To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this blog is part of a series profiling a new generation of activists working to destigmatize abortion and ensure access to safe, affordable abortion care.
Published in partnership with Advocates for Youth.
I had never heard of the “Genocide Awareness Project” until late last fall one day when I happened to stumble upon a display of pictures in the center of the University of Michigan’s campus. It featured pictures of fetuses and abortion providers branded with swastikas. These pictures were erected in the center of my campus, each grotesque board at least five by six feet.
I learned that the Genocide Awareness Project is a group that travels around the nation to different universities to put up this visually scarring “masterpiece” of theirs in an effort to shock students and start a conversation around abortion that is, to say the least, unproductive and offensive. I knew that equating abortion to genocide—and abortion providers to Nazis—was not the conversation I wanted my campus to engage in if we were to talk openly and honestly about abortion and abortion access.
It was just dumb luck that I happened to stumble upon the Advocates for Youth website that very same week. After exploring the website and finding the 1 in 3 Campaign, I knew that I had material to work with to create a dialogue on my campus that could actually spark real change and meaningful conversation. It reminded me that there were reproductive rights and justice advocates who were having abortion conversations that did not involve scare tactics. They were having these conversations on their campuses, in their homes, and in their communities, and I knew that they were doing it the right way. The 1 in 3 Campaign does not demonize the practice of abortion, or the women who receive this type of medical care. Instead, it gives them a platform to share their stories.
That is how I began my work as an abortion activist on my campus. I found a campaign I believed in and started a real conversation with students who knew that what they had seen earlier that semester was not a stepping stone to progress, but a manipulative tactic to engage students in a one-sided conversation on abortion.
My student group, Students for Choice, began holding small dialogues with the goal of revealing the true facts about abortion and access to safe, affordable abortion care. So far, we have held over 25 abortion dialogues (so far!) based on a five-minute compilation video of different women’s abortion stories. After watching this video, a group of diverse students with a variety of opinions on issues related to abortion talk openly about their feelings in regard to this diverse set of women’s experiences and the participants’ perspectives on abortion in general. Our goal is to create a safe space for these conversations; my group members and I simply facilitate.
We have planned a panel this March on the issue of abortion stigma, featuring an abortion provider, an abortion activist, and a youth activist coordinator who works specifically on youth organizing around this issue.
As a group of activists, we meet weekly to implement new programs and dialogues to ensure that the conversation on our campus around abortion access is one that is productive and honest. The 1 in 3 Campaign gave us the opportunity to do so.
As we approach the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and are once again reminded of the landmark decision four decades ago that legalized abortion, we remember that our work as youth activists is important, significant, and celebrated. Because what good is a right if you can’t exercise it? So we fight on.