By Elvira Razzano, Choice Out Loud intern at George Mason University
After our pro-choice student organization was forced to disband in the Spring of 2013 due to a low member turnout at meetings, I was motivated to build a coalition of pro-choice students at George Mason University. I was excited to join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia as their Choice Out Loud intern on campus, and I immediately started reaching out to my pro-choice friends, who donated their time to advertising my events and helped me table to recruit more pro-choice students.
From the start, our biggest obstacle was the fact that our campus climate definitely leaned anti-choice; there is a registered pro-life student organization that frequently holds events on campus, most visibly by holding graphic images in the center of campus every so often. However, I knew that with enough momentum we could show George Mason University that their movement did not represent the student body as a whole.
On a rainy Friday afternoon in February, I organized a few students to counter-protest these anti-choice, graphic images on campus. We got plenty of thumbs up and thank-yous from passersby, showing us that the student body recognized and appreciated our pro-choice efforts. It was that day that I learned that the Genocide Awareness Project, an anti-choice organization that travels to college campuses with huge graphic images that compare abortion to genocide, was coming to campus. I knew I had to do something, so I spent most of March planning a massive counter-protest against them.
I’m happy to report that pro-choice students were a constant presence against the Genocide Awareness Project when they were on campus March 24th, 25th, and 26th! We held assertive signs with slogans that said “Pro Choice is not Pro Abortion,” “My Constitutional Rights Are Not Up For Debate,” and “Not Your Uterus? Not Your Decision.” We engaged in peaceful conversation with members of the Genocide Awareness Project and received overwhelming support and affirmation from the Mason community; some students were compelled to drop their things, grab a sign, and counter-protest with us.
Although the counter-protest against the Genocide Awareness Project was a huge success, it is imperative that the Mason community knows that reproductive rights are still under attack even though the Genocide Awareness Project is no longer on our campus. I am excited to spend the rest of my Choice Out Loud internship letting the Mason community know just that!