Reproductive Justice Week at UNC Wilmington!

by Becki Fernandez, 2017 Campus Leader at UNC Wilmington

This November, I organized and implemented a week of programming surrounding the theme of reproductive justice as part of my position with the NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Campus Leader program, aptly called “Reproductive Justice Week.”  I have been organizing for years with the UNCW Feminist Student Alliance around several feminist, social justice issues, but this was the first time that I organized a full week of programs coinciding with a week of awareness.

Becki RJ Week 1

The climate surrounding talking about reproductive justice in Wilmington, NC, is an interesting one, particularly around the subject of abortion.  I have noticed during my time in Wilmington that abortion rights is one of the few angles of modern, progressive social justice that the community has some trouble rallying around.  Just look at what we saw happening with the Democratic Party this year with the debate surrounding a litmus test on support of abortion rights.  In Wilmington, we have more fake clinic crisis pregnancy centers than actual medical clinics that offer abortion services. In fact, our one clinic that does offer abortion services can only bring in an abortion provider 4 times a month.  I am genuinely fearful of wearing any of my pro-abortion t-shirts in public here because of how antagonistic the community seems to be.  I know that I am far from the only person in Wilmington, NC, that is passionate about abortion rights and reproductive justice.  But, I am still aware that the community has a sizable, adamantly anti-choice community that will protest along the sides of busy roads and intersections to try and deny people access to their constitutional right to an abortion.  So at the very least, I set out to get a conversation started on abortion rights in southeastern North Carolina.

I also wanted to try and focus on a few reproductive justice issues that go beyond abortion rights. While abortion rights are an important battle in the reproductive justice framework, they are not the only pressing issue in today’s world.  The right to have children is also an important reproductive right, and the right to parent and raise these children in safe communities is also an important reproductive right.  Essentially, the right for you and your possible family to exist and live healthy, dignified lives regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, immigration status, ability, income, or any aspect of your identity is the ultimate reproductive right that should always be fought for.

I started off my week of action with a “How to Get an Abortion in North Carolina” toolkit presentation with Carolina Abortion Fund.  The presentation was very informative and went well.  Representatives from Carolina Abortion Fund came in and talked about the Becki RJ Week 2current state of abortion rights and access in North Carolina.  I am sure this is not exactly news for anyone reading anything off of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s website, but the current state of abortion rights and access in North Carolina is pretty grim.  So “Reproductive Justice Week” might not have started off on a happy note, but it definitely started on a call-to-action to help provide abortion funds, at the very least, to people in need in North Carolina.

The next event of Reproductive Justice Week was a discussion on LGBTQIA reproductive health and rights hosted with a fellow student organization on campus, Pride.  I felt it was dire to include a program about queer reproductive health because as many folks doing this work are aware of already, the reproductive rights of the LGBTQIA community is oftentimes left out of the reproductive rights narrative even though these rights are just as important.  Cisgender, heterosexual individuals are not the only individuals in need of abortion access.  Furthermore, LGBTQIA folk face larger disparities than some of their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts in finding access to general and reproductive Queer Trans Repro Justicehealthcare, which goes far beyond abortion rights.  Not to mention the struggles LGBTQIA parents face in fighting for their basic right to parent, on top of fighting for basic rights to employment, housing, and freedom from violence and discrimination.  During our discussion, we made sure to touch on many of these issues, as well as take audience feedback on LGBTQIA reproductive justice issues that are important to them.

Next, we hosted a small lunch and chat with representatives from NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina where we also talked about the current state of reproductive rights in NC, with a focus on fake clinic crisis pregnancy centers and all the legislative barriers that have been created for people trying to seek out an abortion in NC.  The discussion was vibrant, lively, and had great involvement from UNCW faculty and staff.Becki RJ Week 3

Our next event of Reproductive Justice Week was a screening of the documentary No Más Bebés.  This is a documentary about a group of immigrant women in Los Angeles suing county doctors, the state of California, and the U.S. government for coercing and at times even tricking these young, immigrant mothers into getting their tubes tied and becoming sterilized.  This was one of the most powerful events of the week of action for me, personally, as a Latina and child of immigrants.  I have witnessed firsthand what it is like for non-Latinx people to think your family is dirty because it is large and Latinx.  It was a profound, impactful documentary that was also deeply resonating.  The film also serves as a reminder to the reproductive justice community that this is a movement founded for and by women of color, and the specific needs of people of color that are found in the intersections of the reproductive justice framework need to be prioritized because they are the needs that have been constantly looked over for most of the reproductive rights movement.  The bodies of people of color have been used for centuries for experiments and torture to advance the reproductive rights narrative and that must be recognized in order for us to move forward.

