I walked into Planned Parenthood for the first time when I was 16 years old as a patient, and when I left, I was a supporter. Five years later I’m fighting to make sure that everyone can have access to the care I got — no matter what you look like, how much money you have, or where you come from.
When I was growing up, sex was not a welcomed conversation. I was not able to go to my parents when I knew I was ready for birth control, and was scared of what my pediatrician would think of me if I brought it up. I thought I did not have any options, until a friend’s older sister told me about a Planned Parenthood in Scranton that could help me. I hesitantly went, still nervous that I would be judged for my choices, but after meeting a nurse that gave me my first lesson on safe sex, I became empowered and liberated. At that moment, I felt safe and trusted to make the decision that was right for me.
Planned Parenthood was there when I didn’t know where else to turn. And now, I’ve made it my goal to ensure that others have access to the reproductive health care they need. And I’m not alone. Earlier this month, I participated in Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s largest volunteer training in history. Nearly 1,000 volunteer leaders joined me in Pittsburgh to learn the necessary skills that are going to make a difference in the 2016 elections and make sure our reproductive health and rights are protected in this country.
And we certainly have work to do.
Reproductive rights are under attack by many aggressive anti-women’s health politicians, including Donald Trump and our own Sen. Pat Toomey. He has entered the 2016 race for the Senate, cowing to partisanship and embracing the hate-filled policies of others in his party by criticizing the decision to maintain Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” status and challenging a woman’s right to make their own health choices. By joining his fellow Republican senators in blocking confirmation of a United States Supreme Court justice just as the Court weighs a major case threatening the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, he continues his crusade to ban safe, legal abortion. It is absolutely unacceptable to me that the senator choose to undermine the Constitution to progress his own agenda. Who is he to tell me where I can go for health care?
Senator Toomey is no friend to women and their families, but with hard work, the best candidate will represent us in Washington, D.C. The possibilities are endless when you organize passionate, young people — and we’re going to make a difference in this election.
Two years ago, I saw an opportunity at Planned Parenthood to volunteer, and I discovered the weight and impact of effective organizing around a cause so close to my heart. My education in field organizing was life-changing — I was given so many resources, and taught how to spread this work and reach as many people as possible. I saw that when people work together, we can make a difference. I realized how powerful my voice can be.
In Pennsylvania we have a lot of work to do. I’m proud that we are equipping ourselves at the Power of Pink with the skills needed to create a very large, election-shifting team of passionate, determined young people. It’s our generation’s time to make ourselves heard and take back the power from anti-abortion politicians who are attempting to abuse and restrict our hard-earned autonomy. The difference in this election will start on the ground. We are youth activists, we are the base, and we are ready.
Laura Quinones is a 22-year-old, first-generation Mexican-American and an advocate for sexual education, reproductive freedom, and sexual assault awareness. Since starting her volunteer work in 2012, she has worked with community organizations, universities, high schools, and volunteers to improve the lives of women and men in Philadelphia. Laura currently lives in Philadelphia with her dog Kimmy.