Why We Are Protesting the Cardinal O’Connor Conference

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Today, January 28, Georgetown University hosts the annual largest student-run anti-choice conference in the country, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference.  The Conference, run by Georgetown University Right to “Life,” shames our community and is a disgrace to every member of the Georgetown family.  We should be ashamed that our community hosts this conference for three reasons: its shameful speakers, its shameful ideology, and its shameful namesake.

This week, multiple members of H*yas for Choice’s leadership have pointed out the problems with the speakers at this year’s conference.  Sophie Septoff highlighted some quotes of conference panelist Charles Camosy, on how women have “obligations” while fetuses have “rights,” and downplaying the importance of consent.  Apparently, rape is excusable to the conference organizers as long as a woman chooses “life” and not abortion.  And as our powerful Communications Director Michelle Bolt wrote, the conference seems focused only on White voices and experiences.  Michelle explained the specific impacts that the Hyde Amendment has had on communities of color, something which we should pay increased attention to given the fact that its author, Henry Hyde, is a past speaker at the conference.  Could they not find a single person of color to speak at their conference?  Why don’t the conference organizers care what people of color have to say?

On their website, conference organizers claim the Cardinal O’Connor Conference “strives to promote intellectually rigorous discourse on the sanctity of human life a well as build a culture of life both within and beyond the Georgetown community.”  They go on to talk about their goal to “encourage discussion among men and women of all faiths and backgrounds.”  How can they claim to value discussion when they never invite pro-choice speakers to share their perspectives?  How can they write about all backgrounds when, again, just because it cannot be said enough, every single speaker at the conference is White?  Is your idea of religious diversity four Catholics and one Anglican, like your speakers? Seriously?  How can they honestly claim to be a conference about life when they fail to talk about the death penalty or war or police brutality or intimate partner violence or gun violence anything that actually endangers human life?  They try to obscure their true purposes by hiding behind ideas like sex-selective abortion (practically a myth in the United States, please see this 46-page report for comprehensive data), but their real purpose is to control our bodies and sexualities.

As a cisgender man, I realize that I have no right to dictate what a pregnant person does with their reproductive system.  Unfortunately, Cardinal O’Connor failed to recognize the same. He believed his religion gave him the right to impose his so-called morals on others, without any exception or space for bodily autonomy.  When asked about abortion in the case of rape or incest, he maintained that abortion was immoral because he considered rape a “legally lesser evil” than abortion.  When discussing the deaths of women dying from unsafe abortions before legalization, he shrugged off their deaths saying “the mothers involved could have chosen not to abort.” To call him “pro-life” is particularly rich; what he really was is “pro-fetus.”  He used his position as a cardinal and the Archbishop of New York to attack access to reproductive and sexual health, and dedicated himself to working against gaining access to basic healthcare.

 

Beyond his shameful history of weaponizing religion to control people’s bodies, he was through and through a homophobe.  He is history of discrimination against queer people is long.  When gay rights activists won the anti-discrimination ordinance, which banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, he fought viciously to have it overturned.  He banned Dignity, the gay and lesbian Catholic organization, from using any Church facilities to practice their religion.  He also prevented Dignity from demonstrating on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which the Supreme Court later ruled unconstitutional.  As the AIDS epidemic raged and decimated the gay community, he worked to prevent condom distribution and called for “marital fidelity” as a response to the crisis.  For him, abstaining for condom use was more important than preventing the spread of AIDS.  As he actively worked against groups like ACT UP, President Reagan awarded him for his action with a seat on the AIDS commission, famous for its inaction in the face of plague.  In 1989, ACT UP led a 4,500 person protest outside of a mass over which Cardinal O’Connor was presiding, in what at the time was the largest action against the Catholic Church ever.  Meanwhile he pathologized “homosexual inclinations” and equated gay men with pedophiles in response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal John O’Connor was a hateful person.  As a queer person, I am deeply hurt that my University condones the honoring of a man who believed that my very existence is immoral.  But as a human being I am disgusted that we let Georgetown’s name be associated with his hate, and I am embarrassed to see my University celebrates him.  For Georgetown to allow its buildings to be used in the name of a man who dedicated his career to hating queer people is an inexcusable attack on its queer students, and sends us a message that we are unwanted and unprotected.
H*yas for Choice is protesting this conference because it demeans every member of the Georgetown community.  We will not stand idly by while anyone uses our home to spread a message that goes against everything we know Georgetown stands for.  I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes this conference for the tragedy it is, and refuses to be silent in the face of its hatred, its oppression, and its betrayal of Georgetown’s values.

