“Insurance companies like birth control because it’s cheaper than paying for a baby,” said Dan Buck, a representative and employee of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice Minnesota at the Safer Sex, Birth Control and Sex Positivity Panel hosted by Mac Activists for Choice on Tues., April 23.
This panel was a follow-up to the Menstrual Health Panel, and geared toward all genders and sexual orientations.
“The first one was a way to talk about things not talked about, the second panel came out of questions from the other panel,” Wren Brennan ’13, Co-Chair of Mac Activists for Choice, said. “Once people got some information, they wanted a follow-up to answer some questions they had.”
Common student questions involved how to switch birth control methods and what was available option-wise to students from out of state.
To address the students’ information needs, panelists included Dan Buck from NARAL, Natalie Harter, the Clinical Operations Director at the Family Tree Clinic, and Kyle Meerkins, who works specifically with youth at the Family Tree Clinic.
The three were selected for their expertise and ability to debunk myths surrounding sexual health.
One of the first topics addressed was what to discuss with a health care provider or a patient educator.
“The main thing you want to talk about initially is health,” Harter said. “There are some things that would make some methods inappropriate, so talk about how long you want something to last and be honest about what you are looking for, and they will be able to help you find the best option available to you.”
Family Tree Clinic is a nonprofit community clinic governed with a mission to provide quality, confidential reproductive and sexual health care services to diverse communities.
“I think we are all kind of sick of the heteronormativity in preventative care, but we try to make sure things are inclusive to everyone,” Meerkins said. “We are all about meeting people where they are at and talking about things the way they want to talk about it.”
The clinic, which has been in operation since 1971, provides medical, educational and referral services to many different groups, maintains a commitment to reproductive freedom and provides service in a manner that maximizes patient access to all legal medical options.
Harter and Meerkins also addressed that many Macalester students meet the income guidelines set by The Minnesota Family Planning Program (MFPP) and are therefore eligible to receive free family planning services, which includes free birth control and yearly exams at Family Tree.
Buck talked about birth control policy and price changes that will go into effect under Obamacare.
“Affordability is one of the best things about this. Obamacare is making birth control affordable once you have insurance,” Buck said. “Getting insurance might be another thing, but once you have insurance and are covered, you are good.”
Buck also reminded the audience that NARAL is actively fighting for pro-choice legislation and policy, and he stressed the importance of petitions and elections.
“Elections matter,” Buck said. “If we don’t have good people at the Capitol, we can’t stop bad things from happening, and those petitions always going around are important for you to sign because they demonstrate public approval.”
There were also four student panelists: Ilana Master ’14, Kate Gallagher ’16, Charlie Carter ’13, and Ted Metz ’13. All of these panelists chose to participate after responding to an email Mac Activists for Choice sent out to students they had seen at previous events and others they thought would be willing to talk in public about the topic.
The student panel discussed the beginnings of their sexual education, myths they have heard about protection and some shared personal experiences with emergency contraception.
Then the audience took a turn sharing personal stories about sexual health, and were able to write questions on note cards and hand them to the moderator to ask of the panel.
“We had a lot of questions from the audience, and the notecards provided an anonymous way to open up more questions,” Brennan said. “The fact that people asked questions shows it was a successful event.”
Mac Activists for Choice hopes to host similar forum events in the future, and will most likely host another Menstrual Health and Safer Sex, Birth Control and Sex Positivity Panel next year.
“Mac is a pretty liberal campus and students are open to conversation about sex, but there are still stereotypes that are pretty pervasive for kids our age,” Brennan said. “We want to provide a space for dialogue and encourage people to have a conversation instead of assuming it is already a part of the conversation, when in fact it might not be.”