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Teenage Peer Counselors Attending Annual Meeting of NY Family Planning Advocates

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We speak with two high school students who have traveled from Buffalo to attend the annual meeting of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. They are both teenage peer counselors. Samantha Vuich is a senior at McKinley High School in Buffalo, and Shabar Rouse is a junior at City Honors High School in Buffalo. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! is on the road in the state of New York, the capital, Albany. It’s been nearly ten years since the assassination of Dr. Barnett Slepian. On October 23, 1998, a sniper shot the doctor dead inside his home in Amherst, New York, just outside of Buffalo. The doctor was targeted because he, well, legally performed abortions in a downtown Buffalo women’s health clinic.

Dr. Slepian became the fourth doctor and seventh person in the US to be murdered because of their involvement with performing abortions. Dr. Slepian’s assassin, James Charles Kopp, was affiliated with the anti-abortion group the Lambs of Christ. After spending years as a fugitive, Kopp was arrested in 2001. He’s now serving a life sentence.

We end today’s show with two high school students who have traveled from Buffalo to attend the annual meeting of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. They’re both teen peer counselors. Samantha Vuich is a senior at McKinley High School in Buffalo, and Shabar Rouse is a junior at City Honors High School in Buffalo.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Samantha, let’s begin with you. How did you become a team counselor, and what does it mean?

SAMANTHA VUICH: Well, I started out — our group is called Teen Reality Theater, and we’re based in Planned Parenthood of Western New York. I had to audition, because it is a teen theater. And we teach through the means of theater. So we write our own educational skits, based on teen pregnancy, whatever topic we’re talking about or we’re asked to talk about, and we go out and we perform them. And then we have a question-and-answer. So I originally became interested in the theater portion, but when I got the job, I became this peer educator, and I became a source for people at my school to come and talk to me.


SAMANTHA VUICH: About anything related to sex, condoms, birth control, visits to their gynecologist, anything.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Shabar Rouse, how did you get involved? You’re in a different school.

SHABAR ROUSE: Yes. Well, I first found out about the group through my mother. She told me about it. And I came and auditioned, and I got the job.

AMY GOODMAN: And that means the job as an actor in this sort of theater troupe that deals with these issues?

SHABAR ROUSE: Yes. But first we get education on a range of different issues, and then we write our own skits and go and perform them throughout the community.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s an example of a piece that you’ve done, of a script that you’ve been involved in writing?

SHABAR ROUSE: Our most recent play was about teen pregnancy. It’s called Inside Out: The Reality of Teen Pregnancy. And it’s about three girls, and they all get pregnant, and their decision, what to do with their pregnancy. One aborts it, one has an adoption, and one carries to term.

AMY GOODMAN: And do people come to you, as they come to Samantha, to talk about sex education, to talk about what they can do?

SHABAR ROUSE: Yes, people come to me for condoms, for how to use condoms, where they can get emergency contraception.

AMY GOODMAN: Does your school support you?


AMY GOODMAN: Why go to kids? Why not have adults be giving out this information?

SHABAR ROUSE: People — teenagers don’t really feel comfortable going to adults, as much as they do coming to their peers. And if they can, why not?

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the school is an appropriate place for this? And what role do parents have, Samantha?

SAMANTHA VUICH: I believe the school does the best it can. It doesn’t help that we have abstinence-only programs in our schools.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

SAMANTHA VUICH: Well, they only — they don’t teach about birth control. They don’t teach about condoms or anything like that, because if they did, I wouldn’t be getting the questions I have. And I get some pretty outlandish questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Just people coming up to you. Do you have something set up in the school where you can talk to people —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- or just kids coming up to you, other teenagers?

SAMANTHA VUICH: No. It’s gotten around the school that I work for Planned Parenthood, so people will come, people I don’t know will come and seek me out and ask for advice or information or — I most often get asked if I can get them free condoms.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever had any trouble?

SAMANTHA VUICH: Trouble, no.

AMY GOODMAN: Has anyone ever tried to get you to stop talking about these issues?


AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever had any trouble, Shabar?


AMY GOODMAN: And what do you plan to go on and doing in your life, Shabar?

SHABAR ROUSE: Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher, but now I’m not so sure. Still might want to be a teacher, though.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of you coming from the area where a doctor, an ob/gyn, an abortion provider, Dr. Slepian, was killed almost ten years ago now, has that had an effect on you, Samantha?

SAMANTHA VUICH: I think so. I think it — one of the questions I always get asked when I tell people I work at Planned Parenthood is “Aren’t you scared?” And I say, no, I’m not scared, because we are very protected. So, it was a terrible thing that happened. I mean, awful. But I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for joining us. You’re here for the Family Planning conference that’s taking place, Family Planning Advocates, here in Albany. A thousand people are coming out for today’s event. Shabar Rouse from City Honors High School in Buffalo and Samantha Vuich, teenage peer counselor at McKinley High in Buffalo, thank you both for being here.

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