NOTE: “Life” remains in quotation marks because neither a zygote, nor an embryo, nor a fetus is a life.  The rhetoric of life employed by the organization is dangerous to the actual lives of the people they would force to carry pregnancies to term against their wills.  To say otherwise is, in the words of Kellyanne Conway, who spoke at yesterday’s March for “Life,” an alternative fact. 


Kory Stuer is a sophomore in the College studying Women’s and Gender Studies and English.  He is H*yas for Choice’s Organizing Director.

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No Choice for Women of Color

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This Saturday, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the country, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, will be held here at Georgetown. Every single speaker at the conference is white, presumably middle class, and cisgender. In light of Trump’s global abortion gag rule, Friday’s March for Life, and the impressive intersectionality I witnessed from speakers at the Women’s March, I’ve decided to explain how low-income women and women of color specifically are harmed by anti-choice policies.

Low income women are most affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare, and women of color are disproportionately likely to come from low-income households. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black, Hispanic, and Native American women have poverty rates that hover around 25 percent, while white women have a 10.3 percent poverty rate.

It’s commonly known that men outearn women; however, white feminism erases the ways in which the pay gap fails to account for further discrepancies in pay by race, which negatively impact both men and women of color. While white women earn 82 cents to the white man’s dollar, white feminist narratives often fail to mention that black women make 65 cents to every white man’s dollar and Latinas make 58 cents to every white man’s dollar. While Asians may stand out for their higher average wages,  most studies that address racial disparities in wages do not account for the fact that there is a significant disparity between the wages of East Asian and Southeast Asian women.

This is where intersectionality comes in: sexism, racism, and other oppressive systems interact, making women of color more likely to experience poverty, to have difficulty finding affordable housing, and less likely to be able to afford privatized healthcare, and as a result many women of color rely upon Medicare to meet their healthcare needs

In light of systematic racism and sexism that women of color experience, and the importance of Medicaid to communities of color, the pro-life movement does a terrible job of addressing how women of color’s reproductive healthcare needs could be met within their ideological framework.

As a result of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, taxpayer dollars do not fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life was at risk. The amendment only affects those on Medicaid, a federal healthcare program for low-income Americans, effectively punishing women for their poverty. When politicians cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they do so by decreasing the amount of Medicaid funding that the nonprofit receives. As a result, when Planned Parenthood clinics are shut down, low income women are often left without a primary provider of health services, and because of the Hyde Amendment, many low income women are unable to get abortions simply because they can’t afford them.

While middle class and wealthy women can turn to other healthcare providers or other abortion clinics, low-income women are often left without critical health services and unable to get abortions because of their socioeconomic status. The effects of defunding Planned Parenthood and Medicaid on women of color cannot be understated, particularly when financial barriers to reproductive healthcare and sexual health resources cause Black and Hispanic women to have higher unintended pregnancy rates and therefore higher rates of abortion.

Planned Parenthood provides critical services essential to women’s healthcare such as mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and prevention. Frankly, Planned Parenthood saves lives. It’s clear that most Americans support women’s healthcare initiatives, but because of the influence of anti-abortion groups and politicians opposed to funding Planned Parenthood, many women may lose access to basic healthcare coverage, particularly under the Trump administration. To conclude, I have a few questions for pro-life advocates:

  1. What is the pro-life movement doing to improve the quality of life for low-income people of color? Trans women? Indigenous women?
  2. What are pro-life advocates doing to prevent climate change and to protect people living in developing countries who bear the heavy burden of developed countries’ pollution?  
  3. How can pro-life advocates support restricting women’s access to fundamental health care like mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and still claim to be pro-life?

 

Michelle Bolt is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is currently the Communications Director for H*yas for Choice. 

 

 

Charles Camosy: Controversy in Disguise

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Charles Camosy, set to speak at this weekend’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, specializes in using theology, ethics, and policy to support the anti-abortion movement. He teaches at Fordham University and writes primarily about how he thinks abortion laws should look in this country. Here is a collection of some of the most head-scratching sentences that he has said and written, where he co-opts the language of social justice and feminism in support of his anti-choice work. Below, you’ll also see pictures that represent my reactions to his statements.

 

  1. “Abortion has made women free not to have children, but it has arguably made it more difficult for women to choose to have children. What else have women gained? A hook-up culture which breeds sexual violence, increasing numbers of STDs, less-committed and even child-like male partners who couldn’t identify responsibility if it hit them in the face, and a culture that values them only when they are young and skinny. Is that freedom?”

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2.“Women, like their prenatal children, are victims of our horrific abortion policy. Instead, physicians who profit from the violence of abortion ought to be punished.”

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3. “Christians oppose abortion because, more generally, we are committed to standing for voiceless, marginalized populations who are threatened with violence. We stand with such populations because those in power find their dignity inconvenient, and will “other” them in an attempt to have their dignity ignored.”

