Student raises funds for Planned Parenthood

After raising more than fivefold her original goal of $1,000, Emma Stellar, a rising sophomore majoring in sociology and non-governmental organizations and social change, said she hopes her effort shows others that they can make a greater impact than they think. (Photo courtesy of Emma Stellar)

As the nation reeled from the repeal of landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade June 24, Emma Stellar knew she needed to do what she could to help protect reproductive rights. The day of the repeal, Stellar, a rising sophomore majoring in sociology and non-governmental organizations and social change, launched an Instagram fundraiser for nonprofit reproductive healthcare organization Planned Parenthood that has raised more than $5,300 from 391 donors — fivefold her initial goal of $1,000.

When she heard about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, which for 49 years held that unduly restriction on abortion by states is illegal, Stellar was “extremely upset.” Vacationing in Spain at the time, she didn’t feel it was safe to speak her mind or protest in the predominantly Catholic community she was in. Instead, Stellar hoped to garner the support of her friends, family and social media followers through an online fundraising campaign, which she didn’t imagine would grow the way it did.

“I started seeing people donating more and more and more and more, and I was getting a ton of emails that were like, ‘Thank you for taking the initiative. Thank you for doing this, like this means a lot,’” Stellar said. “So then I was like, ‘OK, maybe I have more influence here than I thought I did.’”

Deciding on the organization for which she’d raise funds, Stellar conducted extensive research and landed on Planned Parenthood because of its wide national and global reach. 

“It’s America’s largest single provider for reproductive health services, and they have a ton of clinics — they have, like, 600 clinics and health centers nationwide, and they’re providing these services to millions of men and women each year,” Stellar said.

She was also drawn to the organization because of the attention she said it gives to addressing sexism, racism and classism in healthcare, and because it’s opening new clinics in areas that border states with abortion bans. Since the SCOTUS decision this June, Planned Parenthood ramped up services in Illinois, which borders states that have restricted abortion, including Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri. 

A native of California — a state that doesn’t restrict abortion before viability — Stellar said she’s worried about the direction the nation is going in. Her goal, she said, is to raise awareness about the ramifications of the repeal of Roe and the precedent it may set for greater restrictions on previously held rights.

“I’m hoping that people understand that this could just be a pipeline to the government taking more rights away from us,” Stellar said. “I know that they’re talking about gay rights being up next, or at least that’s a threat.”

In his concurring opinion on Roe, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that several other decisions, including the rulings that secured the right to contraception for married couples and the right to same-sex marriage, were “demonstrably erroneous decisions.” The House of Representatives, in an effort to protect marriage equality rights threatened in Thomas’ opinion, passed a bill — the Respect for Marriage Act — Tuesday to codify same-sex marriage in law and bolster other marriage equality protections, CNBC reported. 

Lucy Minchoff, a friend of Stellar’s and a supporter of her fundraiser, said hearing about the repeal was “completely devastating” and prompted her to leave work the day the ruling was made to attend a protest in her Pennsylvanian hometown.

“We all knew what was going to happen, which is really unfortunate,” said Minchoff, a rising sophomore majoring in environmental engineering and pursuing a master’s degree in the same field. “I remember being at work when the decision came out, and I just couldn’t continue working because, I mean, that’s our rights that are on the line.”

Stellar said she finds the the repeal’s effect on individual rights “terrifying” and added that the fact that her mother and grandmother had a greater right to abortion nationally than she does today highlights the regressive nature of the repeal. She pointed out that when Roe was decided in 1973, some U.S. banks still required women to cosign for a new credit card with their husband and refused to issue credit cards to unmarried women — a restriction that was lifted in 1974 under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. 

“That was how women were treated. Roe was still decided 7-2 and five Republican-appointed Justices were in support,” Stellar said. “It’s like America is spinning backward.”

Though she also lives in a state where abortion rights have not been restricted since Roe was struck down, Minchoff said her “empathy goes out” to individuals living in states with greater restrictions on abortion. 

“I just can’t imagine how scary and daunting that may feel,” Minchoff said.

Minchoff said she was glad to see Stellar’s fundraiser get the attention and support that it has, which she said is “just the beginning.”

“It’s amazing that people like Emma are there doing more things other than protesting and posting on Instagram,” Minchoff said. “Fundraisers, I think, are one of the most significant ways of enacting change and getting people’s attention.”

Stellar approached Minchoff before the fundraiser launched and asked for advice on what its description should be. Since then, Minchoff said she’s been lending all of her support to the effort. Youth-led activism like Stellar’s initiative, Minchoff said, is all around.

Stellar (center) is passionate about social justice and hopes her fundraiser empowers other young people to act for causes they believe in. (Photo courtesy of Emma Stellar)

“My peers [are] just getting enraged because it’s like, there’s these [five] people who are much older than us and older generations, and most are actually men,” Minchoff said. “It’s just anger that fuels us because we’re realizing that this can’t go on and older generations can’t be getting away with this because this world will be ours soon, and we’re just going to have to clean up that mess.”

Stellar said she hopes her initiative inspires others to launch their own fundraisers or donate to Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics personally. She also wants to set an example for younger people interested in social justice and activism, who she said can have a greater impact than they may think. 

“I feel like these days, a lot of times, young people don’t think they really have a voice,” Stellar said. “Especially because I don’t have a huge following, I didn’t really think I was gonna make more than 1000 [dollars].”

Though USC students attend college in a state that protects reproductive rights, Stellar said, they should continue to fight for the change they want to see within their immediate communities. 

“The USC community is extremely powerful,” Stellar said. “Most of my friends that I’ve met are out of state, out of country. We have voices all around the world. So in those communities, with your hometown, with your parents, with your friends from your hometown, you can spread your voice.”