Alya Bohr ’19 Engages is Advocacy, Healthcare and Education at Planned Parenthood in Walla Walla, WA

Well, it’s not news: women’s reproductive healthcare is hanging by a thread in our country. Planned Parenthood, in particular, is the target of a barrage of government efforts to shut down or defund reproductive health centers. As it turns out, I walked into the Planned Parenthood office to begin my internship mere days after the Trump administration had announced one such piece of targeted legislation: the “gag rule.”

The gag rule removes Title X funding from any healthcare organization that so much as mentions abortion as an option (thus preventing healthcare providers from honestly discussing a patient’s full range of options). It’s intentionally targeted at Planned Parenthood, which relies heavily on Title X funding to offer healthcare to people from low-income communities. Without this funding, un- or underinsured individuals would be unable to access affordable reproductive healthcare. Long story short: the gag rule sucks.

Now, let’s rewind a year. Spring semester of my sophomore year, I took a class on U.S. public policy regarding race and gender. This class followed shortly on the heels of a tumultuous fall semester largely defined by the election of Donald Trump. In this class, we each narrowed our focus on one particular piece of legislation that Trump had threatened to pass (or had already passed) in his first 100 days of presidency. I chose to focus on the gag rule.

So you can imagine my surprise when my supervisor emailed me just a few days before my internship began with an article detailing Trump’s announcement of the gag rule. In this moment, my academic studies came alive—the issues I had been reading and writing about in class were brought right under my nose in the Real World.

Given that Planned Parenthood responds actively to measures passed by the government, my internship has largely been shaped by the announcement of the gag rule. I’ve attended webinars detailing the organization’s strategic responses to the rule. I’ve run the social media accounts for Whitman’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action Club with a particular emphasis on the gag rule. I’ve taken minutes during public affairs meetings that focused on developing concrete next steps in the fight against the rule (here’s an easy one for all you readers: write a comment to the Department Health and Human Services).

But there are three prongs to Planned Parenthood’s work—advocacy, healthcare, and education—and, in addition to advocacy work, I’ve also been dabbling in the education prong. I’ve rifled through old handbooks to create projects and curriculum for Planned Parenthood Generation Action clubs on college campuses. I’ve provided information on healthcare services at a citizenship clinic for undocumented immigrants. I’ve met with Walla Walla High School’s Girls League about getting better sex-ed in their classrooms.

My job is a lot of this, that, and the other thing. It’s writing thank you letters to donors and it’s marching and tabling and handing out PP swag at Walla Walla’s first ever Pride March. Each project, even the small ones like rebranding a logo because the specific color of purple used is now “off brand,” really and truly matter. This internship has been a much-needed reminder that political engagement, action, and knowledge don’t just exist in the classroom. The old adage is more than true: the personal is always political.

Check out some of the social media posts I’ve been working on! Facebook: Planned Parenthood Generation Action Whitman. Instagram: @ppgawhitman

Experiences like Alya’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.

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