Two weeks ago, UC Santa Barbara Planned Parenthood Generation Action President June Padera spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the Santa Barbara Women’s March, passionately decrying the overturning of landmark supreme court case Roe v. Wade.
“We are the first generation of women in a long time to grow up with fewer rights to our own bodies than our mothers did. That makes me incredibly angry, and I’m sure that makes you angry, too,” Padera, a second-year biopsychology major, said to the group.
In an interview with the Nexus, Padera discussed how her work with Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) aims to educate UCSB students on the issues of reproductive justice that she — alongside other community leaders and female activists — brought to the forefront at the march.
“For me, it’s an ideology thing. I think that, no matter what, we live in the United States, and I think that one of the main tenets here is having freedom and autonomy over your own body,” she said. “That right should apply to everyone, not just to those who can’t get pregnant.”
PPGA — a campus organization funded by Planned Parenthood — hopes to inform students about the issues women and non-men face when attempting to receive abortions or exercise bodily autonomy not just in California, but nationwide.
“Here, in California, we have [Proposition] 1, which protects our right to have and use contraception or abortion as a method of family planning. And, it also, just in general, protects everyone who can get pregnant from having to carry a child or be forced to end the pregnancy against their will,” Padera said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case in all states, but as we’re seeing that rhetoric is starting to carry over in the states where abortion is legal.”
The group hosts biweekly meetings where issues of reproductive justice — including legal local, state and federal challenges to bodily autonomy — are discussed, tables regularly to promote safe sex information and attends local advocacy events for reproductive justice.
“A lot of our meetings are focused on providing accurate information about sex,” Padera said. “UCSB is kind of known for its hookup culture … So, we want to make sure that if that’s something you choose to engage in, you’re doing that safely and with consent.”
Second-year English and communication double major Evelyn Thurman, PPGA’s co-social media manager, said that her experience with abstinence-only sex education at her Catholic high school made her realize the importance of advocacy for comprehensive sex education.
“We were taught that abstinence is the only option, which is obviously not too pertinent to too many people’s lives, especially in college. So, I think just hearing that in high school really sparked a flame in me because I think it’s so important that we educate young people on safer sex practices, whether that’s having to do with STDs, preventing pregnancy, etc. because I really didn’t get to have that education,” she said.
PPGA provides free condoms, dental dams and lube to people all across campus with the hope of bringing STD rates down and keeping the campus community safe. According to Thurman, this is of particular importance because of the UCSB campus’s “extremely high” STD rates.
“I think our goal with that is two things: Number one, we want to obviously make the resource actually available. But then, also, we just want to educate people because a lot of people don’t know that things like oral sex can lead to transmission of STDs, and a lot of people don’t even know that things like dental dams exist,” she said.
Additionally, PPGA hosts a weekly “condom fairies” tradition, Padera said.
“We put on fairy wings, we go down DP on Friday nights, and we hand condoms, safer sex goodie bags, stuff like that,” she explained.
PPGA works to fulfill its mission of promoting safe sex and sex education with the help of the national Planned Parenthood organization, which serves as its sponsor.
“We get all of our funding from Planned Parenthood through a grant that they really generously supply, so we actually don’t get any money from UCSB itself. And, we also get all of our safer sex supplies, condoms, dental dams, all that stuff from Planned Parenthood,” she said.
Both Padera and Thurman emphasized the importance of community-building advocacy events like the women’s march as a way to facilitate conversation and empowerment.
“I think it’s a morale booster as well. I always feel better after going to those things because it’s not just me screaming into the void. There’s 400 other people here who are also saying the same thing — with variation, I’m sure — but fighting for the same core tenets,” Padera said.
Thurman concurred, noting that the women’s march brought together women and non-men of all ages, united by the common goal of protecting abortion rights.
“Something that really touched me, too, is that there were people of every age demographic at that march. There were people probably well into their 80s and then people probably as young as one or two; there were babies there. So, it was just such a heartfelt experience,” she said.