Geneseo’s Women’s Action Coalition held the their annual Cultural Dinner with the theme of “Winter Wonderland” on Saturday Dec. 5. The occasion not only provided attendees with a delicious holiday meal, but also an educational talk from guest speaker and President of Rochester’s chapter of National Organization for Women Jaclyn Richards.
The festively decorated MacVittie College Union Ballroom was buzzing with conversation as seasonal music played. WAC president junior Maya Lucyshyn took the stage to introduce the start of the event and thank all who attended. The night progressed as dinner was served, which consisted of salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a choice of apple or pecan pie for dessert.
After the meal, Richards began her talk on the importance of reproductive rights, especially in a college environment. She explained how NOW is a volunteer-based healthcare organization for women that focuses on six core issues: reproductive rights and justice, ending violence against women, economic justice, Constitutional equality, rights of the LGBTQ+ community and racial justice. Richards explained that the basic premise behind reproductive rights is to have legal access to information and assistance concerning reproductive health.
Richards emphasized that women’s reproductive rights are dismally represented in government because of the lack of female figures in office and the small number of voters supporting equal reproductive rights.
“We must take a stand, or else who will stand up for us?” she said. Richards added that without this representation, women will no longer have the choice of reproductive health. She specifically cited the example of Texas’ recent threat to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.
There has been recent controversy over Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services among other claims. Planned Parenthood offers many other services, however, such as contraceptive help, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing and other resources for healthful improvement and support. Nevertheless, many still see it as an unjustifiable use of government funding. A number of these individuals are also strong supporters of abstinence—an idea with which Richards expressed her disagreement.
“Abstinence isn’t real,” she said. “[Abstinence] may be the best birth control, but we are all sexual beings.” She explained that she encourages women to be proactive with their sexual health and to seek the assistance of a health facility like Planned Parenthood for safe contraceptives.
Once Richards finished her speech, she sat down for a question and answer session with audience members. Each table had slips of paper with a set of questions dealing with the ideas of feminism, reproductive rights and other women’s health issues which helped spark conversation.
Richards expanded on one of the slips’ questions about the many misconceptions about women’s reproductive rights. She discussed the notion that girls believe they do not have rights if they are under the age of 18—which is not always true. These adolescents can find medical help and support without parent permission depending on their situation. For some, they can receive court permission if below state age requirements.
She continued on to add that many people fail to realize that technology has vastly improved from past generations. For example, intrauterine devices have become much more hygienic and the resulting risks from use have been minimized.
Richards described her experience with joining the NOW community as a positive thing because it gave her the chance to help others by providing support and education. “We can’t judge each other; we have to love, teach and help everyone,” she said. “Do a positive thing, send love into the universe.”
When asked what motivated her involvement, Richards responded, “Being a woman.”