By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University
While April marks the end of the semester and the beginning of final exams for most students, there was no shortage of activism at NC State. We saw continued efforts to repeal House Bill 2 through mass sit-ins and marches at the State Capitol, as well as efforts to protect and expand reproductive rights in North Carolina. I made it my goal this semester to extend as many activism-related opportunities to students as possible. Some events of note included the Trapped film screening, Take Back The Night, Bowl-A-Thon, and the Susan Hill Event.
Not even technical difficulties could keep the NC State Trapped film screening from being a huge success. Students, professors, citizens of Raleigh, and even clinic escorts attended the screening of this 2016 documentary. The film follows the struggles of clinic workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of a battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women. In particular, the film follows the fight against Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP). TRAP restrictions can increase mandatory waiting periods for abortion care and put unnecessary regulations on clinics. In some states, women must drive hundreds of miles to reach the nearest abortion clinic, sometimes even flying out and taking days off from work. By making students aware of such laws, we can be prepared to take on the policies which are hurting women across the country. I had great, thought-provoking conversations with students of all ages after the film screening, many of whom asked me how they can help. Some even expressed an eager interest in becoming a clinic escort. To me, this is what the Campus Leader program is all about.
April is the official month for the National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon. Bowl-A-Thon provides abortion funds for women in need across the country, whether it be travel or reproductive health care costs. The goal of the funds are to make abortion accessible to women of low socioeconomic incomes. This month, bowling teams across North Carolina took on the challenge of raising $50,000 in the name of the pro-choice movement. We raised 84% of our goal in total, despite having been attacked by radical anti-abortion extremists, who carried out an extensive and time-consuming cyber attack on the Bowl-A-Thon’s network. Despite the challenges, the Carolina Abortion Fund came out on top thanks to all the brave pro-choice individuals fighting to protect reproductive rights.
This month, I attended Take Back the Night, which occurs yearly at NC State. Take Back the Night aims to create a space in which survivors of rape and sexual assault can be heard and feel safe to express their stories and concerns with the current system. During the rally, which drew hundreds, student volunteers from Students Advocating Gender Equality (SAGE) handed out reproductive health resources such as pamphlets, condoms, and buttons to attendees. After the rally, there was a march and a Speak Out. During the Speak Out, many survivors of rape and sexual assault chose to share their experiences in a safe and supportive setting. This was a very powerful event to attend, to say the least. Though discussing rape and sexual assault can be very painful, I am hoping those who chose to share feel validated, empowered, and supported by the Wolfpack community.
To wrap up the month and academic year, I attended the 2016 Susan Hill Event. I had the pleasure of volunteering alongside other Campus Leaders, who shared with me their experiences as an intern so far. I also had the pleasure of listening to keynote speaker Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has been the face of the battle against TRAP regulations this year. Her speech struck inspiration into the hearts of everyone in the room. To see and hear the optimism of everyone was very encouraging to me as an activist and as a person. I had the opportunity to mingle with various leaders in the pro-choice movement including NARAL Pro-Choice NC’s new Executive Director, Tara Romano. I am excited to see what next semester holds for me and NARAL Pro-Choice NC!