The recent drafted opinion of Supreme Court Justice Alito is a dark harbinger of what lies ahead for women’s right to make decisions about their health. As the program coordinator for Island Reproductive Health Initiative, I’d like to let the community know where we stand.
For folks who are unfamiliar with the Island Reproductive Health Initiative, here’s just a brief overview. Back in 2010 several teen pregnancies prompted concerned islanders to look into a way to provide free access to women for reproductive healthcare, prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI) and educate our teens to share factual sexual health information with their peers. Because we did not have the funding to open a Planned Parenthood office on Orcas, IRHI was formed as a non-profit with generous donations from our community. We cover the cost of STI testing for women and men, the cost of birth control prescriptions, pregnancy tests and we distribute condoms at 7 locations on Orcas. Over the past 10 years we’ve paid almost $20,000 for reproductive healthcare services to our islanders. Not bad for a grass roots group that started with just $2,500 in the bank.
It is disturbing to imagine that women’s rights to choose may be extinguished and left to the States to decide. Luckily we live in a state that allows women to make their own decisions about their bodies. However, IRHI does not advocate or pay for abortion. Our emphasis has always been about preventing pregnancies. And the way we do that is through our teen education program. It’s not just about safe sex; it’s about teaching our high school students about how to make thoughtful and respectful decisions in their relationships, with factual information about sexual health. We are committed to providing timely, confidential and free reproductive healthcare to those who qualify, regardless of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Program Coordinator, IRHI