Women’s health and reproductive health services are vitally important to the large majority of Pierce students.
More than half of Pierce’s students are female, and many college students are sexually active. In order to monitor their physical health and make responsible decisions about sex and parenthood, they need to have access to information, medical services and other tools such as condoms and STD testing.
The Office of Student Life has maintained a relationship with Planned Parenthood in order to facilitate access to these resources. Planned Parenthood provides condoms to the college, which are dispensed to students free of charge at the Student Programs office in room C210. The Post featured a front-page article on Planned Parenthood’s Where Did You Wear It program last year, a program that encourages condom use.
When Pierce hosts student events with a health component, Planned Parenthood often has a representative on campus to answer questions and provide information about its services.
While few would openly question the importance of access to women’s health and reproductive health services, regardless of income, some people question the appropriateness of the college’s affiliation with Planned Parenthood.
Its policy of providing free access to contraceptive and abortion services “no questions asked” doesn’t sit well with those who consider premarital sex sinful or abortion to be immoral.
Officials may argue that alternative providers, perhaps from religious organizations, can provide just as well for students sexual health needs and offer counseling on sexual behavior.
I believe Pierce College has made the right choice.
The first priority should be to the student’s well-being, and Planned Parenthood is in the best position to provide information.
Women’s health is the primary focus of the organization, and staff members knowledgeable and qualified.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Federal Way, Tacoma and Puyallup offer a full range of services from birth control to breast exams and, yes, abortions at low costs with prompt appointments. In contrast, of the federally qualified health centers in the county, none focus on women’s health, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many don’t provide reproductive health services at all, and others are often booked solid for months. They are hardly an adequate alternative.
The problem with religious organizations providing sexual health services is that their first priority is not necessarily the health of the patient. Saving souls takes priority over healing bodies.
Sometimes, contraception or abortion would be in a woman’s best interests.
It’s not the place of health providers to ask their patients to consider religious precepts over their own interests.
Another issue is that of the First Amendment. Since Pierce College is state-funded, funding or preferring any religion would be illegal, and it could be dicey to put such organizations in a position to proselytize to vulnerable students.
Planned Parenthood is the right choice for students’ health, and I appreciate Pierce College putting the students first in partnering with them.
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