December 5, 2020

National student-run groups push for pro-choice, pro-life advocacy

In Missouri, young adults are leading groups focused on reproductive health.

In a state with only one abortion provider, young-adult led groups are taking reproductive health care into their own hands.

Students for Life of America works with schools across the country to achieve its mission plan: to recruit, train and mobilize a pro-life generation. It’s groups like Students for Life that Medical Students for Choice resist. Medical Students for Choice, a national organization with over 220 chapters, works to ensure that medical students get educated on abortion.

At a protest outside a new Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Illinois, 28-year-old Reagan Barklage hoisted a sonogram of her unborn son above her head. She shouted to an agreeable crowd from a podium.

“Planned Parenthood does not help women,” Barklage said. “They see women like me with their unborn children as walking dollar signs.”

As the Western Regional Director of Students for Life, Barklage said she sees Planned Parenthood as nothing but a profit-seeking machine.

“The abortion industry targets our generation, so we are the ones facing the brunt of abortion and the aftermath,” Barklage said.

Members of Medical Students for Choice work to defend Planned Parenthood, according to Morgan Timm.

“We’re so focused on making sure Planned Parenthood can continue to provide women with the care they need,” Timm said. “We think it’s really unfortunate that there are groups or individuals in the state who think they can take this medical option away.”

Reagan Barklage holds a sonogram of her unborn son during a protest outside of the then-new Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Illinois. Photo by Monica Obradovic.

Anna Holten and Timm, both medical students at Washington University in St. Louis, head the local chapter of Medical Students for Choice.

Nationally, the organization makes sure medical students get the education they want, especially when it comes to alternatives to birth in dangerous situations for mothers.

Holten said a lot of schools do not teach about abortion and contraception as much as medical students may need. At a local level, her chapter of Medical Students for Choice mainly organizes abortion advocacy events or collaborate protests with Planned Parenthood. They’ve also testified during hearings in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Students for Life works with students through middle school and college ages because they make up Planned Parenthood’s target market, Barklage said.

The majority of women who have abortions are age 18 to 26, according to the Centers for Disease Control. At a Students for Life rally at the new Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Illinois last fall, Barklage voiced her frustration from a podium. One of Students for Life’s rallying cries is that 76% of Planned Parenthood facilities are placed within 5 miles of a college campus.

Barklage cited how Planned Parenthood has had 75 ambulances called to its St. Louis facility since 2009. She said Planned Parenthood does not help women, even considering the health care options it offers.

“They are set up in a way to where they go in and they provide birth control, so when a woman becomes pregnant, she’s going to go back to the force that provided her with help in the first place,” Barklage said. “It’s all a strategic business model, and it’s just a cycle unfortunately.”

Both Holten and Timm view abortion as health care.

“I don’t think there’s even an argument to be made whether abortion is health care,” Holten said.

Not only does Timm see abortion as health care, but said it’s her responsibility to educate her patient population on abortion since about half of it is made up of women.

“As future medical care providers, we believe it is the medical field’s responsibility to provide women with the most comprehensive information, which includes telling them about abortion care,” Timm said.

Barklage said she was disappointed to hear about the new Fairview Heights facility Planned Parenthood built in secret, but that she wasn’t surprised.

“They’re just a shady business, and they do things quietly,” Barklage said.

As a mother of two young boys, Barklage said she hopes someday they’ll live in a world where
“life isn’t a choice.”

 

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