Even in a relatively pro-choice environment such as the University, there is still work to be done to make students aware of abortion options in the area and make them more accessible. Many groups have developed in response to this need and seek to provide services lacking to students at the University and in the greater community. A new group, Radical Storytelling, recently formed in order to provide support for these efforts as well as to popularize a newer term, “pro-voice,” into the dialogue surrounding abortion.
In a project that began as a class assignment, Shizuba Hatori ’18, Kate Macken ’19, Ada Moses ’19, Elana Rosenberg ’19, and Anna Marie Rosenlieb ’19 have spent their semester working to support abortion rights on campus. Radical Storytelling works with campus health organizations WesWell, and Davison Health Center, in addition to other student groups on campus that focus on reproductive rights: The Doula Project, Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness, the board of the Gender Resource Council, and, they hope in the future, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) as well.
In a course titled “Anthropology of Social Movements,” the students learned ways in which demonstrations and social actions are carried out. On Thursday, April 21, the group put its message out there for the first time in conjunction with other groups that work to confront gender issues on campus and in the world. The Gender Resource Council, a group of dedicated students who have spent much of their time at the University advocating for the establishment of an official Gender Resource Center.
For the day, the Gender Resource Council took over the first floor of North College to host discussions and activities that address the needs and issues facing female-identifying students on campus. Radical Storytelling also participated in the activities of the pop-up Gender Resource Center, hosting a photo campaign and petition signing outside of Usdan.
Signatories affirmed their support for the provision range of services relating to reproductive health and abortion access in the area.
“The reason we’re collecting signatures right now is to show the administration that the student body cares about this, because we need to be able to show them in order to get money to make these things happen,” Moses said. “So we want to be able to make sure that transportation is completely free, we want to re-work the website to make sure that it’s very clear what people’s options are, and we’re also working to have more conversations about insurance, what can be covered and what cannot be covered.”
For the photo campaign, students were asked to finish phrases such as “I support abortion rights because…” and then pose with those signs for a photo. The finished posters were hung on a clothesline behind Radical Storytelling’s setup.
Though new, the group has already signed on to work with the already existing campus groups to accomplish a clearly articulated set of goals, which include the provision of a free and accessible transport service from Davison to the nearest abortion clinics, a trained escort or abortion doula to accompany the student to and from the clinic, and an updated page on Davison’s website providing information about reproductive health options in the area. In addition to assistance with the logistical aspects of obtaining reproductive healthcare and abortions nearby, the groups also aim to provide support for students seeking or recovering from abortions through the establishment of support groups and a student-run hotline.
Currently, students can obtain information on reproductive health services, including abortion, on the Davison Health Center’s website by clicking on “services” from the home page, then selecting “gynecological health services” from the next page’s menu, and finally by clicking the link at the bottom of the next web page titled “Abortion Information.” A single PDF contains information about abortion services in Middletown, New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Norwich, and Stamford. The specific services offered and prices charged by each doctor or clinic can be found here as well, in addition to a very brief overview of what each type of procedure involves.
In addition to joining activities already in motion and facilitating the abortion rights rally as a part of the pop-up Gender Resource Center, Radical Storytelling also looks to begin a dialogue surrounding the term “pro-voice” as an alternative to the commonly used “pro-choice.”
“[Pro-voice] is an idea that the pro-choice, pro-life rhetoric has become extremely politicized and has kind of invalidated the experiences of a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable sharing their stories because it’s going to be like ‘a pro-choice thing,’” Rosenberg said. “So a lot of people have been using the rhetoric ‘pro-voice’ to talk about radical storytelling, so the power of being able to disrupt a public space and sharing your story and listening to each other, and just valuing each person’s unique experience with their abortion, with how they feel about their body, their uterus.”
The term “pro-voice” came into use in 2005 in order to prioritize personal experience over polarization and violence. Aspen Baker and her organization Exhale have popularized this term and also provide services to those who have experienced abortion, including a hotline for those who have had abortions to discuss their experiences.
“Exhale creates a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma,” Exhale’s website reads. “Exhale provides services, training, and education to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve post-abortion health and wellbeing.”
Another group bringing something new to the table is the Wesleyan Doula Project (WDP), a campus group that trains students to provide vital support to patients undergoing abortion.
“The WDP is the only university-based doula project in the country,” said Jade Ransohoff ’18. “We volunteer to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women while they undergo their procedures, which are usually things that they must experience alone. We approach pro-choice activism from a lens of supporting women’s choices. Women’s rights are human rights, and our job is to make sure that every woman we encounter feels supported in her decision.”
Ransohoff added that while she feels Davison does a great job of providing information and referrals for abortion services, more can be done on the University campus to increase dialogue relating to choice.
“The pro-choice movement is something that should be talked about more, and I think that is something that we should work on as a campus as a whole, whether it be through the Health Center or student-run organizations like the WDP,” she said. “We do our best to help on a personal level and involve students with activism issues. It can never be talked about enough until it is no longer a trigger. Our campus will continue to be flawed until it is no longer surprising to state that women have every right to make their own decisions about their health and be supported throughout the process.”
Prior to their participation in the events surrounding the pop-up Gender Resource Center, Radical Storytelling also hosted a discussion on pro-voice, allowing students to interact with the relatively new term and share their thoughts and feelings on the subject.
“This discussion went very well,” Rosenberg wrote in an email to The Argus. “Students expressed their support for greater abortion accessibility and open dialogue. We broke into small groups and read abortion stories of individuals whose voices have been suppressed by shame and stigma, in order to reclaim the right to speak about our own bodies and support each other’s narratives.”
Additionally, the group is looking to extend its reach in terms of the direction of abortion rights discussions.
“Also, [we intend to open] up the dialogue to have it not be such a women’s issue, and trying to be…obviously, not just cis women get abortions,” Rosenberg said. “We’re trying to include non-binary folk, trans folk, and that’s sort of what pro-voice is about.”
The group ultimately exists to support the effort of other groups on campus that provide services for students in need of support in the area of reproductive health, and looks to continue their collaboration efforts.
“Mostly we’re trying to support the amazing, amazing work that people are doing,” Moses said.