- Eric Santomauro-Stenzel
Reproductive Rights Teach-In Educates Hundreds
Updated: May 19, 2022
Additional reporting from Madison Lazenby and Samantha Tassillo
Last week, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff gathered to educate on and show support for reproductive rights. The teach-in on reproductive rights occurred under the Dunham Tent on Wednesday, April 4th, and was organized by the Center for Intersectional Feminism (CIF; formerly “Womxn’s Center”). The event was attended by approximately 200 community members. The event was first announced just an hour and a half before Politico’s bombshell leak of a draft decision from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (1973), the landmark case guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion.
Originally planned in part in response to “anti-choice rhetoric” distributed by the Rosary Club (which is not a recognized student organization, and whose email has since been deactivated), the event quickly took on new meaning following the Politico leak. In a follow-up email announcement, CIF said, “CIF's E-board is working around the clock to edit our Teach-In plans to reflect this devastating news.” The approximately 45-minute event focused on the speakers, chronologically: CIF Co-Chair Jhoana Flores ‘24, Gender & Sexuality Union (GSU) Co-Chair Anna Skrobala ’24, College Chaplain Jeff McArn, Planned Parenthood Generation Action Committee Co-Chairs Claire Tzouros ‘25 and Willa Karr ‘25, and CIF Co-Chair Lucy Naughton ‘24.
In her opening remarks, Flores emphasized, “We are here to create an inclusive campus environment where all voices and identities are expressed, heard, acknowledged, and respected.” She added, “Young people, queer people, low-income people, people of color, Americans belonging to one, some, or all of these groups will be disproportionately hurt by [overturning Roe].” The purpose of the teach-in was to “host a safe space for different identities to share their experiences and beliefs, and to educate attendees on issues of reproductive justice and equity.”
Skrobala spoke on behalf of GSU about the need for inclusivity in the reproductive justice movement. “The group of people who are able to become pregnant includes cisgender women, or people who were assigned female at birth and identify as women, as well as transgender men, non-binary and intersex people, and referring to reproductive care only as being only for women excludes this large group of people from that conversation.” They closed saying, “access to safe abortions is essential for LGBTQ+ people” and overturning Roe “must not be allowed to happen.”
McArn, who oversees religious student organizations at Hamilton, spoke next. McArn, who like many other speakers was wearing a purple CIF t-shirt, spoke to how Hamilton is on the land of the Oneida Nation. “Let us not only acknowledge to ourselves that we at Hamilton College are a part of the American injustice to Indigenous peoples with respect to the land where we live and work, but let us also commit ourselves to the peacemaking of the White Pine [an Oneida cultural symbol representing law, peace, protection, shelter, security, and the burial of weapons of war].” Expressing his support for reproductive justice, value of the life of the individual who is pregnant, and deep personal struggles with maintaining relationships with those who are against abortion rights, he called on attendees to find ways to connect with the other side and engage in conversation. “This seems like an impossible fantasy. And is that not the value of religion? To believe so strongly in the impossible, and to have the belief shared by so many people, that the impossible becomes real?”
McArn’s speaking at the event was notable because of ongoing controversies related to events-students emails in opposition to abortion, birth control, pre-marital sex, and calling for “authentic love between men and women” sent by the Rosary Club. The group recently had its email deactivated by order of the Student Assembly.
Tzourous spoke to how “anti-reproductive justice rhetoric is rooted in misogyny and efforts to control birthing people’s bodies.” She explained how the threat to abortion access does not only impact abortions, but all forms of reproductive health. Citing an example of a large HIV outbreak in Indiana following cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, she said, “The mission of these pro-lifers may be successful at preventing legal abortions, but at the cost of lives and hundreds of thousands of people’s access to essential and important care that does not include just abortions.”
Karr explained, “We students should recognize Planned Parenthood as an asset to ourselves, our friends, and those who need safe, affordable healthcare…We have to remember that here, today, we are fighting for our own futures and the protections of our own rights.”
To close the event, Naughton thanked the crowd for attending. Mentioning Rosary Club for the first time in the event, she said to cheers, “While the Rosary Club’s anti-reproductive healthcare meetings were the initial motivation for us to plan today’s event, the intention of this teach-in is not to give them or anyone else disseminating dangerous rhetoric more attention than they’ve already gotten.” Before ending, she informed the crowd of a national Reproductive Freedom Protest happening at 5pm the next day to and asked the crowd “for tomorrow’s walkout we’re hoping to have a really diverse group of people speaking, we do have in our group of organizers women, non-binary people, women of color, but we want to make sure that especially people who don’t identify as women but who can give birth are represented, so if that describes you and you would like to speak, please reach out.”
As the crowd cheered and began to file out, students’ minds already moved to the next day’s protest and fight ahead. The Student Assembly officially announced the Reproductive Freedom Protest in an email to students that evening.