After that, I, along with the Feminist Student Alliance, hosted a discussion on the Hyde Amendment and why it is our duty to support low-income folks’ access to abortion care.  A lot of people in the room for this event were not even aware of the current implications of the Hyde Amendment, which is great in a sense because I feel the entire purpose of holding events like these are to educate people who do not know as much about these issues as I might, as opposed to preaching to a choir of established reproductive rights activists.  The Hyde Amendment infamously prohibits federal funding from covering abortion.  This means that low-income people who may be relying on Medicaid/Medicare for healthcare coverage cannot use this coverage for abortion services unless they live in a state that explicitly allows it.  Making abortion care only Becki RJ Week 4readily available to people with middle and upper class incomes goes against the whole point of legal and safe access to abortion.  Access to abortion has to be affordable, too, in order for it to be a genuine right.  Sadly, this does not stop legislators from slashing funding for abortion care left and right, and there are even a few people who say they are “pro-choice” who agree that federal funding should not go towards abortion.  However, abortion is healthcare, plain and simple.  Placing insurance bans against covering the costs of abortion care should not be the one facet of healthcare that we won’t fight to gain coverage for.

Our last event of “Reproductive Justice Week” was “Storytelling as Activism” with Collective Sex and Shout Your Abortion.  Activists Poppy and Amelia shared their own personal abortion stories and emphasized how important storytelling is in activism.  Storytelling is what breaks barriers and stigma because it goes beyond the 24-hour news pundits, beyond the internet thinkpieces, beyond the debates on legislation.  Storytelling shows how even the most stigmatized of social issues affects real people and their real Becki RJ Week 5lives.  And that is just what Poppy and Amelia did with their presentation.  The entire room of people was deeply moved by what these two abortion storytelling activists had to say.  Additionally, I think it is safe to say that not just through the entire week of events but with this program in particular, I started an honest conversation about abortion in my community which is exactly what I set out to do.

Overall, I was impressed with the outcome of my “Reproductive Justice Week.”  Despite a few concerns of ours, no one came out to harass me, members of my student organization, or any of the presenters I had visiting during the week of programming.  Furthermore, we had great attendance from Wilmington community members, which is fantastic considering all the events happened on UNCW’s campus.  In this day and age, discussions about reproductive justice can be exhausting and tiring.  It is definitely an uphill battle to fight for these rights and have our voices be heard.  Nevertheless, we cannot stop until all of our rights are guaranteed!

The Reproductive Care Crisis: My Experience with CPCs

Conner Sokolovic, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Intern and East Carolina University Senior 

It was a sunny morning in Greenville, NC, the home of East Carolina University. After a brief drive, I parked in the back lot and walked around the side of the building, concealed for the most part from the main street. “Carolina Pregnancy Center” was lettered on the door. I walked into the small, vacant lobby and took a moment to look at the numerous brochures they had available. The brochures ranged from vague and general information about the center to advertisements for maternity houses (pro-life, religious compounds for pregnant women to stay at during pregnancy), and adoption agencies. None of the brochures provided information for abortion providers or services. Upon closer inspection it was apparent that every brochure was heavily laden with religious (Christian) references and overtones, foreshadowing an agenda that has less to do with helping women and more with promoting ideology.

Eventually, the receptionist came out of a back room, and I began giving her the story – which I rehearsed in my head during the car ride there – about a close friend who was pregnant and wanted information regarding her options. She responded, in what seemed to be a speech more overtly rehearsed than my own, by insisting my “friend” set up an appointment to undergo an ultrasound as soon as possible. When I asked if there was any information that I could bring to my friend, she told me that they did not keep their pregnancy options information in the public waiting room (red flag, anyone?). However, after a little more talking, I convinced her to go into the back area to try get me more information. I like to indulge myself in imagining that this success was due to my charm and charisma, but it is much more likely she was simply new. I heard some muffled talking in the back, and when she emerged, she informed me that the information would be available when my “friend” came in for her appointment. Then, she steered our conversation in the direction of the door. I don’t know about you, but when I think about organizations that claim to help women, I don’t think “clandestine” should be the first word to come to mind.

