State of sex ed, no Planned Parenthood worry citizens
The lack of a Planned Parenthood facility in Grand Junction and the quality of public school sex education loomed large among complaints raised by Mesa County residents during a town hall-style meeting headed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and other advocacy groups Saturday afternoon at Colorado Mesa University.
Members of ACLU of Colorado, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Pro-Choice Colorado asked about 50 attendees Saturday whether they have experienced any “obstacles” to reproductive healthcare.
“Not having a Planned Parenthood,” one woman said after ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes asked the question. “I had to go to Glenwood Springs.”
Another attendee said he “couldn’t believe” no such clinic existed in the Grand Valley.
The closest Planned Parenthood clinic to Grand Junction is in Glenwood Springs. Jeriel Brammeier, chair of the Mesa County Democrats told attendees Grand Junction’s abortion clinic closed years ago because of protests.
Manny Cisneros, a regional liaison for Pro-Choice Colorado, said his organization is working on some form of shuttle to and from the Glenwood Springs clinic, although the plan hasn’t been finalized.
Other attendees said they aren’t happy with sex education provided in West Slope public schools. Mesa County resident Allison Rehor said she moved to the Redlands when her son was in fifth grade. He was in a charter school that year, but after, when he attended District 51-managed schools, he told his mother he didn’t receive comprehensive sex education.
“I was absolutely appalled to realize it wasn’t being provided in our schools,” Rehor said.
A District 51 elementary school counselor at the event said sex education in primary school focuses more on puberty; one course she saw never explained the nuts and bolts of how pregnancy occurs.
Some attendees had complaints about health care at Grand Junction hospitals and practices.
Heidi Hess, an organizer with LGBT rights group One Colorado, said she’s heard from some transgender men — those born as women who are in the process of becoming male — that it’s hard to find gynecological care from knowledgeable doctors.
Another woman said she was undergoing a cesarean section at a local hospital; while she was receiving anesthesia, the doctor asked whether she wanted to have her tubes tied during the surgery.
“It was sprung on me … literally on the operating table,” the woman said.
Maes asked attendees several questions about St. Mary’s Hospital’s policies around referrals for procedures like tubal ligation. She said after the event that her group is gauging the need for a bill to restrict religious hospitals’ control on what procedures their physicians perform. The Grand Junction event was part of a tour throughout Colorado to collect feedback from local communities.
Maes said reproductive rights aren’t just about “choice” anymore; the more relevant policy battles she sees today in Colorado revolve around access.
“You can have choice,” Maes said. “But if you don’t have access, who cares?”