After reading Mallory Carr’s recent piece in The Hoya titled “Engage in a Relevant Pro-Life Discussion” on H*yas for Choice and the Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life (The Hoya, A3, Jan. 30, 2015), I feel compelled to engage in “relevant discussion.” But in order to do this, it is first necessary to define what it means to engage, discuss, converse, and so on.
It seems that Carr fails to understand that protest is a form — arguably one of the highest — of engagement and discussion. Protest constitutes one of the many tools of nonviolent direct action, a powerful political philosophy that the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi have used as a way of life.
In fact, H*yas for Choice’s very existence is a form of protest. Georgetown University does not want us to exist, and therefore, does not officially recognize us. We do not receive any funds from the university — not a single dime. If the non-profit organization Citizens United has taught us anything, it’s that money is speech, and therefore the lack of university recognition directly suppresses pro-choice voices on campus. Even more clearly, H*yas for Choice faces harassment on a regular basis, whether it’s the ripping down of condom envelopes from dorm room doors, the unfounded removal of H*yas for Choice from public property, or the random individuals who come up to our table and throw condoms in our faces — just to name a few.
So, yes, pro-choice voices are suppressed on campus in a very real way, something that might be difficult for a pro-life supporter to understand as fully and meaningfully as an actual member of H*yas for Choice, such as myself.
Yet, despite all of this, we continue to exist. We continue to exist because we provide vital reproductive health services that our community needs and deserves to have access to, no matter what their religious views may be. At the same time, our existence also forces the overwhelmingly dominant and institutionally supported pro-life narrative on campus to reexamine its values. At the very least, our existence challenges the status quo. If that doesn’t count as jumpstarting important dialogue, then I don’t know what does.
We do more than “just exist” in a hostile environment. We do more than provide vital reproductive health services. We also blog and write opinion pieces. If writing doesn’t count as sparking purposeful conversation, then I don’t know what does.
To reduce all of H*yas for Choice’s methods of action as “name-calling” therefore is just incorrect at best, and offensive at worst.
Furthermore, I would like to examine what it means to engage in “relevant” discussion. It appears that Carr lacks an understanding of intersectionality, an impressive analytical tool taught in women’s and gender studies courses. Intersectionality looks at how different forms and systems of oppression interact with one another. These oppressive institutions include, but are not limited to, sexism, homophobia, racism, ableism, xenophobia, and classism. In fact, reproductive justice recognizes the intersectional nature of issues pertaining to female bodily autonomy, sexuality, and reproduction. When dissecting the pro-life narrative through this intersectional lens, it becomes strikingly evident that abortion is not just about when life begins. It is especially imperative to scrutinize abortion debates in an intersectional manner so as to take into account these power structures and imbalances present in society.
A topic of conversation may not be in line with a certain type of opinion, may not sanctioned by the university, and therefore may be controversial and antagonistic. But this does not mean the topic of conversation is not relevant. Instead of chastising H*yas for Choice members for allegedly not attending the conference, Carr would do well to read the pieces posted on the H*yas for Choice blog closely, carefully, and in full, so as to develop a better understanding of intersectionality and what it means to engage in relevant discussion with respect to reproductive health.
Zoe Dobkin is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.