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  • Anna Skrobala & Jeff McArn

Speeches from CIF's Reproductive Rights Teach-In

The following two speeches were provided to the Monitor to be published after they were read at the Center for Intersectional Feminism's Reproductive Right's Teach-In on May 4, 2022. The speeches are published as they were when provided to the Monitor with no corrections made except for formatting for our website.

Anna Skrobala '24, Co-Chair of Gender & Sexuality Union (GSU)

Hi, my name is Anna Skrobala, and I am the co-chair of Hamilton’s Gender and Sexuality Union. I am here today to speak on behalf of GSU about how the overturn of Roe v. Wade will impact the LGBTQ+ community.

In the English language, reproductive rights like access to abortion and contraceptives are often referred to as “women’s issues,” which upon first thought might seem accurate. However, this terminology is unnecessarily reductive and excludes non-cisgender people. 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. This can make them feel less welcome and comfortable talking about issues that pertain to them, which can put them at greater risk of unwanted pregnancies or preventable health conditions. For this reason, it is important to refer to these issues using non-gendered terms like reproductive rights in order to be as inclusive as possible.

While some people might consider LGBTQ+ rights an issue separate from reproductive rights, this is simply inaccurate. Many queer people can become pregnant within their relationships, including cisgender women, transgender men, intersex people, and non-binary people. LGBTQ+ people are also at a significantly higher risk of being sexually assaulted compared to their heterosexual cisgender peers, with lesbian and bisexual women being especially at risk, which can lead to a high rate of unwanted pregnancies (even apart from the additional trauma that comes with sexual violence). Studies have shown that 36% of non-cisgender pregnant people have considered trying to terminate their own pregnancies, and 19% have actually attempted to do it.

An overturn of Roe v. Wade, while it would affect all people, would have the largest impact on poorer people. Even if abortion becomes illegal or difficult to access, wealthy people will be more able to travel to places where safe abortions are still readily accessible. 22% of LGBTQ+ people live below the poverty line (as opposed to only 16% of the general population), so this change would disproportionately affect the queer community. This has several possible negative outcomes on the thousands of queer people who become pregnant unintentionally: they could have to spend money they cannot afford to acquire an abortion, turn to illegal methods of terminating their pregnancy (which, worldwide, can have a death rate between 4.7% and 13.2%, at a rate of 30 out of 100,000 unsafe abortions ending in the parent’s death in countries classified as developed and 200 out of 100,000 in those classified as developing), or be forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, which can destroy a person’s life in several ways—it can cause long-lasting health issues, lead to massive medical bills, ruin educational or career prospects, and leave someone with a child they did not want, a bad situation for the parent and the child.

For all of these reasons, access to safe abortions is essential for LGBTQ+ people, and an overturn of Roe v. Wade could ruin the lives of thousands upon thousands of queer people in the United States and must not be allowed to happen. Thank you.

Jeff McArn, College Chaplain

The white pine tree is a sacred symbol for the Oneida Indian community. It is the

central symbol on the Oneida Nation seal and represents the way of peace, following a

time of deep divisions and war among the five nations which came together through

the arrival of the Peacemaker to create the unified Haudenosaunee confederacy. As

we hold this gathering on this land held sacred by the Oneida people — who return to

this place to visit the white pines here, particularly the three located in and by the

college cemetery — let us both acknowledge to ourselves that we at Hamilton College

are 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, which calls us to bind ourselves together in one community of trust, even though

we hold different views and identities.

Moment of Silence

There has been distress and mistrust in our community this semester, and religion has

been in the middle of it. There is a clash between closely held thoughts on the value of

life: both of the unborn fetus on one side, and on the other, the value of the life of

people dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. One side has recently been publicly

vocal, which gives rise to this gathering today to provide some balance in the public


There is a deep religious connection to both sides of this conversation: one perhaps

more easily identifiable than the other. Although it’s true of most conservative religious

traditions, I will speak of the Christian tradition which has a long history of commitment

to patriarchal culture. This commitment has sadly established tragic inequalities for

female identifying people all around the globe. Christian theology has placed women

both on an impossible pedestal of purity and also in a place of perpetual sexual shame.

The cry for protecting the life of the unborn fetus, comes as a result of privileging the

right of men to distance themselves from the aftermath of a sexual encounter, and to

hold the one who has conceived a pregnancy, accountable for the creation of a sacred

life, while their own life — and choices about their own bodies and health — may be

under the control of the state of Arkansas, or Texas, or Michigan or many other states

re-considering issues of reproductive justice.

Christianity has often led us to say that any sexual encounter is a contract to produce a

life, and that life should be protected by a legal code. Other modes of Christianity affirm

the beauty and integrity of sexual intimacy which can strengthen and sustain a

committed relationship without any intention of reproductive results, including in a

same-sex relationship.

In the biblical book of Genesis, God’s first commandment to the human being is “Be

fruitful and multiply...” so it is sometimes seen as a duty to produce life and to see that

as the purpose of sexuality. But as a divinity professor once told me, that is the one

commandment of God we have actually accomplished. We can now focus on other

ones that seem to be more difficult for us to complete!

The question naturally arises, why don’t we eliminate religion if it gives rise to

inequalities and power differentials that produce harm, and supports a cultural status

quo built on injustices? My response to that question is: love. I’m not saying you need

religion to understand and engage in love, but it is one community-oriented way of

lifting up this value that Bell Hooks describes in her powerful book All About Love:

Only love can heal the wounds of the past. However, the intensity of our

woundedness often leads to a closing of the heart, making it impossible for us to

give or receive the love that is given to us. To open our hearts more fully to love’s

power and grace we must dare to acknowledge how little we know of love in both

theory and practice.

Religion at its best, centers this quest to learn about love, to move us away from hatred

and into the freedom that comes from dignifying and respecting all human life. It is

what fueled Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Fannie Lou

Hamer, Frederick Douglass, Mohandas Gandhi and many others, in their struggles. Let

us recommit ourselves to the demands of love which as Cornel West puts it, is the

public face of justice. I hope we can all find support and encouragement in a

community which puts front and center the value of inclusion, of deep respect for

human personhood, especially vulnerable identities who have little power and voice,

and are easily ignored by the inertia of mainstream society, which of course includes

the church.

I have a sister, whom I love and with whom I share a deep family bond. She is an

evangelical Christian and a strong opponent of abortion rights, and is delighted at the

news of the possible/ likely? Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer. I

struggle with the way she thinks about her religious commitments. I struggle with the

way she focuses only on the life of the unborn fetus, and completely ignores the widely

varying situations of pregnant people who are being denied the health care they need,

and the emotional support required during what is often a serious crisis in internalizing

what it means to terminate a pregnancy.

One possibility is to distance myself from my sister and her husband. One possibility is

to think of them in terms of the dismissive stereotypes we create for the others who are

on the other side of such an important issue. But I love my sister, and I pray that the

love, which is beyond my own strength and resolve, will bring us both to the place

where the value of inclusivity and respect for the dignity of all people, will overcome our

own cultural biases. This seems like an impossible fantasy, and is this 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?

With malice toward none, as a famous president of a divided country once proclaimed,

with love for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive

on to finish the work we are in. Amen.

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