board and 3. Title X Funding. One issue I hold near and dear to my heart is the push for Comprehensive Sex Education, growing up in Texas, I was ignorant to what a healthy relationship looked like and what positive communication was. Because of this I was a victim of dating abuse, and I strongly believe this was causal. The lack of education, non-normalization and avoidance of this conversation will prove detrimental and cause lasting emotional effects. The model that Planned Parenthood has carefully curated begins in Kindergarten-Grade 3, with recognizing positive communication, acknowledging the ownership of YOUR OWN body and using correct terms when describing genitalia and reproductive organs. The loosely used “lady parts” and “male parts,” not only confuses children, but creates the feeling of shame associated with the words penis and vagina. No person should ever feel ashamed of their gender or sexual orientation, and definitely not of their own body parts. In Grades 4-6 the conversations will shift toward puberty, a positive body-image, self-management, and the difference between gender identity and the sexual orientation spectrum. In Grades 7-9, consent will continue to be explicitly defined as total agreement without hesitation, while proclaiming that at anytime

you do not feel comfortable, you have the right to say no. The introduction of all types of contraceptives will be introduced, in the grades following, the list will continue and as these young people become adults the laws and procedures will need to be shared with them. I could certainly keep going on about how much information there is to know about our bodies and how confusing a time it is for young people, but for sake of this brief, the points will all lead us to the same solution: the implementation of Comprehensive Sex Education in all schools. What better place to educate the future leaders of this world, while creating a safe environment, than the place they spend the majority of their time at. The destigmatization of menstruation and puberty for all comes with this. No young woman should feel the need to hide her tampon in her hand when she need to go to the bathroom, because it should be instilled, in all genders, that having a period is normal and healthy! I relayed this information to the assembly people I saw today and most of their reactions were of intrigue and further inquiry, but also recognition of the problem and seeing that this could be a smart resolution. We asked the three assembly people we saw today for their support when this bill reaches the floor. I thank Amy Paulin for all the hard work she has done surrounding this proposal. I also consider her a personal hero.

The Maternal Mortality rate was a surprise to all of the legislators. Why is it that black women are four times more likely to die giving birth and succeeding birth than their white counterpart? Is this in homes with a midwife? Why is New York state ranked 30th out of 50 states in their Maternal Mortality rate, when this is supposed to be the state of great medicine? Could this be malpractice? These are all questions we demand to be answered. We believe they could be answered if 8 million dollars over two years was given to a research board, so that they can collect data on this specific issue. We asked the legislators to support this budget.

As I am sure you know this Trump-Pence administration has enforced a gag-rule, that would take away all funds from Planned Parenthood. Defunding Planned Parenthood puts thousands of lives in danger. For many low-income families and low-income families of color, this is their only access to affordable health services. If this right is stripped from them, their lives will be at stake. I know many people in agreement with the gag-rule love to assume all Planned Parenthood does is abortion care, this is so far from the truth. Planned Parenthood provides a number of health services to men, women, non-binaries and members of the LGBTQIA community. Breast exams, Sexually Transmitted Infection, which can be deathly, and Sexually Transmitted Disease treatment, cancer screenings, and prenatal care, are just some of these indispensable services. We asked the assembly members to fund at least 15 million dollars toward Planned Parenthood if this administration defunds us in total.

I hope I have enlightened you or maybe refreshed you on what is at stake, even though the RHA was passed, the fight has just begun, for women, men, non-binary, the LGBTQIA community, for people

of color, and for queer people of color’s lives. For OUR lives. WE matter and we demand our safety to be taken into account. I applaud the New York State Senate, Governor Cuomo and all those advocates who voted in favor of the people, for all their hard work and cooperation centered around healthcare and I thank them for allowing me, my colleague and Planned Parenthood to speak on behalf of the millions who could not make it to The Capitol today.

Xox,

Lauren Cuevas
Women’s Caucus Chair of College Democrats of New York

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