This fall 2012 semester at Virginia Commonwealth University has been an active one in terms of pro-choice advocacy and activism. It started off with a rally at the Virginia Board of Health on September 14th, to show Virginia legislators that won’t put up with this TRAP (Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers). Despite our efforts, the Board voted to approve legislation that will greatly diminish access to abortion in the future, and because of this, VCU students are riled up and want to know more. As VCU campus intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, I reigned in that energy and answered many questions.
I spent the next month, before the voter registration cut-off date, talking to students about pro-choice representation and the power of the youth vote. I teamed up with some of our campus’ social justice organizations that were tabling in the campus commons—while they were registering students to vote, I chatted with them about anti-choice laws in Virginia and in the nation.
In November, I held a documentary showing of 12th & Delaware, a documentary showing the hardships of women tricked into going into a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) across the street from an abortion clinic and of women trying to get into the abortion clinic, past the protesters from the CPC. After the showing, the many attendees’ questions were answered and a lively discussion was had about those who end up going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Virginia as a huge barrier to reproductive freedom.
Since VCU has a big art school and thriving art community, In December I created a gallery style infoshop in the Student Art Space in the student commons. Students, on their way to and from class or on their way to study for exams, popped in to see the display I had set up. Dangling from the ceiling, near the entrance of the art space, I printed out and hung stories of women facing barriers to abortion services in Virginia. On the wall hung the eleven common lies that Crisis Pregnancy Centers tell to women with unwanted pregnancies in order to convince them out of abortions. On pedastals throught the gallery, there were spreads of pamphlets and stickers from NARAL Pro-Choice’s #TruthFail campaign. Curious students were shocked by the outlandish lies of CPCs and touched by the real women’s stories. The info displayed in the info/art show provoked many great conversations about the realities of abortion access.
At the very end of the semester I wrote an opinion piece for the school newspaper, The Commonwealth Times. For the 2012/2013 school year, the student handbook/calendar had two advertisements of local Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Since CPCs prey on college-aged students, I let it be known that such ads are inappropriate and unwanted. My goal in writing the piece was to urge students and administrators alike to speak out against advertisements for fake clinics that could potentially jeopardize the health of VCU students.
This semester, as I worked to raise awareness of issues I am passionate about, I turns out I learned a lot myself. I learned how easy it is to forget that while many are in the know about issues surrounding abortion access, many still aren’t. I learned how easy it is to engage people in a conversation about issues they might not know to be relevant to them. I learned how fun it is to work hard advocating for reproductive health and raising awareness about the barriers to abortion that exist regardless of law. As many consciousness-raising conversations as I had with other students on my campus, there is still much work to be done in the quest for true reproductive freedom.