By Jenny Rossberg, Fall 2014 Choice Out Loud Campus Representative at the College of William and Mary. Connect with Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month at William and Mary, Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX) continued our usual routine of tabling for sexual health awareness and attending Clinic Defense in Richmond, VA, with the super awesome addition of our Speak Out! Abortion Talk on December 3rd.
Clinic Defense on November 1st went very well. Four VOX members—Bri Little, Rachel Cook, Haley Wenk, Karla Kaplan, and Katie Baldewin—traveled to a Planned Parenthood clinic in order to help escort clinic patients past protestors. According to the members who attended the protest was relatively low-key and they didn’t have any problems with violence. The protestors were, however, verbally accosting both the people entering the clinic and clinic escort. They try to force information on women entering the clinic, pray loudly at the walls, and try to convince escorts of the wrongs they’re doing toward God and unborn babies. Sigh.
On November 8th, VOX members had a slightly more positive experience when we traveled to Portsmouth to help NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia table at the local Farmers Market. Quite a few shoppers signed up for emails from NARAL and stopped to talk to us about the work we’re doing. There were also lots of dogs and baked goods present, so we all had a pretty good time.
On November 12th, VOX celebrated National Birth Control Day! We had members take pictures with a sign explaining why they were grateful for birth control, plus we had several people from outside the club submit their reasons. It was a super positive outpouring of support for birth control and kind of makes you forget why anyone would ever be opposed to it.
Our most important events this month(ish) was our first ever Speak Out! Abortion Talk. To put it simply, it couldn’t have gone better. We collected 13 stories from people from the William and Mary community, those close to them, and other submissions in an effort to erase the stigma surrounding abortions and start an open conversation. We had VOX members read the stories aloud as well as one member who shared her personal story, followed by an open discussion with the audience led by NARAL’s Ta’Kindra Westbrook.
The turn out for the event was great—we had around 70 students show up and many of them participated in the discussion afterwards. Several of our members shared the stories of their mothers, neighbors, and friends. It was simultaneously obvious that a diverse range of people has abortions and that abortion is relatively common.
1 in 3 American women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and these women aren’t strangers. The women who have abortions are our mothers, our daughters, and our friends. They’re people we care about who made the right decision for themselves at the time, and we need to recognize that it was their choice and not shame them into silence about it.
VOX plans to repeat the event next year to help facilitate the conversation about abortion on our campus and in our community.
(Note: VOX also recognizes that trans* men and non-binary individuals can have abortions; “women” should be recognized a shorthand for “people with uteruses” in order to include everyone who can have abortions in this conversation.)