WGC Holds Reproductive Justice Week
Issue   |   Tue, 10/25/2016 - 23:56
Takudzwa Tapfuma '17
Students decorate mason jars as part of a self-care and contraceptive awareness crafts event in the Women’s and Gender Center on Friday, Oct. 21.

The Women’s and Gender Center is holding “Reproductive Justice Week,” a series of events aimed toward raising awareness on campus about women’s reproductive health issues, from Thursday, Oct. 20 to Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Samantha O’Brien ’18, a student staff member at the WGC and one of the event series’ coordinators, said that the week’s focus was on educating students about subjects such as abortion and exploring the intersectionality of women’s rights with other forms of social justice.

“Reproductive justice is the concept of the intersectional framework for all forms of social justice needs being met,” O’Brien said, citing economic, LGBT, racial, criminal reform and immigration justice as necessary for increasing access to reproductive care.

The idea to have a week of events focused on reproductive justice came from Jesse Beal, the director of the WGC, according to O’Brien.

“Within my first two weeks here, there were a group of women in the WGC talking about how they did not know what they would do if they got pregnant,” Beal said, adding that these students were unaware of resources offered by the college or by their health insurance plans. “I’ve worked in other women’s centers, and that has always been a key part of women’s center programming.”

Beal also emphasized that “Reproductive Justice Week” was largely driven by students such as O’Brien, Carolina Vergara ’18 and Jessica Maposa ’17.

The week began with a screening of “Trapped,” a documentary about ways in which states’ laws that regulate abortion clinics affect abortion providers. The next day, the center held a crafts event for students to decorate mason jars and learn about self-care.

On Monday, Naomi Aberly ’85 gave a talk about reproductive justice on a policymaking level as part of the “AmHERst Alumnae Series.” Aberly, an activist focusing on women’s health policy, spoke about her work in gaining political support for such policies. The Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning and Alumni and Parent Programs co-sponsored the event.

The WGC partnered with La Causa, a student organization focused on raising awareness of Latinx issues, and student-run public health group Project Salud for a talk on Tuesday by Lynn Morgan, a professor of anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. The event, titled “Health Disparities: Access and Women’s Health in Latinx Communities,” followed the theme of intersectionality and centered on the barriers to healthcare access, particularly reproductive health, that women in Latinx communities have traditionally faced.

The final event, “Grab and Don’t Go: Reproductive Justice is Racial Justice,” will focus on the ways in which racial and reproductive justice intersect, including topics such as the prison-industrial complex and child welfare. It will be held in the Multicultural Resource Center on Wednesday.

In an email interview, Chelsea Pan ’18 said that the events in “Reproductive Justice Week” were starting conversations that have rarely taken place previously and are “especially important,” given the upcoming elections in November.

“I thought the movie was effective in terms of highlighting the stories of different women who seek abortions and educating me on the current challenges that providers face,” Pan said of the documentary screening. She added that Aberly’s talk provided ideas for students interested in raising awareness of reproductive justice issues.

“Discussions around reproductive justice can often sound heavy,” said Kennedy Reed ’19 in an email interview. Reed participated in the crafts event. “I appreciated the mason jar painting because it was a fun and creative space to find support.”

O’Brien said that the events so far had a “decent turnout,” but that the students who attended were a “self-selecting audience” who generally shared similar views on key reproductive justice issues.

Some of the goals for this week were to make women aware of the reproductive health resources and choices available to them and to destigmatize conversations about abortion.

“People are [getting] used to people bringing up abortion loud and proud in an Amherst College setting,” O’Brien said, adding that the event organizers were “tentative” about potential backlash.

O’Brien and Beal also emphasized that the events were also intended to show that reproductive justice went beyond promoting the right to have an abortion and also includes the right to be a parent and to parent a child safely to adulthood without fear of harm.

According to Beal, the WGC will plan to hold “Reproductive Justice Week” annually as one of the center’s “signature programs.” In the future, Beal hopes that the discussion around reproductive justice will also turn to queer and trans individuals’ issues such as the right to parent.

“Regardless of how you feel about abortion, this is a hot topic, and we need to continue to educate ourselves on it,” they said.