Reproductive rights issues may attract young people to register for midterms

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Reproductive rights advocates believe young people hold a key to keeping abortion legal in Michigan.

President Trump has said he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who are pro-life, which advocates worry could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote soon on conservative U.S. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Robert Kennedy.

If Roe v. Wade were reversed, individual states would decide their own future of abortion rights. With Michigan’s legislative majority favoring anti-abortion positions, the state is at a high risk of diminishing the right to abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

At a state level, it is vital to “elect legislature or gubernatorial candidates who will protect reproductive rights,” said Ruth Lednicer, director of communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

Lednicer predicts young people will have the biggest impact on the general election on Nov. 6.

“I think young people could be what turns the tide this election and actually start righting the ship and making people understand that we are a fair and equitable society,” she said.

She encourages young people to show up to voting booths and to make their voice heard. 

By voting, Lednicer said, citizens inform elected officials and their community what is important to them. It’s a way for people to do their part in the country.

“This is a participatory democracy, which means you have to show up,” Lednicer said. “And if you leave it to someone else to do it for you, then you have no ability to complain about what’s happening.”

On MSU’s campus, student engagement efforts for reproductive rights are pursued through Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA). The newly developed organization received around 150 emails after Sparticipation, said PPGA President Emily Kurjan, a genomics and molecular genetics senior.

Gina Navaroli

Emily Kurjan posing in Starbucks located in East Lansing, Mich.

“We already have people reaching out to join,” Kurjan said. “It’s really cool to see this many people interested where their voices weren’t really heard before, because they didn’t have an outlet for it.”

To reach young voters, she said it is vital for them to understand issues that are important to them and to develop a connection to those issues.

Having the right people in office will impact those issues, she said.

“I’ve been part of postcard nights where we write to our officials in Lansing about what to appeal, what to approve,” Kurjan said. “Our voices only get so far.”

Reproductive rights go beyond just abortion. According to Planned Parenthood, it includes accessing birth control, emergency contraception, STD tests, pregnancy tests and screenings for breast, gynecological and testicular cancers.

With Trump’s policy to allow employers to opt out of funding contraception insurance for women, Lednicer said, “We’re getting into the case where people are interfering with your right to make really personal decisions about your own life.”

Birth control is used for a myriad of reasons besides controlling fertility. “It is healthcare,” she said.

The benefits of the pill extend to preventing breast and ovarian cysts, alleviating menstrual cramps and regulating menstrual cycles, she said. Other advantages listed by PPFA include the reduction of acne, bone thinning, ovary infections, anemia, premenstrual syndrome, and endometrial and ovarian cancers.

However, some disadvantages of the pill may include a decline in sexual desire, bleeding between periods, sore breasts, nausea, headaches and other cons, depending on the individual — such as an estrogen user who may have a higher risk of rare effects.

How to vote

The deadline to register to vote is on Oct. 9.

An easy way to register to vote is by going online to and printing the voter registration form, said Chris Swope, city clerk of Lansing. From there, applicants can mail forms to their city clerk’s office.

“The other way is to a stop in person to your city clerk,” Swope said. “Those are generally not that far way from where you live. Then, you can go to any secretary of state (SOS) branch office and register to vote.”

To vote by mail, obtaining an absentee ballot is accessible if the voter meets one of the six reasons listed by Michigan’s SOS.

“We do have forms available that people can print off from our websites and submit, but you can also just handwrite a note that says (for example), ‘I expect to be out of town on election day, please send me an absentee ballot,’” Swope said.

For college students who may not have access to a printer or fax machine, they can write their note, sign it and take a picture of it with a cell phone and email it to the city clerk’s office.

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