Carolina Pregnancy Center is one of many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). They grossly outnumber abortion providers nationally, especially now in the wake of recently passed restrictive legislation. In North Carolina alone, CPCs outnumber abortion providers 8 to 1, and they position themselves in close proximity to universities. In short, CPCs are designed to attract young women looking to evaluate their options regarding pregnancy, and use any means necessary to convince them not to have an abortion. These centers are fueled by religious dogma, and funded by religious organizations. . . and your tax dollars! In the 2013-2015 North Carolina budget, lawmakers allocated $250,000 of YOUR taxpayer dollars to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an umbrella organization that supports more than half of North Carolina’s CPCs. Some states have adopted measures that require these centers to clearly identify that they are not a medical clinic and to not flat out lie. CPCs will shamelessly look someone in the eye and tell them that abortions are linked to cancer. That is one of the many documented completely ridiculous lies that an overwhelming majority of these centers tell.

At East Carolina University, the Crisis Pregnancy Center is located closer to some of the dorms than the actual Student Health Center. It has an extremely well made (and well paid-for) website, and still comes up close to the top of any search engine results that use “pregnancy” and related terms. I grew up in Greenville, and I used to attend church in my middle school and early high school years. I remember the church provided opportunities every summer to volunteer at the Carolina Pregnancy Center. It’s unsettling that these facilities are so inextricably tied to churches. It scares me that, should someone seek advice from a person in their church community regarding a pregnancy, they will likely be referred to avatar_1a70cdc5c2df_512a CPC.

At NC State University, where my younger sister will begin her first year this fall, there are even brochures for a CPC, located just blocks away, mixed in with factual information and referrals to actual medical facilities. I am not only worried about her, but about all of the potentially affected college students.

What we need to do, since we now know the full scope and scale of our problem, is address it whenever possible. Inform your friends about CPCs, and check your university’s website and student health centers for any information that would serve as a referral to a CPC. Then, take action to get it removed! After all, this is ultimately a battle of education.

NCSU Senior Reflects: After 42 Years, is Roe a Reality?

By Lela Johnston, NARAL Pro-Choice NC Intern and NC State University Senior 

This week we recognize the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s right to reproductive choice. Reproductive decisions extend far beyond the doctor’s office. A woman’s right to control her reproductive health is the most basic and critical element of her autonomy. Without this fundamental human right, women’s voices are silenced, their independence is threatened, and ultimately, political, economic, and social gender equality is still just a distant possibility. Forty-two years ago the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. legally recognized my right to control my own body. And while I’m grateful that I have grown up in a post-Roe society, its legal precedent has still yet to be fully transformed into a reality.

Roe’s legal acknowledgement of a woman’s right to choose has not ensured equal access to reproductive healthcare. Since Roe prevents our General Assembly from entirely outlawing abortion, the legislature has instead passed restrictive legislation. These restrictions include requiring women seeking abortion care to undergo distressing mandatory ultrasounds and medically unnecessary laws like dictating the width of a clinic’s door frames. Even here on NC State’s campus, a lack of equal and accurate medical information serves as yet another barrier to a woman’s right to make informed healthcare decisions. Our Women’s Health Center offers information on Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) but limited information on abortion and adoption care. These so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”, masquerading as comprehensive health clinics, often manipulate pregnant women by providing biased and medically inaccurate information on abortion and birth control. Our own Women’s Health Center has pamphlets for CPCs in its waiting room but little information on other reproductive health options.Lela

As a student, as a woman, and as a human being, I deserve better. I deserve to attend a public university that provides comprehensive and factual healthcare information. I deserve to attend a university that respects my reproductive autonomy and my dignity. I deserve to live in a state that allows me to make my own healthcare choices, free from coercion and intrusive regulation. I deserve to attend a university in a state that upholds and protects my right to make the safest and most informed decisions about my own body. Forty-two years after Roe legally established this right, the fight for reproductive justice for all women is not over.

 

If you are concerned about deceptive advertising on campus that misleads students into believing CPCs offer comprehensive reproductive health care please sign NARAL NC’s petition: bit.ly/StopCPCAds