I have the honor to share our third post by Ariana Rahimian. She is from Portland, Oregon. Ariana never enjoyed writing until she wrote an investigative journalism piece about Planned Parenthood for her junior English class. That’s how she became involved with the organization and has enjoyed writing about her experiences since then.
Last week I had the privilege of being part of the first Planned Parenthood Teen Council Summit in Washington DC. Teen Council is a youth program at Planned Parenthood that allows high school students to be peer sexual health educators at public schools in their district. We teach health classes and cover topics from consent and healthy relationships to birth control and STIs/STDs. The Summit brought together over 150 students from 35 teen councils across the country. We had workshops by fellow Teen Council members, heard speeches from Cecile Richards and other Planned Parenthood Federation of America employees, learned about youth organization, and lobbied on The Hill. I’d already had experience speaking to aides on Capitol Hill during my ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute, but this time we were making specific asks for two reproductive justice bills that Planned Parenthood supports. The first was a bill that would secure Title X funding this coming fiscal year and the second was the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act which would bring accurate and age appropriate sexual health education to public schools as well as Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs.
I was pretty nervous to lobby. Before we broke off into our individual state groups we had a large rally in front of the capitol building, and being in a large group of Planned Parenthood supporters wearing bright pink was kind of nerve racking especially with all the recent animosity towards the organization. But once we took our group photos and made our way towards the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon buildings we all felt at ease. My group spoke with legislative aides from Representative Suzanne Bonamici’s office, Representative Kurt Schrader’s office, and Senator Ron Wyden’s office. What was most exciting for me was how supportive everyone was. Every person we spoke with said they’d support our bills and they were so impressed by such a young group of people fighting for reproductive justice.
I know that it’s easy to feel useless in such a large-scale and important movement when you are just one person. Especially a young person. But I experienced first hand how much people listen to youth voices and I’ve learned how important it is for us to raise them. Don’t be too intimidated to speak to your representatives! It’s hard for them to shoot down young constituents who care enough to reach out their representatives for such an important cause.