Oberlin Blogs

Destigmatizing Abortion through Art and Storytelling

February 4, 2016

Kira Findling ’19

I'm back at Oberlin and I have to say: it feels different this semester! I'm not so new anymore! It's easier to take risks now, since I know my way around and have a sense of community here. And believe me, lots of risks are being taken. Since getting back less than a week ago, I've moved to a new dorm (Kahn, the first-year sustainability dorm!), successfully navigated the add/drop process, and led my first meeting as a co-chair of SURF. What's SURF?, you might ask. Well, it is the organization with which I am most frequently involved on campus! It stands for Students United for Reproductive Freedom, and I can't believe I haven't written a blog about it. Last semester, I joined right away, attending weekly meetings and serving on a few working groups. In December, along with my awesome friend Hannah, I was elected as one of the new co-chairs! It's a lot of work, but I'm really excited to be involved in this new way.

To give you a taste of what SURF is all about, here's our current mission statement:

Oberlin Students United for Reproductive Freedom (SURF) is a group of pro-choice feminists that values inclusivity and intersectionality in raising awareness about reproductive justice issues. By validating and destigmatizing experiences, educating ourselves and others, engaging in direct action, and working to combat rape culture, we strive to promote equal access to abortion, contraceptives, and other forms of reproductive healthcare.

We hold events throughout the year, such as film screenings and fundraisers, and go to an amazing conference in the spring called CLPP! I thought I'd write about our most recent event, Out of Silence: Destigmatizing Abortion through Art and Storytelling, which took place at the Cat in the Cream last Thursday. Students read abortion stories that had been collected from both the Oberlin community and 1 in 3's online database. The stories were written by many different people, from elderly women who had abortions in the pre-Roe era to young people who were not financially prepared to be parents. But the event had more than just stories: one student performed a very poignant and personal slam poem. We were also incredibly lucky to have three Cleveland-area abortion activists speak about their stories and experiences with this kind of work.

One of those activists, Maria Miranda (who I wrote about in my 'Speakers' post - she's amazing!!), ended the night with a call to action. She encouraged us to go into the community around Oberlin to create spaces where abortion stories can be shared. Her focus on the power of storytelling was inspiring, especially as I go into a semester with classes in journalism and politics, subjects to which I believe we should bring our emotions and lived experiences. She said that so often we get caught up in hard facts and forget to give equal focus to the emotions of a situation, which I strongly connected to.

Maria Miranda speaking
Maria Miranda speaking at the event!
To end this post, I'll share a few important things to know about reproductive rights!
1) Anyone with a uterus can have an abortion.
A lot of rhetoric about abortion uses the term "a woman's choice," but this language fails to be inclusive of trans and non-binary people.
2) There are way fewer abortion providers in Ohio than there were just a few years ago.
Many have shut down, and Governor Kasich is doing everything he can to close the remaining as well.
3) Reproductive justice is a movement that originated with and is led by Black women.
This term is co-opted by reproductive rights groups a lot (as it used to be in my blog header, unfortunately). As a white woman, it's not my place to be using that term without fully understanding its history. Women of color are often marginalized and their voices ignored in discussions of reproductive health - misuse of the term "reproductive justice" is yet another way they are often silenced. 
4) There's no "right" way to feel when you have an abortion.
Abortion can be very personal, and everyone comes to the table with different backgrounds. Be intentional with your words and actions when talking about it, and remember that you never know what someone else has experienced.
I'm so proud of the work SURF is doing here at Oberlin, though, of course, there's always more to do. Hopefully, as we move forward, we'll continue to take risks and bring more awareness to issues of reproductive rights and abortion access in Oberlin, Lorain County, and Ohio!

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