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4. “A pregnant woman, whether or not she has explicitly consented to the existence of the child, has a moral obligation to the now-existing and dependent fetus. No pro-life feminist would dispute the important observations of pro-choice feminists about the extreme difficulties that bearing an unwanted child in our society can entail. But the stronger force of the fetal claim presses a woman to accept these burdens: the fetus possesses rights arising from its extremely vulnerable situation.”

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5.“Happily, not least because of the radical failure of the Democratic Party to have anything like a reasonable position on abortion, there is a growing call for a new politics consistently on the side of the most vulnerable. Consistently on the side of nonviolence. Consistently on the side of those without privilege.”

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These statements from this “expert” fail to have any sort of compassion or respect for women and what it takes to have a baby. Even more elementary, Camosy does not believe in a person’s rights over their own body, over their own choice. “Pro-Life” allies for next weekend present Camosy as a more evolved and open, but his insistence on his using religious duty to control women makes that hard to believe.

 

 

Sophie Septoff is a freshman at Georgetown University. She is a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team. 

A Roe Day Message from the Board

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A Statement from the Executive Board of H*yas for Choice (Emily Stephens, Brinna Ludwig, Kory Stuer, Lane Easterling, and Michelle Bolt):

Forty-four years ago today, the Supreme Court recognized the right to an abortion in a 7-2 majority.  Even after one of the largest protests in U.S. history, significant apprehension remains about the future of access to abortion and reproductive healthcare in this country.  We as a Board feel this concern.  We have had friends ask about IUDs so that they are protected for the next for years; we have heard the concerns of students, faculty, and staff about the future of their health insurance; and we have seen our communities come under attack as multiple students have reported having slurs and other hate speech yelled at them.  

Still, we have also felt an outpouring of support and generosity.  After the elections, donations to H*yas for Choice increased, as did the caring and encouraging words of community members who approach the table. On this celebratory anniversary of the Supreme Court’s recognition of what many of us have always known – that individuals have a right to privacy and a right to control their own bodies – we choose to highlight the progress we have made, despite opposition, and look forward to making Georgetown a more inclusive, healthy, and just campus.  

For over 25 years, H*yas for Choice has confronted resistance and sometimes hostility from University administrators and other community members.  We understand, although we cannot know, the challenges that lie ahead.  As we prepare for the challenges that the coming days, weeks, and months will bring, we know that we have the momentum to carry us through.  Last semester, we again successfully provided thousands free condoms and dental dams to students.  We maintained a strong campus presence by tabling every Monday through Friday, rain or shine.  We advocated for and successfully secured free and anonymous HIV testing on campus.  After our urging, on World AIDS Day, the Georgetown Student Health Center, Georgetown Medical AIDS Advocacy Network (GMAAN), and MedStar Georgetown Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases sponsored a free HIV testing event for Georgetown students.  The Student Health Center also clarified sexual health questions on their website.  The questions came directly from H*yas for Choice members and we were an important voice in crafting the language.  

Within the H*yas for Choice community, we launched #NoShameNovember, a month-long effort to normalize sex positivity and pro-choice politics, which included a photo campaign, leadership Facebook features, and a sex toy party.  To compensate for our community’s lack of accurate sexual health education, we hosted Sex 101, with a Planned Parenthood sex educator, and organized Kink etiquette, which one of our own members planned and led.  Throwing over two events per month kept us busy, and we plan to be even busier this semester.  

Our tabling will continue, as will our work with the Student Health Center.  By the end of this semester, we hope to have another HIV screening day and push the Student Health Center to provide IUDs that are approved for non-contraceptive purposes.  We also plan to increase the accessibility of menstrual hygiene products by mobilizing student groups.  

Our activism will continue.  We plan to participate in the a counter-protest at the March for Life and protest the Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life, scheduled only one week after the historic Women’s March.  Although the new administration does not make our work easier, H*yas for Choice has succeeded and triumphed over University opposition, and we will succeed and triumph over the heightened opposition of this new political climate.  

Our work and the work of our allies will continue.  We will not back down, and we will not go away.  More than ever, we are committed to our mission to realize reproductive and social justice for our community. Below, our board members have offered a few pieces of advice, tips, and important things to remember as we stay motivated and engaged in the coming months.        

