Early in 2012, State University New York-Purchase, a progressive college with gender-neutral housing and bathrooms, closed down its alternative health clinic for women and female-bodied people. Established in 1978, the student-run clinic provided gynecological services, counseling, pelvic exams, pregnancy and STD tests, dental dams, condoms, and peer counseling, and an alternative to the college’s official student health services. Many students at SUNY-Purchase preferred the alternative clinic because of its community atmosphere, which tended to be more accepting of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Across the country, alternative clinics such as the one at SUNY-Purchase provide autonomous spaces for women-centered health care.
In February 2012, Purchase legal counsel mandated the clinic’s closure because, “student involvement in service provision, from filling out paperwork to answering patient calls, was too great a financial burden given students’ lack of liability and malpractice insurance.” After the decision, students organized and engaged school administrators in dialog about saving the clinic.
As James Cersonsky writes, “The alt clinic’s shutdown is the offspring of a broader movement to make universities run more like corporations—patriarchy dressed in genderless neoliberal garb… At Purchase, the battle is over which standards to prioritize in austere times.” With the dramatic expansion of managed care under HMOs in the early 1990s, women’s health centers have confronted a range of challenges in procuring contracts. By contrast with for-profit clinics, non-profit clinics, such as SUNY Purchase’s alt clinic, are less likely to get these contracts, but more likely to serve underprivileged women, provide educational services for their clients, and involve surrounding communities in center governance.
Source: James Cersonsky, “The Genderless War on Women’s Health,” Dissent Magazine, May 4, 2012, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-genderless-war-on-womens-health
Student Researcher: Nicole Phillips (Santa Rosa Junior College)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)