It is by no means a linear issue. By the time you’ve packed your suitcases and dormitory accoutrements for the grand institutional leap into collegiate self-improvement, you’ve likely already trudged through the complicated lexicon of just what sex means to you. Maybe you’re saving yourself and your virginity for the next scripted institution – marriage; statistically speaking, you’re probably not. Regardless, you’ve formed your own opinions on birth control and abortion, and those are yours to live with.
But if you’re new to Florida, you may be surprised to know just how conservative the Sunshine State is when it comes to matters of female reproductive freedom. This year alone, legislators introduced no fewer than 18 pieces of potential law aimed at challenging the monumental Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, with five of them making their way to the governor’s desk. The governor even threw a party for pro-life legislators in his office to celebrate the signing of those laws, signifying an overtly paternalistic take on how he thinks women – even young women in college – should handle their own bodies. Florida is also the state where the controversial “Choose Life” anti-abortion license plate was, well, born, and most of the funds raised by those plates go to supporting religious dens of misinformation known as crisis pregnancy centers.
If, by chance, you do find yourself in the difficult position of having to seek counseling for an unwanted pregnancy, you should be armed with the facts about just who’s here to assist you with your choices and who might have more nefarious intentions. There are 19 state-funded crisis pregnancy centers in the greater Orlando area, and some are more obvious than others (JMJ, or Jesus Mary and Joseph Life Center, comes to mind). They’re the ones you’ll typically find in the phone book when looking under “abortion,” yet they are charged with promoting exactly the opposite. Here’s the drill: The centers promise you a free pregnancy test, then bombard you with potentially dangerous untruths about contraception – birth control pills cause breast cancer, condoms are ineffective – before attempting to connect you with your “baby” via a sonogram and/or small plastic fetal figurines. The centers are not staffed by doctors, but rather volunteers, meaning the information they are dispensing is not medically valid – regardless of your feelings on abortion.
Your best bet is to stick with professional medical providers. On issues of contraception, reproductive health, pregnancy testing and sexually transmitted diseases, both UCF and Rollins College offer women’s health support; the UCF Women’s Clinic is located in the purple pod of the UCF Health Center (hs.sdes.ucf.edu/healthcenter/women.html), and Rollins Health Services is at 118 W. Fairbanks Ave. (rollins.edu/health). Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando (ppgo.org; call 407-246-1788 for locations) offers full reproductive health services including abortions (the cost is approximately $500 for the procedure). Additionally, PPGO maintains a presence on the UCF campus via Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood (voxucf.org), which acts as more policy-oriented outreach from the main clinic. Whatever choice you make, these organizations are there to assist without the additional nightmare of religious rhetoric. It is still your choice … for now.