  • Emily: One very small but common action I try to personally undertake is to always read the article if a headline makes me uncomfortable, or if my initial reaction is to think “I’m not sure I’d go that far”. The only way to feel empowered enough to work for substantive change is to listen to people who have been working on these issues a lot longer than you have!
  • Brinna: Privilege is a funny thing, it’s most evident to those who don’t have it.  I don’t presume to know what I would do if I got pregnant at this point in my life, but I know I want there to be a choice for myself and others and that this choice should not be a privilege.  
  • Kory: Remember the words of Angela Davis when she said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.  I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  And when we find something we cannot accept, remember that direct action gets the goods.
  • Lane: Take time for self-care. Never forget that being engaged and motivated take a lot of energy and can wear you down. Listen to music, go to Yates, take a nap, or talk to a friend. Even the small things are good.
  • Michelle: Increase collaboration with other like-minded, intersectional activist organizations and work to explore the intersections of reproductive justice and identifiers like race, gender, religion, sexuality, and more.

What’s Going on with My Reproductive Rights, Today? – A Prochoice News Update

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When I got home around 2 AM on election night, I turned off every news notification on my phone.  I deleted all of my google alerts and purged my twitter account of news sources.  I checked out 23 novels from the library to fill the hours I usually spend skimming political news sites.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to live in a bubble.

I’ll admit that it’s been comforting to escape, to watch old episodes of Parks and Rec and imagine that a conservative House, Senate, and White House (and, soon, Supreme Court) won’t be able to take my rights away.  But I started to think about what Leslie Knope would tell me—that inherent in democracy is the idea that your side can’t always win.  And after plugging back into the news side of the internet, I came to an important realization; wallowing accomplishes nothing.  Information does.

In that spirit, here’s a rundown of this week’s choice-related news in the United States.

In Missouri, conservative lawmakers and anti-choice activists are promising that the 2017 state legislative session will make it even harder for women in the state to access reproductive care.  This is the goal in a state where rights have been rolled back so dramatically that only one remaining clinic performs abortion.  As the executive director of NARAL’s Missouri branch said, “there’s not really more damage they could do.”

Also in Missouri, Planned Parenthood is filing a lawsuit to overturn some of the draconian laws already in place.  Although Texas’s Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws were struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, Missouri was the first ever state to enact these restrictions and still has them in place.  The laws, which include medically unnecessary rules about the lengths of facility hallways and a requirement that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, have made it increasingly impossible for clinics around the country to perform abortions.  Planned Parenthood affiliates filed similar suits in Alaska and North Carolina.

A particularly abhorrent new law in Texas will require what amounts to funerary services for any pregnancy terminated or lost outside of the home.  The law represents yet another way to coerce women into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term (and shames them if they decide to end pregnancies.  Even worse, it could lead to additional suffering for women who go through miscarriages.  As one Salon writer pointed out, “If a woman starts to miscarry at home, but knows she may be forced to pay for funeral services if she goes to a hospital for help, she might stay at home and hope that the failing pregnancy works itself out on its own.”  This gives Texas women two options if they start to miscarry: to pay for a potentially painful funeral whether they want it or not, or to risk serious medical consequences by staying home.

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Not wanting to feel left out while lawmakers in other states work to stifle reproductive rights, legislators in Utah are proposing another anti-choice law with little basis in medicine.  It would require doctors to tell patients that medical abortions can be reversed, regardless of whether or not that’s the case.  The AP explains: “A drug-induced abortion requires taking two pills. The first is mifepristone, which blocks progesterone and breaks down the lining of the uterus. The second pill is misoprostol, which causes the body to undergo changes similar to a miscarriage.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not support medical abortion reversal and opposed a similar law that passed in Arizona. That law was repealed after Planned Parenthood took the issue to court.”  The new Utah legislation builds on a rich history of doctors being forced to lie to women in order to provide abortions.  On top of that, it makes the patronizing assumption that women regret getting abortions when in reality a study last year found that over 95% of women felt they had made the right decision.

At the national level the outlook is, somehow, even dimmer.  Tom Price, the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, has a disastrous record when it comes to both healthcare and serving the needs of women (who make up more than half of the humans in the US).  Price is a devoted opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and he’s particularly opposed to the mandate that provides birth control without a copay.  His vague reasoning centers on “religious liberty” and, most alarmingly, he doesn’t seem to fully understand what the mandate actually does.  In fact, he has said that there is “not one” woman in the country who can’t afford birth control or has benefited from this provision of the ACA.  Price is also “an outspoken opponent of abortion and has consistently received ratings of 100 percent from the National Right to Life Committee and scores of zero from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.”  As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a fierce advocate against equal marriage and has voted for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  

The great irony of Price’s positions on birth control and abortion is clear from his comments in June, when he said that he and other conservatives working against the ACA “believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care.”  

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant (and constantly depressing) news about reproductive rights in the wake of this election.  But you can’t protect your constitutional right to choice if you don’t know exactly what’s being done to take it away.  The time to grieve is over, and the time to work has begun.  So why wallow?  You have a member of Congress to call.

