Laura Johnson ’14 was fifteen when she realized she might need an abortion. That experience opened her eyes to the struggles that female-bodied persons face surrounding abortion and led her to begin volunteering at age eighteen with Family Tree, a community clinic in St. Paul that strives to provide sexual health care for individuals who may otherwise not have access to it.
Through her work at Family Tree, Johnson learned of the 1 in 3 Campaign. The project is named for the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime; it’s also a movement to build a culture more centered on compassionate and supportive reproductive healthcare. Working with Mac Activists for Choice, an organization that supports reproductive rights and seeks to educate the Macalester community about pro-choice issues, Johnson and Anna Schmitz ’14 plan to bring the values of this campaign to Macalester through Abortion Stories.
Abortion Stories, which is to be held at 7 p.m. on November 12th in JBD, will feature a diverse panel of people from the Twin Cities who will share their personal stories about abortion and answer questions from the audience. These questions may be submitted anonymously prior to the event through an online service or at the event, verbally or on paper.
“Women have been helping women miscarry for thousands of years,” said Abby Stowe-Thurston ’16, another Mac Activists for Choice member. “It hasn’t always been political. That is a recent development.”
Abortion Stories is not meant to be a political event: the goal is to cultivate real conversation about the subject and to let the voices of all attendees be heard. Whether you are strongly against abortion, can’t quite see how your opinion even matters, or know someone who may be considering an abortion, this event is relevant to everyone as it strives to create a safe space for dialogue.
“If you’re in biology and want to hear the medical side of abortion, that will be here,” Johnson said. “If you are in sociology and want to hear people’s stories, that will be here. If you are in education and want to think about how to talk to others about abortion, that will be here. Even if you don’t have a personal tie, you have a tie for the sake of your discipline.”
Johnson and others are starting the conversation before the event even begins by personally inviting students. They have been making announcements at org meetings and social events, and chatting with people outside of the Campus Center since the beginning of the semester.
“We aren’t trying to convince people to come when we talk to them,” Johnson said. “Instead, we are trying to have a conversation with them about their relationship to this event and convey how much we value their presence and voice in hopes that they will realize on their own that they should be there.”
Charlie Birge ’15 has already been personally invited to the event. Birge was unsure if this event was pertinent to him until he talked with Johnson about the “1 in 3” statistic and decided it was an important issue for him to learn about. “It will make me more conscientious about the issue and about how I talk about it, or about how I listen to other people talk about it.”
Johnson also looks forward to talking about abortion in new ways. “I feel like people are so touched by honesty, especially when it’s honesty about something they’ve never considered they could talk about. And abortion is that. Even at places like Macalester where we talk about sex all of the time, we don’t have open conversations about abortion. And why wouldn’t we?”