Women on campus speak out for abortion and birth control
On April 25 Gainesville Women's Liberation held a speak-out for abortion and birth control on the UF campus. Gainesville Women's Liberation (GWL) was founded in 1968 and was the first women's liberation group in the South. This spring, GWL held consciousness raising meetings where women got together to talk about our experiences with abortion, birth control, discrimination, and beauty standards. The speak-out and a petition to Florida legislators to protect our abortion rights came out of these meetings.
We organized the speak out because women are angry that South Dakota has outlawed abortion and other states are considering similar legislation. These attacks on abortion are part of a larger anti-birth control effort. This effort is why the morning-after pill is not available over the counter, why abstinence-only education is taught in our schools, and why some states protect pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. Giving birth is hard work and physically dangerous. The decision to carry a pregnancy to term should be in women's hands only. It is central to our freedom to make decisions that determine the direction of our lives. Kelly Mangan stated at the speak out, "If we had unrestricted access to all forms of birth control, including abortion and the morning after pill, I wouldn't have to risk pregnancy, childbirth, and eighteen plus years of child rearing every time my partner and I have sex."
Seven women spoke out about their experiences with abortion, getting men to take responsibility for pregnancy prevention, the morning after pill, and birth control. Jeannie Uffelman spoke out about her illegal abortion in 1967. Although she lived in Florida, she had to travel first to Georgia and then to South Carolina to find someone willing to give her an abortion. Once in South Carolina, she met a man who blindfolded her in the back of a car for about an hour. She had no idea where she was and while being lead into the house of the woman who was going to give her the abortion, she realized how dangerous what she was about to do was. The woman brought out a knitting case with needles and began her work. Jeannie was told it was done and was sent back, blindfolded once again, and began to get sick. While in the Atlanta airport on her way home she began to bleed. Once home, her friends took her to a hospital where she was horrified by the staff's treatment of her. She stayed for three days, finally ending the pregnancy with a D and C abortion. She was discharged but instead of going home she was put in a wheelchair and taken to a police officer. He took her to the Gainesville Police Department where they kept her for six hours trying to get her to give up the name of the doctor who performed the botched abortion. Jeannie stated, "You've got to be able to control the contents of your own body--its basic--basic freedom. Don't let it slip away."
Kelly Mangan spoke out about her first pregnancy scare. She stated that although in high school she had supported a women's right to choose, she thought she would never get an abortion. However, when she thought that she was pregnant she realized that was not true. "I decided then if I was pregnant I would get an abortion without any hesitation."
Other women echoed this feeling. Stephanie Seguin talked about the time a condom came off--and she knew she wanted the morning-after pill right then. She said, "Getting the morning after pill should be as easy as it is for men to go and get condoms." Claire Beach, the newly-elected president of Campus NOW, stated that laws restricting women's access to birth control "are out of touch with the realities of women's lives." All women understand the fear of an unwanted pregnancy--not because their lives are necessarily in danger--just because they do not want a child at that point in their lives. Repealing abortion laws, that is, taking them off the books, will protect all women's right to self determination.
While men in power make laws that restrict our access to birth control, they are simultaneously cutting programs that would make it easier to have children. Nicole Harden talked about her abortion, the cost of an abortion, and the inequalities in child rearing. "It's really on our shoulders--its our lives that change completely and it has to be our choice to take on a kid." Instead of making it harder for women to have children, Nicole suggested, "why don't we have universal childcare and paid parental leave?" By both forcing women to have children and making it more difficult for us, the government is saying that women's time and money are not worth as much as men's. They are telling women, as Nicole said, "You have to have the kid and its your problem."
Women spoke out describing their own experiences because women are the experts on our bodies and our lives. Fighting for the repeal of all abortion laws is what got us Roe v. Wade. We can protect and expand women's access to abortion and birth control if we join together to fight in an organized movement.
At the speak out we announced three demands:-The complete repeal of all abortion laws. No laws should exist that take away women's control over their bodies.-Full access to all forms of birth control, including the Morning-After Pill and abortion, for all women regardless of age or ability to pay.-That men take their fair share of responsibility for pregnancy prevention, including paying for at least half of whatever form of birth control we decide to use and wearing condoms without being asked and without complaining.
Katie Walters is the newly-elected vice president of Campus NOW. She worked with GWL to organize the speak-out.
If you are interested in joining a radical feminist movement on campus, join Campus NOW. You can do so by going to www.now.org. The chapter number for UF-SFCC Campus NOW is FL0160.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the group or upcoming meetings.
There will be a morning after pill committee meeting on May 19 at 7:00 pm at 14 E. University Ave. (upstairs, northeast corner office.) Please come if you are interested in learning more about how to fight for reproductive rights.
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