 

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Maddi Kaigh is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team. 

The Sexist Burden of Contraceptive Care

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Weight gain. Migraines. Nausea. Acne. Dizziness. Increased cramping. Breast tenderness. Ovarian cysts. Vision problems. Decreased libido. Depression and anxiety. Mood irregularities. Infertility.

The birth control pill, the IUD, the arm implant, and the NuvaRing are the most common drug-based contraceptives used in the U.S. and most developed countries. Although their level of effectiveness and the ways in which they prevent pregnancy usually differ, all of these options yield the same negative side effects for the people who take them.

Since the development of the birth control pill in 1950 and the subsequent development of other birth control methods, this is the list of side effects women have been subjected to. Some women experience symptoms for fewer than three months or simply quit the method. Many of their counterparts battle severe migraines, depression and mood swings, and in some unfortunate cases, infertility. Recently, researchers halted a study on a male contraceptive shot due to reported rates of the following symptoms: acne, pain in the injection site, depression, and increased libido. The interruption to this study caused a major outcry due to the reporting rate of symptoms and the basic fact that the majority of women using birth control experience similar side effects. Beyond the study, the larger point here is that women have had to combat severe repercussions from their contraceptives (mood disorders, vision problems, and infertility) but have received no real regard by drug companies and researchers.  It takes two to tango, so why doesn’t it take two to equally share the goal of not getting pregnant? Females are responsible for using the right birth control, taking a morning after pill if there is a concern a contraceptive method has failed, and possibly terminating an unwanted pregnancy. While these dynamics do not discount the side effects experienced by the men of the study, pausing this invaluable research demonstrates the double standard of accountability that places the burden of pregnancy prevention almost entirely on women.

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Opponents to accessible contraception argue  no one is forcing women to use birth control, that, for cisgender heterosexual women, avoiding pregnancy is easy if you don’t have sex, or people using contraception could simply use a non-drug based method. There are multiple issues with this  line of reasoning but here are just a few of them:

1. A woman’s desire to have sex and not get pregnant should not automatically subject her to damaging side effects by the method she chooses. Additionally, the lack of  efforts to diminish the number and severity of side effects of the contraceptive methods is problematic to say the least.

2. Pregnancy is not the only use or concern: birth control is used for a variety of reproductive health concerns such as endometriosis, severe incapacitating cramps, and ovarian cysts. We as patients have risked essentially poisoning our bodies because these medicinal methods are some of our only options to alleviate painful medical issues.

3. In heterosexual relationships, women stopping birth control coupled with the unfortunate number of men who resist wearing condoms, would lead to many of the accomplishments in reducing unwanted pregnancies being almost entirely undone.

The results of the male contraceptive study have once again highlighted the physical and emotional strain for women when it comes to birth control. To ignore the unsafe implications of a drug for any gender is grossly immoral and unacceptable, so why are so many people so complacent when it comes to the implications for women?

Sources:

All of the goddesses that have had our periods last for months, have battled or are battling depression and anxiety, or have had a piece of plastic shoved into our uterus or their arms.   

 

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Amari O’Bannon is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and is a member and blog contributor of H*yas for Choice.

How Sex Ed Failed Me

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Here’s a question I’ve asked myself: Why, after no consumption of alcohol, was I doubled over in pain on my bathroom floor at 2 am on a school night, in the midst of exam season?  Although my sleepless night can technically be traced back to the sex I’d had the previous Friday, my path to misery began in 5th grade “Human Growth and Development” class.

I went to the same private school in Charlotte, NC, from 1st grade to high school graduation and entrusted the entirety of my sex ed to the same institution. In fifth grade, we separated our class into girls and boys and learned about anatomy and impending puberty. I was taught about Fallopian tubes, wet dreams, and tampons–but not sex. Thankfully, my mother had already covered the big “where babies come from” talk.  Seventh grade sex ed is a blur.  It lasted one day, and all I remember was the teacher defining “sexy” as “voluptuously sensual in appearance or demeanor.” I’m certain neither I, nor my friends, paid attention to another word of the lesson; we were all too busy giggling and mouthing “voluptuous” to each other.  Ninth grade health was supposed to be the year we were mature enough for a real sex talk, but my school left significant portions of the curriculum up to the discretion of the teachers.  Not only was consent not covered in my class, but we weren’t shown how to put on a condom, and our lessons on birth control merely consisted of writing down the names of every kind and learning that “only abstinence is 100% effective.” This harmed my classmates and me. I have friends who worried about pregnancy because they didn’t know how to put on a condom, friends who took 30 minutes to watch condom video tutorials with their partners, and friends who didn’t realize that what happened to them qualified as sexual assault.  Personally, I felt lucky. I did good research on my own, learned about consent from online videos, had a mom I felt comfortable talking to, and had access to birth control. But my high school’s sex ed had failed me, too, as I found out my third week of college, when my bladder felt like it had been lit on fire.

