January 22, 2007
Jordan Conn is young, pretty, and she’s a college student at a top university. She also happens to have had an abortion. But she not a statistic, she’s a person–and an activist. “I think that it’s important that we’re open about the issue,” she explains. “If we want change, we–especially college women–need to talk about [abortion].”
This is the idea behind the Feminist Campus “We Had Abortions” campaign. Feminist Campus, the student wing of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), the organization that publishes “Ms.” Magazine, is re-enacting a campaign that coincided with the very first issue of “Ms.” in 1972. The magazine published a list including the names of fifty-three American women, including Gloria Steinem, who had had illegal abortions and were demanding reproductive rights.
Over 30 years later, many women take their reproductive rights for granted. But, as “Ms.” And Feminist Campus hope to illustrate, those rights are being increasingly restricted in the US. In developing nations, the situation is much worse. According to the Foundation, approximately 70,000 women and girls outside the US die each year from botched and unsafe abortions.
The FMF began a general We Had Abortions Campaign last year that was signed by some 5,000 woman of a variety of ages. Now, they have launched a campaign specifically geared toward today’s college students, in an effort to get them involved as the new faces of an old struggle.
Next Generation Rights
As Crystal Lander, the Campus Program Director for the Feminist Majority Foundation, points out, college-aged women are often directly affected by access to abortion. “Generally,” she explains, “when [most of us] have a friend who has had an abortion, it has been during her college years.” According to the, Alan Guttmacher Institute around half of all abortions in the US are had by women under the age of 25. Nineteen percent occur in women ages 15-19. While the majority of college students are legally able to have abortions (as most are over 18), access can sometimes be an issue, especially if a student cannot afford the procedure or is attending school in a state where clinics are scarce.
The campaign, which was launched in December 2006, is aimed at gathering signatures from students who are comfortable acknowledging the fact that they have had abortions. The petitions will be gathered through the end of March and will delivered to the White House, members of Congress, and state legislatures. By signing the petition, young women are not only opening up about their experiences, they are also calling for the nullification of laws that curtail reproductive rights, such as the Hyde Amendment and parental notification laws. In addition, some women are simply signing the petition in solidarity and alliance with other women who have had abortions.