In January, two Lewis & Clark students were announced as Planned Parenthood’s new legislative and electoral Fellows. Star Burton ’23 and Georgia Langer ’23 will be working to promote the organization’s agenda in their 2-part fellowship in 2022.
Planned Parenthood Oregon introduced the duo, along with two other new fellows in an Instagram post.
“Our Legislative and Electoral fellows will be supporting our legislative agenda and helping us to elect reproductive health champions throughout the state of Oregon,” the caption said.
Burton and Langer both had interest and experience in reproductive justice and sexual health prior to applying. Langer worked with Planned Parenthood as a teen and with LC as a sex educator, and Burton was active in women’s history, education reform and once even presented at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) annual conference. These past experiences, they explained, have motivated their work with Planned Parenthood.
“This is really exciting because we’re both political science majors and I wanted to be able to take my passion in sex education and teaching it into policy work and see how that looked,” Langer said.
The fellowship typically receives hundreds of applicants, so receiving the fellowship was a welcome surprise for the pair, who were close friends prior to working together.
“I think something that’s really funny is so many people applied, and Star and I were literally roommates last year, and we got the position,” Langer said. “So not only are we both from Lewis & Clark, we both are very tight.”
Their work involves interviewing legislators about their agendas to inform the organization’s endorsements, tracking bill support and lobbying.
“We’ve been super focused on tracking bills that are related to universal representation, and trying to get undocumented people legal representation when they’re in court,” Burton said.
Langer also expressed enthusiasm with the legislative and electoral work they do.
“I never thought I would ever talk to senators and legislators and be able to decide whether or not I like them and I want to support them, and want to give them the endorsement for Planned Parenthood,” Langer said. “And that just is so amazing.”
Fair Shot is one bill that the two are working on. It is aimed at transforming justice, promoting universal legal representation and ensuring fair compensation for farmworkers.
“We’re tracking a bill called Fair Shot, which is about giving farmworker overtime and making sure that people who are producing our food and feeding everyone in Oregon are getting compensated for working more than 40 hours a week, which isn’t happening right now,” Burton said.
Currently, the fellowship is entirely virtual. While they do hope to do some in-person lobbying or attend Pride with Planned Parenthood in the future, the fellowship being virtual has made it more accessible and more “career development based.” An in-person fellowship would require frequent trips to Salem and other locations. Although being online for hours was initially draining given that LC classes were online at the start of spring semester, they explain that the organization’s leadership has been very supportive and welcoming.
“When we were starting the job online and then also doing Zoom schooling, it was just a lot of sensory overload or just like screen overload, because there was no differentiation,” Burton said. “And then you have to go to these two and a half-hour meetings. Then by the end of the day, you just don’t even want to look at a screen anymore … everything is at your capacity. They’re always like, get a blanket, get a snack, go get water, do what you need.”
The majority conservative Supreme Court has indicated that it may roll back abortion rights and repeal Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood services would be put at risk if abortion rights are threatened. Although they can not share specifics regarding Planned Parenthood Oregon plans, Burton explained that the organization has been preparing what to do in the event that the landmark decision does get overturned.
“We’ve been asking different representatives, different candidates, what their values and priorities are for a post-Roe world and we’re just hoping that there’s still going to be people in office that are going to continue lobbying for it or continue to try and combat any oppression even when it gets overturned,”Burton said. “no one’s fully prepared to know what it’s gonna look like once abortion is banned, but everyone’s trying to mentally prep themselves.”
The pair anticipate that this fellowship will aid in future career aspirations. Many of their current coworkers and bosses were once fellows as well.
“There’s huge retention right out of the fellowship position, and most of the people that graduate go on to work higher positions at Planned Parenthood,” Burton said.
Regardless of what they plan to do, the fellowship is a window into various career trajectories for the pair. Langer, for example, hopes to merge her experience and knowledge with education.
“I would love to be able to design sex ed curriculums and figure out what kind of things we can pass that need to be addressed in public schools,” Langer said.
Follow @ppaoregon on Instagram and @PPAdvocatesOR on Twitter for updates on bills to support.