Promoting support without shame at Virginia Tech

By Kathleen Dwyer

Virginia Tech Support Without Shame Campus Leader

This semester I have been building an on-campus group of pro-choice advocates to participate in an education campaign about reproductive healthcare in the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities. This is the Support Without Shame campaign, part of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. As the campus grassroots organizer for Virginia Tech, I raise awareness concerning crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in general and Blacksburg’s Pregnancy Resource Center specifically.

The Support Without Shame campaign has been busy with social media outreach, information booths, and recruiting, training and mobilizing volunteers to participate in on-campus advocacy. I organized meetings and presentations with health center administration, Virginia Tech classes, and student organizations to promote reproductive justice on campus and to educate about the current dangers CPCs pose to comprehensive and respectful reproductive health care. I even had a couple opinion editorials appear in the campus newspaper.

On April 5th, the campaign worked with Virginia Tech’s Young Democrats to cosponsor a film presentation of “12th & Delaware.” (See below for pictures.)

Spreading the word

12th & Delaware” is an award-winning documentary from the makers of Academy Award®-nominated “Jesus Camp.” The documentary follows activity on a quiet street corner in Florida where a comprehensive women’s health clinic stands literally across the street from a CPC. The film presents the tactics of this CPC to persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term no matter the situation. The film also shows how anti-choice groups and individuals harass women entering the women’s health clinic across the road.

Although I was already familiar with CPCs and their tactics, I still found myself angered and disturbed by this Florida CPC. The director of the CPC is a very religious woman, yet she and her coworkers lie to a woman about the gestational age of the fetus. Such use of lies to dissuade women from all their options seems contrary to her religious views. The film shows her manipulating women’s thoughts and feelings during this time of crisis. She even shows them grotesque videos of what she claims are an abortion procedure. In some cases, these same women are later shown at the comprehensive women’s health clinic, clearly shaken and terrified, seeking support and answers. Despite my familiarity with CPCs, I was appalled by the audacity of this woman and even more upset knowing that this goes on all over the country.

Discussing the film

12th & Delaware” exemplified the reasons I joined this campaign. I can’t sit idly by while women are lied to, manipulated, and harassed by people who think they know what’s best for everyone. I believe in providing medically accurate information, respectful counseling, and unbiased support. I believe in giving women the truth and letting them decide what’s best for them in their personal situation. “12th & Delaware” reminded me how important that is.

With petition signatures, an active Facebook page, and a growing number of people reached through meetings and tablings, this campaign has made an impressive initial impact on the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg community. We conclude the Spring semester having garnered strong initial support, but with nearly 30,000 students, we have more work to do on the Virginia Tech campus.  Many students still don’t know what a CPC is. We also have several people working against our campaign to promote comprehensive and respectful reproductive health options for the women in our community.

This situation exemplifies the work Support Without Shame has to do on our campus: while the director of the women’s clinic at Virginia Tech refuses to refer patients to the local CPC, the general health clinic has doctors who do refer patients there.

Talking about the dangerous practices of CPCs

The Support Without Shame Campaign at Virginia Tech has made great strides this semester, but the campaign is just getting started.

To get involved, email vt@naralva.org

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