In the face of state attacks on abortion … Generation Action UF initiative offers reproductive health resources via the The Brown Bag Project <3

by Ashley Sanguino

There is little doubt that abortion has become a key issue in this year’s election.

Florida has become a prime battleground for legislatures to target reproductive rights and attack abortion.

On Monday, April 1, the State Supreme Court announced two key decisions regarding abortion rights. In one case, the 15-week ban was deemed constitutional, allowing for the 6-week ban to go into effect on  May 1, which will bar access and threaten the health and safety of Floridians across the state.

On the other hand, there is a glimmer of hope with the Court’s decision to approve the Amendment 4 Initiative. This means that in November, Floridians will be able to vote to enshrine abortion protections into our state constitution.

As the pursuit of abortion protections and rights continues throughout these coming months, access to preventive materials like contraceptives is especially critical to ensure people can make informed decisions about their health and bodies.

For these reasons, as Outreach Director of Generation Action UF, a student organization dedicated to promoting reproductive justice and health care on campus, I’m proud to be sharing the launch of our newest initiative to provide UF students with free contraceptives, Plan B, and other key reproductive health care materials. Through “The Brown Bag Project <3”, UF students can discreetly request and receive condoms, internal condoms, dental dams, pregnancy tests, and Plan B.

Paulina Trujillo, the Generation Action Political and Legislative Director, and I launched this project because as students, we were looking to do more for the student body and find ways to support one another through the community when greater systems of power have not met these needs.

To some, perhaps accessing condoms, pregnancy tests, and other reproductive health materials has not been an issue. But to others, having to pay $50 for Plan B, not having easy access to transportation, having fear or stigma, or simply lacking the information on where to access affordable resources can serve as serious barriers to access. To these individuals, this project can make the world of a difference.

Trujillo, 22, a Political Science and Women’s Studies major, put it best — “it’s not necessarily the grand scale numbers that matter; it’s the individuals that matter.”

“For each individual we give the services to, it can transform their life.”

We launched this project just two weeks ago, and since then we have fulfilled over 50 orders, with 17.5% of our total orders labeled as urgent (same-day delivery). The high volume use of the Brown Bag Project emphasizes how increased access to contraceptives and other reproductive health care materials is a need on campus. These are over 50 students better prepared and equipped to manage their health care, take ownership of their bodily autonomy, and live happy, safe, and healthy lives.

The success of this initiative thus far has been largely due to the unwavering commitment and driving support of our committee members, advocating for reproductive health care access and envisioning a brighter future for all students.

Lauren Ronson, 19, is a Political Science major who first got involved with Generation Action after the fall of Roe V. Wade. Ronson said that the Dobbs v. Jackson decision reminded her that “reproductive health is never a guarantee,” and that motivated her to take action in the organization.

Ronson emphasized that as a lesbian, at times she has felt more distanced from traditional narratives surrounding reproductive rights, given the presumption that pregnancy is not a concern. Yet her advocacy underscores the necessary transcendence from identity and commitment to universal reproductive health care access.

“Beyond any boundary, category, gender, sexuality, race, whatever — reproductive health affects all of us, and we should all take our part in making sure that society — even if on campus — has access to it, especially free access,” Ronson said.

Ronson’s words capture a profound sense of inclusivity and solidarity, emphasizing the collective responsibility to ensure equitable access to reproductive health care for all individuals, regardless of any factors that might seem to set them apart.

By carrying out deliveries, sharing this resource in different spaces on campus, and sharing promotional materials for the cause, our committee members have seen first-hand how free reproductive healthcare materials can help people and transform lives.

Ana Perez, 18, is a first-year History and Political Science major. She said that while concepts regarding reproductive justice and social change tend to feel abstract when limited to discussions and lectures, her involvement with delivering reproductive materials through the Brown Bag Project and providing free menstrual products through the Generation Action Period Pack project has helped her feel she can “actually make a difference” in the lives of her peers.

Lovey Frazier, 19, is a first-year African American Studies major, and another dedicated committee member who joined the efforts to deliver, promote, and inform on the Brown Bag Project. She said she plans to become an obstetrician-gynecologist because of her family’s history of reproductive health concerns. She says some of these issues came about because the women in her family “didn’t really know about the proper resources,” and she has gotten involved with the Brown Bag Project and reproductive health organizing in this pursuit of knowledge to empower and protect others.

“I don’t want women to suffer the fate as the women in my family,” Frazier said.

When asked about the highlights of her experience serving in the Brown Bag Project, Frazier said she could not describe in just one word, but would encompass it in the “comforting facial expressions they have once they know like – there is no judgement to be given when we give the resources to them.”

As Paulina and I graduate this semester, this project has served as a love letter to the student body and the broader Gainesville community. The Brown Bag Project is our promise that we will provide care no matter what, and students will stand by one another when we need it most. We’re excited to see the passionate committee members and the rest of the dedicated team at Generation Action continue this important work, and we hope that the future will bring about opportunities for the Brown Bag Project, the Period Pack Project, and the other projects of Generation Action to collaborate with community partners and eventually expand its reach to provide across different communities in need.

This initiative not only provides tangible support to students in need, but also sends a powerful message about the importance of prioritizing reproductive health care access for all individuals, and looking to the community when we’re in need. While this project may be student-led, it serves as a shining example of the necessary mutual aid that communities must provide in times of emergencies. Together, we can continue to advocate for comprehensive reproductive health care and ensure that all individuals have the resources they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and futures.

For more details on the Brown Bag Project, Generation Action’s other projects, including our Period Pack Project (a free menstrual product service led by our campus campaign chair, Sabrina Briceno), and additional reproductive health care resources and information, please visit our Instagram @ppgenactionuf.

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