By Michelle Smith
On October 9th, 2020, the Monmouth University Community received an email from the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club. The email was regarding a virtual event created by the Catholic Campus Ministry called “Make Abortions Illegal Again.”
Found on Instagram, the post explains that Kristan Hawkins, founder of Students for Life of America, would be presenting her discussion on abortion. The post stated that the Catholic Campus Ministry hoped to have a great discussion and that they welcomed all stances, pro-choice, pro-life, or undecided.
I had a Zoom chat with Ailisse Aquino and Skylar Rathvon, President and Vice President of the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club. Ailisse and Skylar expressed hurt and anger for this type of event to be held at Monmouth University.
This event was not approved by the University, according to Amy Bellina, from Student Activities. Ailisse added that the information given at this event was not factual and did not offer a debate on abortion. Misinformation about abortions is harmful to the community of college women who are at a higher risk for mental health issues including: depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Skylar went on to say that she was livid by how openly they posted this event on Instagram. She expressed anger over the lack of care for this type of event, adamantly stating, “people don’t make this choice lightly.” She continued, describing her disdain over such an event, “An event on a college campus to promote making abortion illegal is dangerous and scary for
young college women who are vulnerable.”
Such vulnerabilities could include dealing with the trauma of sexual assault and getting pregnant as a result. Mariah Stuart (2019) calls sexual assault on college campuses an “epidemic” (para 2). In some states, if a student has been sexually assaulted and becomes pregnant, they are expected to have proof of this violation to get an abortion (para 1). This clause makes it nearly impossible to receive an abortion.
Even more troublesome is the finding that college students who received an abortion are likely to experience symptoms of psychological distress after an abortion (PAD), according to researchers Maureen Curley and Celeste Johnston (2013). Curley and Johnston’s most important finding was that PAD is frequently developed because of the stress of the unintended pregnancy and choosing to get an abortion (p. 289). The choice to get an abortion is so stressful that thirty percent of forty-two million women report PAD after an abortion (p. 279).
College students often face the pressures of stigmatization for getting an abortion, hearing opinions from anti-abortion advocates, and being treated like they are making the choice to get an abortion easily. Curley and Johnston (2013) pose that not only is this choice difficult, but it could also have lasting negative impacts without proper treatment. The researchers contend that post mental health assessments should be made for young women who get an abortion because their mental health is at risk of long-lasting implications after an abortion.
Understanding reproductive health and finding help when making such a difficult decision is important for women in general but for college students, it may be critical for their mental health.
The Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club charge that events like “Make Abortion Illegal Again” should be replaced with events that promote women’s reproductive health and their rights, especially for stigmatized topics like pre-abortion and post-abortion.
For anyone who may need a medical guidance or a mental health counselor to speak to, visit, https://www.monmouth.edu/health-services/our-services/.
Curley, M & Johnston, C (2013).
The Characteristics and Severity of Psychological Distress After Abortion Among University Students. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 279–293. DOI 10.1007/s11414-013-9328-0
Stuart, M (2019)
The Abortion Debate Affects Higher Education. Retrieved from: https://www.insightintodiversity.com/the-abortion-debate-affects-higher-education/
The email from the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club:
To the Monmouth University Community:
We, the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club along with other students, faculty, and alumni dedicated to women’s and trans+ rights, are alarmed that The Catholic Campus Ministry hosted a virtual event titled “Make Abortion Illegal Again” this week. We strongly condemn this event. Reproductive rights are imperative to all people who may become pregnant and should not be up for debate. Students who attended the event reported that the speaker shared misinformation, was unwilling to have an open conversation about reproductive freedoms, and merely presented what could be characterized as a soapbox presentation rather than a position with factual or empirical support especially in an educational setting. The event was insensitive and degrading to our students who have needed abortions and to those who may need them in the future. More importantly, such an event is dangerous. Reproductive rights are vital to women’s autonomy, socioeconomic well-being, and overall health. History and research clearly demonstrate that a woman’s ability to make her own choices regarding reproduction is directly linked to how she can participate in her education and the labor force. If abortion is made illegal again, as the event’s speaker advocates for, many more women will risk their lives as they join the 20 million women that desperately turn to unsafe abortions each year. We take issue with the misinformation shared by the speaker and the misogyny inherent in the overall message of the event.
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, the right to decide whether or not to bear a child “…is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. And when the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choice.”
Catholic Campus Ministries promoted this event as a Monmouth University event, but the University did not sponsor or approve this event. We assert that this program fails to align with Monmouth University’s mission of promoting diversity, inclusion and equity for all campus members. In contributing to the spread of misinformation, this event is also misaligned with Monmouth University’s mission for intellectual and educational excellence. Thus, our club, with the support of other student organizations, faculty members, and alumni, includes these links to reliable sources that provide empirical, science-based research to rectify the misinformation shared and potential harm done by the Catholic Campus Ministry’s event.
We invite you to work with us to bring expert scholars to campus and host events that allow for open conversation and learning regarding the importance of reproductive freedoms for all.
We are united in the need for reproductive freedom for all.
Concerned students and alumni,
President of the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club
Vice President of the Gender Studies and Intersectionality Club
Global & Community Practice Action Group
Students for Systemic Change
Tau Chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.
The Sociology Club
Food Recovery Network
P.U.S.H. (Professors United for a Safe Haven)
Program for Gender and Intersectionality Studies Executive Team
Black and African Diaspora Forum United
S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. (Sexuality, Pride, Education, Community, Truth, Respect, and Unity at Monmouth.)
The post on Instagram promoting the event “Make Abortions Illegal Again: