Melanie Martin, a Student Government Association (SGA) senator at Raritan Valley Community College, is not only in the Nursing program to take care of the health of her patients, but also to protect their political rights. She is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment and women’s healthcare, and believes too many policies for women’s healthcare are passed by politicians who do not have proper knowledge of the issues.
Martin said there are two big issues that concern her about women’s healthcare today, and one of them is the right for a woman to have an abortion.
“I believe women should have the right to choose. It’s a right—rights shouldn’t have to be voted on. How can somebody else tell me what the right chose is for me in my situation? People are so quick to say abortions should be illegal, but there are no rules saying you can’t leave a pregnant woman. What is she supposed to do in that situation?
In a lot of cases, a woman might have an abortion because it’s a life or death situation, or because she was raped. There are a lot of situations people are not taking into consideration. I’m not saying I like abortions. I’m saying I’m in favor of freedom of choice.”
Martin said the other big issue is birth control.
“There was recently a decision made in behalf of Hobby Lobby, where an employer has the right to decide whether or not their insurance policies cover birth control. There are a lot of problems with that. One, birth control is often used for medical issues that have nothing to do with contraception. Another thing is why can’t we have a right to contraception? A lot of people say make it over-the-counter so we can get it at a pharmacy. But not everybody can afford to do that. That’s why it’s important we have that coverage.”
Even as strong as these beliefs are today, Martin was not always this outspoken. She describes herself in the past being “shy, self-isolating and introverted,” and struggling with confidence. However, Martin said she got over these problems last year while she was president of the Bio/Chem Club.
The advisor for the club, Sarah Imbriglio, was somebody Martin greatly admired. “I took Sarah Imbriglio’s chemistry class and I was very intimidated—I didn’t think I would do well at chemistry,” she said. “But seeing a female teach a class was very inspirational. I wanted to please her so much because I respected her.” At the end of the semester, Martin received an “A” for the class.
In May 2014, the Bio/Chem Club won several honors at Student Life’s “Student Leadership Celebration,” including Club of the Year and Club President of the Year. Martin was shocked and overwhelmed. “I thought Bio/Chem had a shot at Most Improved Club, but not Club of the Year…I felt accomplished because I was working hard the whole year and thought nobody noticed.”
Since then, Martin has continued receiving honors at RVCC. Last summer, she was selected to represent the school at the “New Leadership” program that was held at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, a national bi-partisan program to educate college women about the political process and teach them to become effective leaders.
“It opened my eyes,” Martin said. “I always knew there were problems (with women’s healthcare), but I didn’t realize the extent of those problems until I went to that program. Now I have a better understanding of how to get politically involved and why it’s important. And I think it’s important to share that with other women.”
Because healthcare is closely related to politics, Martin insists other nurses to get involved in political issues. “Somebody with a healthcare background can shed light, their perspective, their experience and enlighten the politicians voting on healthcare issues,” she said. “Healthcare is a lot about politics. How we provide care has to do with what the insurance is willing to cover. A lot of people just don’t understand what they’re voting for, even if they think what they’re doing is the right thing.”
Martin is currently the oldest officer of SGA, and believes she can bring unique insight to the organization because of that. If she were younger, Martin said, she would have impatiently graduated as fast as she could just to receive a piece of paper. Now that she is older, she knows that in order to succeed, she has to both learn as much as possible in her classes and involve herself in extracurricular activities.
So what is next for Melanie’s nursing future? After she receives an associate degree, Martin will continue the Nursing program at Kean University’s dual admission program at RVCC. But before then, she wants to get involved in the new women’s center at RVCC. The women’s center is currently in very early stages of planning, but Martin already has her eyes set on helping with its growth.
The previous article in this series was on DeAnna Nicholson.
This article was edited on September 22, 2014.