A Statement from the Executive Board of H*yas for Choice (Emily Stephens, Brinna Ludwig, Kory Stuer, Lane Easterling, and Michelle Bolt):
Forty-four years ago today, the Supreme Court recognized the right to an abortion in a 7-2 majority. Even after one of the largest protests in U.S. history, significant apprehension remains about the future of access to abortion and reproductive healthcare in this country. We as a Board feel this concern. We have had friends ask about IUDs so that they are protected for the next four years; we have heard the concerns of students, faculty, and staff about the future of their health insurance; and we have seen our communities come under attack as multiple students have reported having slurs and other hate speech yelled at them.
Still, we have also felt an outpouring of support and generosity. After the elections, donations to H*yas for Choice increased, as did the caring and encouraging words of community members who approach the table. On this celebratory anniversary of the Supreme Court’s recognition of what many of us have always known – that individuals have a right to privacy and a right to control their own bodies – we choose to highlight the progress we have made, despite opposition, and look forward to making Georgetown a more inclusive, healthy, and just campus.
For over 25 years, H*yas for Choice has confronted resistance and sometimes hostility from University administrators and other community members. We understand, although we cannot know, the challenges that lie ahead. As we prepare for the challenges that the coming days, weeks, and months will bring, we know that we have the momentum to carry us through. Last semester, we again successfully provided thousands free condoms and dental dams to students. We maintained a strong campus presence by tabling every Monday through Friday, rain or shine. We advocated for and successfully secured free and anonymous HIV testing on campus. After our urging, on World AIDS Day, the Georgetown Student Health Center, Georgetown Medical AIDS Advocacy Network (GMAAN), and MedStar Georgetown Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases sponsored a free HIV testing event for Georgetown students. The Student Health Center also clarified sexual health questions on their website. The questions came directly from H*yas for Choice members and we were an important voice in crafting the language.
Within the H*yas for Choice community, we launched #NoShameNovember, a month-long effort to normalize sex positivity and pro-choice politics, which included a photo campaign, leadership Facebook features, and a sex toy party. To compensate for our community’s lack of accurate sexual health education, we hosted Sex 101, with a Planned Parenthood sex educator, and organized Kink etiquette, which one of our own members planned and led. Throwing over two events per month kept us busy, and we plan to be even busier this semester.
Our tabling will continue, as will our work with the Student Health Center. By the end of this semester, we hope to have another HIV screening day and push the Student Health Center to provide IUDs that are approved for non-contraceptive purposes. We also plan to increase the accessibility of menstrual hygiene products by mobilizing student groups.
Our activism will continue. We plan to participate in the a counter-protest at the March for Life and protest the Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life, scheduled only one week after the historic Women’s March. Although the new administration does not make our work easier, H*yas for Choice has succeeded and triumphed over University opposition, and we will succeed and triumph over the heightened opposition of this new political climate.
Our work and the work of our allies will continue. We will not back down, and we will not go away. More than ever, we are committed to our mission to realize reproductive and social justice for our community. Below, our board members have offered a few pieces of advice, tips, and important things to remember as we stay motivated and engaged in the coming months.
Emily: One very small but common action I try to personally undertake is to always read the article if a headline makes me uncomfortable, or if my initial reaction is to think “I’m not sure I’d go that far”. The only way to feel empowered enough to work for substantive change is to listen to people who have been working on these issues a lot longer than you have!
Brinna: Privilege is a funny thing, it’s most evident to those who don’t have it. I don’t presume to know what I would do if I got pregnant at this point in my life, but I know I want there to be a choice for myself and others and that this choice should not be a privilege.
Kory: Remember the words of Angela Davis when she said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” And when we find something we cannot accept, remember that direct action gets the goods.
Lane: Take time for self-care. Never forget that being engaged and motivated take a lot of energy and can wear you down. Listen to music, go to Yates, take a nap, or talk to a friend. Even the small things are good.
Michelle: Increase collaboration with other like-minded, intersectional activist organizations and work to explore the intersections of reproductive justice and identifiers like race, gender, religion, sexuality, and more.