Activist pushes for family planning

Amidst a University-wide debate over abortion insurance coverage, it’s ironic that a Nobel Peace prize nominee came to BGSU yesterday to discuss the need for family planning – but she wouldn’t have been here at all if not for a little luck.

Jane Roberts, an activist for giving assistance to women seeking planned parenthood, was slated to speak at the Medical University of Ohio near Toledo yesterday.

But when classes were cancelled there after most of the student body attended basic disaster life support training, BGSU was given a chance to host Roberts.

Mary Krueger, director of the Women’s Center at BGSU, said she accepted the offer as soon as it was made last Friday.

“She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?” she said.

Roberts was nominated for the Nobel Prize with 999 other women for the 100th anniversary of the first woman to receive the honor, Bertha von Suttner.

“It’s still a great honor to even be considered [for the Nobel Peace Prize] because there are millions of women working at the grassroots level who don’t get the recognition they deserve,” she said.

About two dozen people listened to Roberts in Olscamp Hall as she talked about the organization she co-founded, called 34 Million Friends.

The group is trying to raise $34 million after President Bush withheld $34 million in 2002 that Congress had allocated to the United Nations Populations Fund, which works to provide health assistance around the world.

Bush withheld the funding because he suspects some groups in China, which are helped by 34 Million Friends, of performing abortions.

“This is a very controversial issue – I don’t know why women’s health is controversial, but it is,” Roberts said.

The group has raised nearly $3,050,000 in its three-and-a-half year existence.

“I’m very proud to say that people in 30 countries have given some money to 34 Million Friends,” Roberts said.

In an interview afterward, Roberts said the additional $60 charged for abortion coverage on the University health plan isn’t fair.

“If there is no surcharge for any other operation or treatment, then there shouldn’t be a surcharge for that,” she said. “Women have a Constitutional right to an abortion and if they don’t have the wherewithall to afford it, it should be provided to them.”

After the presentation, Krueger said Roberts was an inspiration.

“I like the fact that she’s just kind of a regular person,” Krueger said. “I always like for students to hear that they can make a difference.”

Laura Butera, a senior pop culture major who was at the presentation, said she was impressed by all the efforts Roberts has made.

“I think it’s incredible that the thoughts of one person could help all those people all around the world,” she said. “It makes me wanna be an activist.”