A Planned Parenthood chapter could very well be coming back to western Newfoundland.
Alice Will, originally from the east coast, is now living in Corner Brook and has started spearheading an effort to revive the service for the west coast.
Impassioned by the Women’s Marches on Jan. 21, Will decided it was time for a safe space on this side of the island.
“It was moving to see millions of people stand together — millions of people saying that we can’t take human rights for granted. So I asked myself to ‘think globally and act locally.’ What is missing in our community?”
Planned Parenthood was always there when she was growing up in St. John’s, she said.
“Sometimes they would come into schools (to teach) sexual education. I had gone there to get birth control — which was cheaper than going anywhere else, and also just to get information.”
When she moved to Corner Brook she realized the same level of opportunity was not available.
Mallary McGrath, the executive director of Planned Parenthood, was elated when Will contacted the organization.
Since she began working with the group in August 2016, McGrath says, she has been answering calls from people of all ages located across Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We have people from all over the province booking appointments with us months in advance because they know they are going to be in St. John’s on that specific day and want to visit the sexual health clinic for a pap test or (sexually transmitted infection) screening.” said McGrath. “We’re certain that another Planned Parenthood in the province could do so much positive sexual-health work and even reduce stigma associated with sexual health.”
She says the province has done tremendous work in recent years on reducing, and aiming to eliminate, mental-health stigma. She says it’s now time to concentrate on sexual-health stigma.
A community health survey for needs and resources in the Bay of Islands was most recently conducted in 2016. In it, a little more than 80 per cent of respondents were female. Along with a need for more access to mental-health help, family doctors and specialists, the survey also found that residents felt a lack of services related to gynecology and childbirth education, as well as a lack of information on queer sexual health.
Access to such resources is an important part of Planned Parenthood’s mandate, says Will, along with much more.
“There is a common misconception that it’s only for youth,” she says.
At one time there were Planned Parenthood locations in Corner Brook, Bay St. George, Grand Bank and Fortune, says McGrath, but throughout the years these facilities slowly began closing doors due to funding issues.
For now, Planned Parenthood is only in St. John’s — a fact Will is eager to begin changing in the coming weeks. She has already met with doctors and nurses to discuss logistics, and plans to hold a public consultation soon to work out this area’s specific needs. She invites one and all to get involved.
While this is ongoing, anyone wishing to use Planned Parenthood’s services in the meantime can call 1-877-666-9847.
Sexual-health clinics, with a doctor
STI testing and treatment