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In my ninth grade health class, I learned about every part of the brain, about macronutrients, about the dangers of alcohol, about the mechanics of pregnancy, and about every drug under the sun. My gynecologist and my mom taught me about safe sex and hormone imbalances, and Upworthy taught me about consent.  Not one of these sources mentioned the importance of peeing after sex to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).  So, at 2 am on the Monday of my first college exam, I was sobbing in the bathroom, sure I was dying. I can’t begin to describe the pain of a UTI and I won’t try, but suffice to say that I was pretty angry at myself for letting it happen to me.

Upon further reflection, how to avoid a UTI is something people should be taught in their health class. Sex isn’t evil, and if it’s safe and consensual, there’s no need to be punished for it 48 hours later with the sensation of giving birth to Satan. My health teachers did go into the lesson with a bias against premarital sex, or at least one against teenage sex, so they didn’t see a need for their education to extend beyond preventing disease and pregnancy. Sex should be more than just not life-ruining. Sex should be fun. I’m not saying that sex ed teachers should be discussing technique with their pupils, but basic, practical  information should be covered. Everyone learns what a male orgasm is, but how many high schoolers learn that women have clitoral and vaginal orgasms? How many high school boys actually know what a clitoris is? How many high school girls believe the myth that sex has to hurt the first time, and that a giant rush of blood will accompany it?  And, for the love of all that is holy, how many girls know that a UTI, the third most common ailment in women after the cold and the flu,  can be prevented by by peeing after sex?

This post was written by ZA.

Power, Pussies, and a Pig

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Content warning: sexual assault.

Let’s begin with a story.

In early spring of my freshman year, I went to a party to celebrate a political group on campus.  I felt powerful and unstoppable, convinced I was doing big things and making meaningful change for my fellow students (I wasn’t really, but that’s okay).  I was threading my way across a crowded living room to find my friends when something stopped me in my tracks.

More specifically, a large hand swiped its way between my legs and held on for dear life while I stood, briefly paralyzed and a little bemused.  Then I shifted my hips to extract myself from this strange man’s grip and continued on my way.

Although what happened to me at that party can certainly be called sexual assault, it didn’t really bother me going forward; I genuinely laughed it off later that night, and I can’t remember if I even told my friends about it.  Three years later, I had mostly forgotten it happened.  (For anyone reading this and wondering, this isn’t because I’m an unthinkably callous or remarkably “strong” woman, it’s because things like this happen to every woman I know, literally every weekend.  Disgusting as it is, this sort of unwanted physical attention from strangers is basically part of the deal for female college students.  Maybe the prominent Republicans now scrambling to react to their ring leader’s language should be talking about that instead.)In 2005, when the man who groped me at that party was probably 12, Donald Trump was caught on a live mic bragging about the fact that being a celebrity allowed him to sexually assault anyone he wanted.  His exact words were, “I don’t even wait…  When you’re a star they let you do it…  You can do anything.”  Sorry, Donald, could you say it louder?  What exactly can you do?

“Grab them by the pussy,” the future nominee of the Republican party advised.

Oh.

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Donald Trump speaks with Billy Bush in 2005.

It took me two hours of gleefully scanning feminist twitter on the day his comments went viral before I even remembered that three years ago some guy had done to me exactly what Trump advised off-camera in 2005.

And my first reaction when I did remember this quick humiliation was to giggle.  Now, just as the bile rises in my throat when I watch Trump speak on TV, his former supporters are rising around him in confused anger.  In the growing takedown of Donald Trump, I feel a quiet sense of personal vindication.

At long, long last, Trump is officially a pig and everyone is talking about it.  I have seen the word pussy (a word that I don’t believe I’ve ever said out loud) in print in every one of the news sources I read daily.  

This from a man and a political party who habitually recoil from the word vagina.  Think of Trump’s famous comments about Megyn Kelly and the “blood coming out of her wherever.”  Remember the Michigan lawmaker who was banned from speaking on the state house floor because she mentioned her vagina during discussion of a transvaginal ultrasound bill.  When she wanted to continue arguing against the legislation of her body, the higher-ups recommended she use something less controversial, like lady parts.  

It almost feels unnecessary to point out the extreme hypocrisy in place here.   Vagina has been made into a dirty word, transformed into something vile to be regulated and controlled. The people seeking to exert this control, who claim a right over vaginas by passing archaic laws, are the same men who vilify the very word vagina. It is either glanced over or vulgarified by a nominee who once argued for “punishment” for women who get abortions.  It seems as if many of the men objecting to Pussygate are as offended by the use of that word and the objectification of a married woman as by the pesky detail that Trump is bragging about assault.

