Alumni News

January 9, 2019 at 11:47 am

WGSS Panel Discusses Reproductive Health, ‘Hard Questions’

Panel From left: Jessica Ensley, Alyssa Ensminger, Anushka Gole, Dr. Patty Stokes

From left: Jessica Ensley, Alyssa Ensminger, Anushka Gole, Dr. Patty Stokes

by Kristin Distel

The Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program welcomed back several of its alumni for the annual Reunion and Roundtables event, which featured a keynote address, several discussion panels, and a reception.

The first panel of the day, titled “Reproductive Justice,” focused on a discussion of prenatal care, abortion access, and freedom from sterilization. The panel featured alumni Anushka Gole, Alyssa Ensminger, and Jessica Ensley.

‘We’re Asking Hard Questions’

Gole noted that her place of employment examines the services that various companies and organizations offer, in addition to researching injustices, such as the refusal to pay minimum wage.

“We’re asking hard questions and making difficult decisions that change things internally, before recommending changes at outside companies and government organizations. We’re creating a space for people to be heard and addressing challenges such as poor wages. It’s ongoing work,” she explained.

Ensminger noted that her background is in trauma-informed care and dating violence. She is interested in serving people whose work and livelihoods are at risk because of the stances they take on reproductive justice and abortion care.

‘WGSS Curriculum Was Hugely Important’

“The WGSS curriculum was hugely important in determining what kind of doctor I want to be, regardless of what type of specialization I eventually choose,” Ensminger notes.

“I am interested not only in how the medical profession provides treatments or services but also how to get women through the door—especially those who cannot afford healthcare, who are incarcerated, or who have limited access to IVF, for example,” she adds.

Ensley explained that her role in oppositional research “aids in campaigns to certain degree,” in addition to serving the needs of crisis pregnancy centers and similar organizations.

“The research I conduct helps point out the erroneous information that some candidates and organizations present in their campaigns, including their claims that medical staff do not work at abortion clinics. We also challenge clinics that provide erroneous information about abortions, include how far advanced a potential client’s pregnancy is. This research also helps create opposition to places such as grocery stores that refuse to sell Plan B off the shelf, so that customers must request it from the pharmacy,” Ensley states.

Reproduction and Socioeconomics

Dr. Julie White noted that “Reproductive health is completely attached to economic precarity” and asked how the panelists’ organizations address this issue.

Ensminger explained that we “still live in decade in which people are suing state governments because of forced sterilizations” and explained that she is “interested in how to help people live full, healthy lives—a privilege that is currently limited to an elite few.”

“There’s no shortage of capable people to be in positions of power. Beyond maternal mortality, clearest line I can draw is an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, which indicated that trauma increases the likelihood of chronic disease by up to 2,000%,” Ensminger added.

Helping People Access Medical Services

Alum Ellenore Holbrook (’17), who graduated from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College with a degree in Political Science and Government, asked the panelists to discuss “how economic injustices make reproductive justice and similar movements more difficult to achieve,” noting that “economic inequality is a difficult issue for people on the ground to address.”

Ensley explained that the company for which she works assists people who live in Washington, D.C. who need help understanding their own respective companies.

“We guide them through the process, helping them understand what their health insurance plan looks like or how to communicate with Human Resources, for example,” she stated.

Ensminger echoed the importance of such assistance, noting, “Having wealth always puts one in a position of knowing how to navigate medical services and systems. Economic status completely shapes who receives services—and whether they can afford them.”

A Variety and Wealth of Experience

Gole earned an M.A. in Communications and Development Studies with a concentration in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from OHIO in 2016. She now serves as the Communications Manager for Feminist Women’s Health Center, a local, independent clinic in Atlanta that specializes in sexual health and trans health care.

Ensminger graduated from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College in 2017 with a B.A. in Cellular and Molecular Biology and a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is currently a first-year medical student at Des Moines University in the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program. At present, she is interested in a career in obstetrics and gynecology.

Ensley (’15) holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Journalism and a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from OHIO. She currently works as a reproductive justice advocate with Reproaction, where she specializes in oppositional research.

When asked how their work contributes to advancements in reproductive justice, each panelist explained the ways in which they serve the needs of others, particularly those in precarious socioeconomic conditions.

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