Oregon House Rep. Mary Nolan visited the PSU campus last Wednesday, July 16, as a speaker at the Pro-Choice Speak Out to discuss current legislature in the house and community activism about abortion.
The event was a collaborative effort on behalf of many Portland area organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly known as National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) and the PSU Women’s Resource Center.
Nolan was the last of three speakers at the event, addressing activism through voting and the need of voter’s support for pro-choice politicians.
Nolan is currently serving her second term in the Oregon House.
Throughout her terms serving the Portland area, she has become known for her pro-choice support and is considered to be a large figure in the pro-choice community.
Though, she argues, “I at least care about this issue, I don’t know how influential I am.”
Nolan was in college at the time of the Roe vs. Wade ruling. The Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion was seen as a significant victory for the feminist movement and women’s rights in general.
“It upsets me to know that you (female students) and my daughter are living in a time where your choices, particularly your reproductive choices, are more restricted then when I was in college,” she said.
One of the main concerns outlined by NARAL at this event was how more than 25 states will completely ban or restrict a woman’s right to choose if Roe vs. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court.
Speaking on behalf of the NARAL organization was Jen Nicholes, who discussed many of the issues NARAL is currently addressing, such as insurance coverage for abortions, the releasing of abortion doctors and patients’ names on the Internet, the global gag rule, and other topics of debate.
“We call ourselves the legal arm of the pro-choice movement,” Nicholes said. “We want abortion rights to be restored to what they were before.”
Also attending the event was Missy Stoner of Voices of Choice (VOX), a branch of Planned Parenthood.
Stoner, a pro-choice supporter, spoke of the organization’s concern about the current political state. She encouraged community turnouts at similar events and talked about the importance of voting, especially for college-age people.
“Our main focus is student activism and reproductive rights,” she said. “The threat against women’s rights to choose is really strong right now.”
Stoner mainly focused on getting students interested in volunteering and becoming involved in the pro-choice movement though volunteering. She also expressed discontent for the lack of student involvement on the PSU campus.
“This campus is horrible, horrible to try and get involved on because it is
a community school,” she said.
PSU sophomore Chelsea Varnum is involved with local pro-choice organizations and helped coordinate Speak Out with the intention of providing information, educating and supplying means of action for the local community.
“I think that this event is relevant to everyone, man or woman, because it affects everyone’s right and the decisions that they can make, whether they agree with the cause or not,” she said. “I wanted to hold the event at PSU because I felt that my school should be involved with an issue that is this huge. I was surprised that there wasn’t something happening before I started organizing this event. I also wanted to see something happen at PSU because I think it’s a great way to enhance the education we are getting.”
The number of students attending the event was small but supportive. An estimated 50 people showed up to listen to speakers, read handouts and visit organizers’ booths during the duration of the two-hour event. The small turnout was partially attributed to the fact that the posters and fliers posted on campus earlier in the week had been taken down by an anonymous individual, thus creating a promotional problem for the organizers.
One of the local community members who was in attendance that day, Chelsea Watts, helped pass out fliers before the event to help create an awareness for people on campus.
“I don’t want my rights taken away,” Watts said. “I don’t want someone else deciding on if I was raped that I would have to have that child. Now, I don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control. I know people that have abused it, but there is always that chance you could become pregnant no matter what kind of birth control you use, and I think the option (of abortion) should still be open.”