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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

H*yas for Choice and Georgetown University College Democrats Host Reproductive Rights Panel

H*yas for Choice and the Georgetown University College Democrats co-hosted a panel discussion about the state of reproductive rights in 2024 on Jan. 17.

At the event, five panelists discussed different portraits of reproductive justice in a politically heated country with a presidential election nearing. The event took place three days prior to Georgetown hosting the 25th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the United States. The event was initially scheduled to be held in Gaston Hall before the university moved it to Lohrfink Auditorium in the McDonough School of Business three business days prior to the event.

“We are sincerely disappointed that the Administration decided to suddenly demote the event to a smaller and less significant space, especially because it seems like the decision was made, in part, because the subject matter of the event represents an opposing viewpoint to some,” GUCD wrote in a statement to The Hoya.

The university said the event was moved due to security concerns. 

“Georgetown’s Speech and Expression policy provides broad latitude for the expression of ideas and opinions, even when they may be difficult, controversial or objectionable, and encourages individuals to “openly and vigorously contest” ideas they disagree with or oppose,” a university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “The decision was made to locate the event in Lohrfink Auditorium in the Hariri Building, a space that optimizes GUPD security options for events, especially ones open to the general public without pre-registration.” 

At the event, panelist Christina Marea, an assistant professor of midwifery and women’s health at the Georgetown School of Nursing and an external consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), spoke about the importance of the three pillars of reproductive justice: the right to have children, the right to not have children and the right to parent children in a safe environment. 

Marea said access to reproductive care directly impacts already marginalized groups and can adversely impact trust in healthcare providers and poverty and dependency for women.

“The ripple effects are massive,” Marea said at the event. “The people who are most marginalized socially, economically, racially, historically, are the ones who are going to bear the brunt, but make no mistake, your privilege isn’t going to protect you either. Starting with the most marginalized, it trickles to everyone.”

The Supreme Court of the United States voted to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) with a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), effectively restricting access to abortion in many states. In states such as South Carolina and Indiana, more restrictive bans have taken effect post-Dobbs. Nonetheless, since the overturning, some states like Ohio have voted on legislation protecting reproductive rights. 

Panelist Angela Maske (NHS ’19), a strategic project manager for Advocates for Youth and former co-president of H*yas for Choice, highlighted the unique opportunity Georgetown students have to organize and show their support for reproductive justice. 

“I would encourage you all to take advantage of those opportunities to organize your peers,” Maske said at the event. “And also to ask for more, or demand more, from the administration that is supposed to be supporting your health and growth and development as young people and as students.”

Panelist Erin Matson (COL ’02), a feminist writer and organizer, has built her career around fighting for women’s rights and reproductive justice. First inspired by a women’s studies course she took as a student at Georgetown, Matson said she believes that a life dedicated to advocacy can propel individuals to make a meaningful social impact.

Matson added that the fight for reproductive justice and women’s rights does not end on campus but is an ongoing battle.

“You can make a life out of this, and it doesn’t have to stop once you leave campus,” Matson said. “So, really, my trick is I have simply kept going, and I refuse to stop until we win.”

Kayla Edwards Friedland (SFS ’22), a Washington, D.C. community organizer at Planned Parenthood, said demanding justice from school administration is essential. While at Georgetown, they led a movement that improved campus resources for survivors of sexual violence, especially Black survivors. 

“These systems aren’t actually always built for us,” Edwards Friedland said at the event. “It’s about making sure that we’re working to create systems that actually will be.”

Panelist Gillian Branstetter, a communications strategist at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and LGBTQ & HIV Project, spoke about the linkage between legislation restricting abortion access and legislation restricting transgender people’s access to gender-affirming health care. 

“It’s the same legal groups, the same politicians, who are attempting to restrict transgender rights across a broad array of areas, especially gender-affirming medical care, who have also paved the way to overturning Roe,” Branstetter said at the event. 

Maske, who helped pilot the H*yas for Choice program that provides free Plan B to Georgetown students, highlighted her understanding of the difficulties of organizing on a college campus. She reminded the audience that student action is the reason we have seen advancements in reproductive rights on campus, such as H*yas for Choice being able to provide condoms and emergency contraception to the student body.

“Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t demand more,” Maske said.

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