Georgetown’s Guerilla Bathroom Campaign

When a woman enters a bathroom stall almost anywhere on Georgetown University's campus, she is immediately confronted with the ongoing battle between the stickers that adorn the inside of the stall doors. The university supplies stickers with information about its pregnancy support services while H*yas for Choice, Georgetown's (unofficial) pro-choice organization, covertly distributes stickers that provide contact information for Planned Parenthood and instructions on how to obtain emergency contraception (EC).

So why the clash between the two groups? Why the conflict that leads people to tear down stickers or write nasty comments in the margins? The answer is even more troubling than the fact that these people enjoy writing while sitting on the toilet.

The battle wages because Georgetown's Pregnancy Support Services is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. The services they provide accord with the university's Jesuit Catholic identity, as does the fact that condoms are not provided anywhere on campus by the university and that a woman can only obtain the birth control pill if she plans to use for reasons other than contraception.

The services that Georgetown offers pregnant students are geared entirely toward women who intend to stay pregnant, as if no other option even exists. There is no mention of an alternative (you know, like the A-word), simply a list of resources to help students "handle" their pregnancies.

The only off-campus resource that the center's website lists is the Northwest Center, whose slogan "Creating life and inspiring hope since 1983" practically screams pro-life propaganda.

This isn't to imply that Georgetown does not offer a wealth of resources and assistance to fully care for pregnant students. But I take extreme issue with the fact that Georgetown does not provide students with all the available options for dealing with pregnancy. These services, intended to give students a place to turn in a time of need, end up completely alienating those who choose to terminate their pregnancy, or even those who wish to discuss the possibility of doing so.

Ironically, the slogan that adorns all of those bathroom stickers reads, "You are not alone." That is only true if your decisions align with the beliefs of Georgetown University and, ultimately, the Catholic Church.

H*yas for Choice seeks to make good on the university's promise. We provide comprehensive information to students, not only regarding pregnancy, but covering all aspects of reproductive health and contraception. One way students can access these resources is through those stickers we place on bathroom doors. For a more complete list, they can visit our website at any time, or our table every Monday and Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm. We provide information, contacts, and also free condoms for anyone.

Many people view our organization as antithetical and antagonistic to the university. These are typically the same people who rip down or deface our stickers. However, the message we work to promote is one of cooperation. We realize that Georgetown's Jesuit affiliation limits it in certain regards, and so we work to supplement these shortcomings.

We are Georgetown students caring for our fellow students – not some renegade group trying to tear down the establishment by flooding the campus with condoms. In the face of a lack of information and resources, H*yas for Choice exists to fill in the gaps.

And, of course, to provide quality bathroom reading material.

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  • invalid-0

    Congratulations to you all for the work you do, and for refusing to be intimidated.

    I was a grad student on the GU campus in the early 90s, when the administration sandbagged the original, (briefly) official pro-choice organization, and unofficial condom distribution began. What I remember from fellow students’ complaints in those days was that you couldn’t get hormonal contraception even if you needed it for non-contraceptive purposes, so perhaps they’ve come that far at least. But I’m sorry to hear they are still limiting students’ freedom and autonomy in other ways.

    It takes a lot of nerve to stand up to a powerful and vengeful institution, and to face intimidation from other students as well. You deserve much admiration for that. Good luck, and keep up the good work!

  • harry834

    while I'm still happy and committed to attending GT, it is sad that such a prestigous university has been infected with the worst aspects of religious thought. The religious bigotry is placed above genuine concern for student's health and welfare. But I guess those forces strive to prevent people from controlling their own lives.

    I do hope that progressive religious people at GT will make their home there, no matter how many of their stickers are torn down.

  • invalid-0

    how is it that you are able to distribute condoms? is the university OK with that? Or do you have to do it covertly?

  • invalid-0

    have an (unoffical) pro-choice orgnization. At Seton Hall there is no por-choice organization. Period. And girls have to venture into Newark to get birthcontrol.

  • marysia

    Women in college often have abortions because they do not discern any way to complete both their educational plans and their pregnancies.  And more often than not, there is no or very little institutional, structural support for women who would rather not abort.

    Women who would rather not abort before their educations are complete are by no means all brainwashed captives of evil-Catholic-patrarchal dogma. 

    We are women of many religious/spiritual kinds, and believe me, it takes an independent, determined person to go against the massive tide of cultural and economic and so forth pressure that says a woman has absolutely no business getting an education and using her brain and being with child all at the same time.

     If your organization is prochoice, then surely you are also for the choice *not* to abort an unplanned pregnancy and to receive complete support for carrying out that decision, no matter how unpopular and judged-against it can be.  Sounds like you are. So why not, even as you disagree about the rest, try to work in partnership with the university on its efforts to help women who wish to go to term?

    A stance of cooperating on common ground issues might actually help your group gain more leverage and credibility in its efforts to express viewpoints contrary to those of the administration, but vital to reducing abortion, just as vital as help for women to go to term and choose parenting, adoptio, guardianship, or another care arrangement.

    Yes, it is unfortunate and highly counterproductive that Catholic colleges and universities are so unfriendly to contraception/prevention.  That is certainly not the way to reduce abortion!

    At the same time, it cannot be denied, many have taken the lead in aid for pregnant and parenting students.  I maintain a list of college pregnancy/parenting support initiatives at (along with other helpful resources for pregnant/parenting students) and it is striking how many Catholic institutions are in that list. 

    This is highly significant, considering how many institutions of higher learning just couldn't care less about less about what happens to their pregnant and parenting students. 

    When I was a pregnant student over 20 years ago, my big belly drew looks of contempt and disgust, like "What is this lowrent, stupid slattern doing on our big-name presitigious campus?"  Just like people think you can't have big breasts or be conventionally beautiful and smart all at the same time, they think you can't possibly be a pregnant student and intelligent and devoted to positive purposes.  And that was, alas, the least of my troubles. 

    I'm afraid there has not been nearly enough progress on this front since.  And I believe that prochoice and prolife alike have a profound responsibility to make that progress, as quickly as it can be attained.

    Because this very day, there are students facing unplanned pregnancies, who would rather do anything than abort those pregnancies–and the same time want, need, and fully deserve to pursue their educational plans.  If one is prolife, you *absolutely have* to help them do just that.  And if one is prochoice, one is no less obligated to actively support their choices.

    Either way, the responsibility is there.