by Alicia Chen
Recently I found a video online of a house representative speaking about her support for SB 353. Her reason? Poorly sanitized equipment would expose women to life-threatening vaginal organisms, some of which are found nearly everywhere in the environment. She was immediately thrown a question from another representative, who asked: “Are these not things that could happen anywhere, not just in clinics that provide abortion or abortion services?” The speaker of the house answered her. “Representative Fisher, the chair is not a medical professional,” and summarized a bit of what she said.
What I found appalling about this interaction was that even though the speaker admitted that the representatives could not answer these questions adequately due to their lack of qualification, the bill was being debated as if they could. It is particularly interesting to me to juxtapose the words of representatives with the words of doctors, and in particular, the opinions of OB-GYNs across the state. The North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and the North Carolina Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently issued a joint statement expressing their disapproval of both SB 353 (AKA HB 695): “Scientific evidence should be central to the legislature’s deliberations on any women’s health care policy, especially when the measures would severely restrict access to necessary women’s health care and related lawful medical services. Passage of these bills, which are not based on science, will have a detrimental effect on the health of women in North Carolina. We strongly urge lawmakers to reject these measures.”
This is a critical time for women in North Carolina- and this is one of the many reasons that I am working as a summer intern here at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. Doing work for NARAL means that I attend Moral Mondays. I take photos, I make infographics, help out with any other things that need to be done. At Moral Monday, however, I was bestowed with the privilege of hearing the Reverend Barber speak, witnessing a great number of individuals standing up for their rights and practicing civil disobedience, and engaging in uplifting conversations with fellow citizens about the state of North Carolina and its government. Its always interesting to me that I attend as a representative of a particular organization, as part of my summer job, and usually leave having bumped into quite a few friends and acquaintances. It’s not just about work, it’s about community.
A few Mondays ago I had the chance to attend the pre-moral monday press conference and witness our executive director Suzanne Buckley speak about her work and dedication to the cause. I was surprised, however, by something peculiar. I witnessed two professors I have worked with and studied under (one of which, I later found, apparently is culturally significant enough to have a Wikipedia page of some length written about her) pledging their dedication by committing to arrest.
I applied for an intern position with NARAL despite the protests of my parents in the hopes of being involved in something meaningful to me, and to continue my work in gender equity and social justice. I applied because I couldn’t ignore the part of me that says that much still needs to be fought for until things are right. I hope that one day, when my hair is graying or when I toddle around on a cane I am still as committed to what I believe to be right as those professors who risk arrest for that which is meaningful to them.
I am pro-choice because my mother, my friends, and my future daughters deserve unconditional access to a full range of reproductive health options. Choice is one of the biggest stepping stones towards the constellation of freedoms that is gender equity – which all women deserve, and should ultimately be made between a woman and her doctor. After all, a woman knows her body better than anyone else. And if I – and my peers, who feel strongly about women’s choice – don’t fight for the rights each woman deserves, then who will?
Either way, the truth is this: no matter what happens to the bill or to the state, I am happy that I was able to be involved in supporting the rights of women across North Carolina. I thank all the beautiful and committed people across the state for attending Moral Mondays, making their opinions known, and fighting for our rights.
Alicia Chen is a rising junior psychology major at UNC Chapel Hill and summer social media intern for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. In her spare time she enjoys rock- and tree-climbing, reading, and exploring North Carolina.