New organization L-RAJE is ready to educate campus on reproductive, sexual and menstrual health

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Photo by Caroline Burns

The executive board for L-RAJE (L-R, starting in back row, Leah Bartlett ’23, Hope Durlofsky ’22, Charlotte Vierling ’24, Sophie Himmel ’24 and Lia Charles ’22) was elected earlier this month. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22)

Katie Frost, Managing Editor

Two months after one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States took effect, one group at Lafayette is making sure campus-wide access to reproductive rights resources is not going anywhere.

Lafayette for Reproductive Autonomy, Justice, and Empowerment (L-RAJE) is the college’s first reproductive, sexual and menstrual health organization on campus. The club was officially approved by student government on Oct. 28, but founder and president Thalia “Lia” Charles ‘22 had been considering forming a group like L-RAJE long before.

With an academic background in reproductive rights, Charles said she had many conversations with other students about the issue before deciding to form a club. She created the first group chat for the organization in May.

Although she considered reviving the college’s Planned Parenthood club, formed in 2017, Charles chose to start L-RAJE from the ground up in order to be more intersectional and emphasize that it is a pro-choice and LGBTQ+ affirming, sex-positive space.

The group was also founded in response to a perceived lack of knowledge of where to find sexual and menstrual products on or near campus.

Bailey Health Center provides gynecological services including “routine yearly examinations with pap smear, screening and treatment of STDs, birth control counseling and prescriptions, the ‘morning after pill,’ and confidential treatment of any other related concern,” according to their website.

However, Charles said that many students are not aware of these services, do not want their parents to see the charges on their insurance or do not have insurance to cover them.

Therefore, one long-term goal of the organization is the implementation of an accessible sexual health resource center. This center would provide resources on reproductive, sexual and menstrual health, information on where to go for services such as STD testing and abortions and products such as Plan B, lube, condoms and menstrual products.

Vice President of Programming Hope Durlofsky ‘22 explained that because students come to Lafayette with different knowledge bases on sexual health, the center would be an especially helpful resource to students that did not receive a “good” level of sex education and are now living on their own.

And according to Vice President of Advocacy Sophie Himmel ‘24, another long-term goal of the organization is to create a list of students who have cars and are willing to drive students without cars to off-campus locations such as St. Luke’s University Health Network for services that may not be provided by Bailey Health Center at the time they are needed.

For now, the group is also interested in educating their own members through internal programming and informing the rest of the campus community about reproductive rights through social media posts created by Vice President of Services Leah Bartlett ‘23.

L-RAJE also co-sponsored a talk on sex positivity with PASA on Nov. 2 and will be co-sponsoring Condom Bingo tonight with OUT Lafayette

“I think Lafayette has never been so focused on creating a better campus than we are at this moment,” Charles said. “And I think just having all of these groups collaborate…we are actively creating a better Lafayette.”

“Coming out of covid, we have a really good chance and a genuine opportunity to shift the culture here at Lafayette,” Bartlett said.

L-RAJE’s next event will be a “Know Your Rights” talk in Kirby 104 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 29, 2 days before arguments will be heard for the upcoming Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs Supreme Court case. Himmel explained that that the meeting will focus on the legal precedent of this case, which deals with the the right to abortion.

The group hopes to reach more than just their own members with information about sex education, sex positivity and reproductive justice. Vice President of Development Charlotte Vierling ‘24 explained that one of the group’s long-term goals is to expand the demographics of the club in order to hear different kinds of voices.

The group is comprised mostly of women, but all are welcome.

Bartlett added that issues discussed at meetings “pertain to everyone, no matter who you are, what your gender identity is, your sexual orientation or your sex assigned at birth.”

L-RAJE holds weekly meetings from 12:15 p. m to 1:00 p.m. in Pardee 120. Any student wishing to get involved with the group can join the GroupMe available on the L-RAJE Instagram page, @lraje_laf.

And for any students intimidated by the thought of joining the organization, Charles has some advice: embrace discomfort and have an open mind.

“You have to be open to breaking down the things that you’re uncomfortable with,” Charles said. “Wanting to learn things helps get rid of stigma.”