Let’s also take a minute to discuss the patronizing reactions of Republican leaders who have finally decided to question the behavior of the wig-wearing traffic cone who currently heads their party.  Speaker Ryan at last appears willing to fight off the chains of party loyalty and face whatever primeval beast Trump dragged back from the Stone Age to keep him captive.

“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan says.  So close, Paul!  Try, women are people like you and me and should be treated exactly the same way.  I don’t need you to champion or revere me, Mr. Speaker, unless it’s for my accomplishments or my cause.  As the great Ainsley Hayes put it, “I am a citizen of this country.  I am not a special subset in need of your protection.”  (Ainsley, we disagree on the ERA, but you were an asset to the Bartlet administration).

In a polite and well-meaning tweet, polite and well-meaning man Jeb Bush rejected Trump’s apology “as the grandfather of two precious girls.”  Jeb!, doubtless you’re an excellent grandfather (I’m sure you never have to ask your granddaughters to please clap when you read them a story) but for goodness sake, do it for the boys, too!  Denounce Trump’s comments for every child in America who’s still learning how best to treat others.  Maybe if someone had done so for your cousin back in the day, we could have avoided this whole mess.

It’s also a little off-putting that this has been the final straw.  No one was concerned when Trump repeatedly expressed his desire to date his daughter?  Or when that woman’s mother accused him of marital rape?  Or when, earlier this year, an anonymous woman filed a lawsuit against Trump alleging he had raped her when she was 13?  It’s great that Bush, Ryan, and others are finally coming out against Trump in full force, but you really have to wonder how it could possibly have taken them this long.  You also have to wonder about the 74% of Republicans surveyed who want leaders to keep supporting him.

I still have no idea who groped me at that party three years ago.  I hope wherever he is now, he’s watching the world unite in disgust of Donald Trump and remembering that crowded room. (Separately, I hope he sputtered through all of his consulting interviews, didn’t get any job offers, and found himself consigned to the dustbin of disappointing bros for years to come.)  But mostly, I hope he’s had some experience that opened his eyes to the unacceptability of his behavior and is now an active advocate against sexual violence.  Or if not, that he read about Trump’s comments this weekend, remembered that party, and heard the sound of glass breaking as he realized that in college he was no better than the paragon of vice who is now disturbingly close to becoming the leader of the free world.

I hope he and all the men like him are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, vagina and all.

This post was written by a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team.

Standing in Solidarity: H*yas For Choice’s Statement of Support for Students for Reproductive Justice at Loyola Chicago

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H*yas for Choice was disappointed to learn about the removal of Students for Reproductive Justice, a student group at Loyola Chicago University, from their campus for condom distribution.  This removal, unacceptable even as just an isolated incident, is even more egregious in the context of the larger anti-choice policies of Catholic-affiliated universities.  Attending an institution with a Catholic identity should not mean a student forfeits their right to sexual autonomy and a safe sex life . Yet, it seems that at Loyola Chicago, as well as here at Georgetown University, this forfeiture of rights is exactly what school administrators ask from their students.

H*yas for Choice can relate to the struggles Students for Reproductive Justice face on their campus, given our own reality of trying to work for reproductive justice and sexual health at a Jesuit school.  We are unrecognized by the University, receive no funding and are barred from many of the privileges recognized student organizations receive.  We  have no reliable method to quickly and effectively obtain spaces to host events, and if we do obtain a space we must disclaim that nothing about our activities is supported or condoned by Georgetown University or the Society of Jesus.  Of course, while we receive no funding to promote students’ right to bodily autonomy, Georgetown University Right to Life receives a large budget from the school each year that enables them to well-fund their efforts to force their own values about behavior and what forms of healthcare are acceptable onto all students’ bodies.  This year, 2016, marks twenty-five years of working to ensure  Georgetown students’ access to the services they need.  At various points in our history, we have faced overt hostility from Georgetown’s administration, and know too well what it feels like to be removed from campus for activities well within our free speech rights as students.  We are in constant friction with the administration, and walk a thin line to avoid further punishment and mistreatment.  

Because we face these same struggles, we are reminded that these parallels are more than just coincidence; on every political level, anti-choice forces are pushing with renewed vigor against the reproductive rights movement.  And yet even in this context, the failure of the manipulated sting videos meant to serve as a vehicle to defund Planned Parenthood and the US Supreme Court’s strikedown of Texas’s unacceptable TRAP law HB2 in the  Whole Woman’s Health case give us hope.  As students at Catholic schools, we too have important places in this movement.  When thinking about how we fit into the larger reproductive justice movement, there are some obvious  components that come to mind: fighting for access to contraception, helping ensure students ability to access abortion, promoting education on sexual health issues, and working to end the stigmatization of and lack of adequate treatment for sexually transmitted infections. As an organization, though, we know that there is far more to reproductive justice.  

