Thursday night, FemDems, a subcommittee of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, held a panel discussion about women’s health at the Ford School of Public Policy. The discussion was lead by LSA sophomores Kellie Lounds and Emily Zonder.
FemDems collaborated with the University’s chapter of Students for Choice to create the panel. Zonder and Lounds, who have been members of FemDems since their freshman years, said they initially started planning the event shortly after the 2016 presidential election.
“This one of our initial ideas after the election happened, because our members were reasonably upset and we were looking at ways that they could take action,” Lounds said. “That is the idea of a women’s health panel and where we are right now and where we go from here.”
“(Women’s health) is now more important than ever,” Zonder said.
The panel included Leseliey Welch, the deputy director at the Detroit Health Department, state Rep. Donna Lasinski (D–Scio Township), Joanne Motino Bailey, the director of the Nurse Midwifery Service at the University, Sinead Grainne Redmond, a Ph.D. candidate in American politics and Lauren Bacans, a Michigan Planned Parenthood advocate. Zonders and Lounds said they specifically chose women that would be able to reach across several identities.
The panelists fielded questions from the majority-female audience about women’s health care, especially in response to recent legislation by President Donald Trump. After the initial questions Lounds and Zonder proposed, audience members were also invited to engage with the panel and ask their own questions.
Beginning the line of questioning with the state of health care for women, Bacans opened with statistics regarding women’s access to health care in the United States.
“So 30 percent of our counties here in Michigan do not have an OB-GYN and that is worse in rural areas,” Bacans said. “So depending on where you are at, that statistic for women’s health could really affect your health.”
The questions then turned to more ideas about legislation and activism.
“Getting engaged with local government is critical,” Lasinski said to the audience.
Many of the panel members agreed with Lasinski and Bailey, who urged the audience it “was important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable” when talking about the importance of female leadership.
Several panelists stressed the importance of political activism and the importance of comprehensive health care.
Lasinski asked the audience to show, by a raise of hands, who had attended the Women’s Marches of Ann Arbor, Lansing or Washington, D.C. Welch told the audience she took her young daughters to the Women’s March in D.C. and that her three-year-old was not particularly aware of the situation.
Welch told the story of her three-year-old returning home and being approached by her teacher about her trip. When asked why women were marching, Welch’s daughter replied, “They are marching for me.”
The panel concluded with the sharing of information about several different ways the audience could receive more information about health care and other political events occurring on campus.