Just like Students for Reproductive Justice, H*yas for Choice approaches our work with an emphasis on intersectionality.  Although reproductive injustice threatens us all, it disproportionately affects people of color, queer folk, people who live in rural areas, and people from low-income backgrounds, just to name a few especially vulnerable communities. To us, reproductive justice signifies more than just guaranteeing the right to abortion; our fight is also about ensuring freedom from racism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, and all forms of oppression.  

Unfortunately, as students at Catholic schools, our fight for full reproductive justice has been an even longer and harder one. Though we have already won some victories with the growing acceptance of feminist and queer perspectives on our campuses, the Church’s view on reproductive rights remains staunchly conservative.

Even in Catholic social teaching, the values of the reproductive justice movement are found.  Doctrine preaches respect for the human person, promoting stable family environments, observing subsidiarity, and most importantly fighting for the common good, all thoroughly consistent with our calls for reproductive justice. Respecting the human person means acknowledging that each individual has autonomy over their body and health. Stable family environments can only exist when we can make for ourselves the choices about when and whether to have children. Dismissing our views can be seen neither as observing subsidiarity nor fighting for the common good.

H*yas for Choice stands in steadfast solidarity with Students for Reproductive Justice at Loyola Chicago in their battle for freedom of speech and their efforts to improve their school. Only by coming together, connecting our struggles, and coordinating our work will we ever achieve our ultimate goal: ending altogether the anti-choice policies and culture at our schools.  We are inspired to see Students for Reproductive Justice’s continued resilience in the face of backlash, because we know this is a fight that we can, will, and must win.

Anti-Choice Protesters Harass Students Without Response from GUSA

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On the morning of Friday, September 16, multiple anti-choice protesters descended on Georgetown’s campus, carrying posters with pictures of aborted fetuses and various pamphlets and fliers to force upon students.  These protesters were from a group entirely unaffiliated with Georgetown, and they harassed students as they left their residence halls, went from class to class, and tried to go about their lives undisturbed.  

These protesters flung harmful and hateful language at unsuspecting passersby hoping only to provoke a response, asking random students questions like “How many babies have you killed?” Not satisfied just with verbally accosting students, the group went as far as to target H*yas for Choice co-president Emily Stephens’ townhouse with their harassment.  At various times, the protesters attempted to enter and bully students outside of campus hubs like Lauinger Library, along Library Walk near Village A, and by the front gates. After GUPD removed them from their on-campus locations, they continued to shout at and confront students from the moment students took one step off campus.

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Literature passed out by the protesters.

H*yas for Choice was angered and disappointed to learn of the deplorable actions these protesters engaged in on Friday morning.  On top of their disgraceful behavior, the views they espoused were malicious, misinformed, and, at the end of the day, medically inaccurate.  We condemn this harassment and their downright ignorant actions.  Upon reflection, what is perhaps ultimately more upsetting is the complete lack of action on behalf of the University or GUSA to acknowledge the pain inflicted on our community Friday morning.  

Earlier last week, Dr. Jeanne Lord and Dr. Todd Olson wrote an email that reaffirmed Georgetown’s previously stated policy on social fraternities and sororities.  In response, GUSA pledged their support of Greek Life, writing an email to the student body the next day. The administrative email changed nothing about Georgetown’s policy and merely reinforced that certain student activities would not receive University recognition or funding.  If the administration’s email merited a response from GUSA, certainly the harassment of students deserves some sort of GUSA action.  

As an unrecognized student group, H*yas for Choice can sympathize with the frustration of some students at the administration’s reiteration of Georgetown’s position on Greek life.  There is an important and, honestly, rather obvious distinction though between hearing the administration restate a well-known policy that you disagree with and being harassed and intimidated as you try to go about your daily business.

H*yas for Choice believes that students deserve to be able to go to class without being harassed.  We believe that students should be able to walk out of their homes in the morning without labels of “baby-killer” being thrown at them.  And we believe that when these kind of incidents happen on campus, the organization that is intended to represent students, if not the administration themselves, should respond in some way.  This is not a pro-choice vs. pro-life issue, this is an issue of students feeling safe when going about their daily activities.  Enushe, Chris, and the Georgetown University Student Association, you signed a message to students this week with the promise that you are “fully behind” us as students.  Say something about Friday’s harassment, and prove you mean it.pjimage

Kory Stuer (COL ’19) is the Organizing Coordinator of H*yas for Choice.