The Office of Civic and Community Engagement partnered with the Andrew Goodman Foundation and Vote is Sacred student ambassadors to host the “Voting for Our Reproductive Rights” informational panel session on Wednesday in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation is a national, non-partisan, civic engagement movement that involves students from various universities. Ambassadors work with universities to register voters, bring down voting barriers and open up the discussion of important social issues in their university. The Vote is Scared Project is similar to the Andrew Goodman Foundation because it aims to inform students and community members about voter and issue education, voter registration, and voter engagement.
Zarah Vidriezca, sophomore legal studies major and Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassador, said creating this panel discussion was something that she was interested in since last fall when Roe v. Wade was overturned, but decided to wait because it was a sensitive topic and very recent.
“It’s a very important conversation to have. It’s knowledge that people should have because it impacts every single one of us,” Vidriezca said. “Because there’s so much misinformation being spread, that I think it’s important that people take the time to learn about it and have the right information and I think holding spaces where we just listen in a non-biased way to what others have to say and to people with expertise in different areas is very important.”
University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner introduced the session and was the moderator throughout the panel.
The panel was made up of Linda Bartelt, adjunct professor of educational studies; John Bartelt, professor of educational studies; Carolyn Bekhor, professor of legal studies; and Judy Holiday, associate professor of rhetoric and communication studies.
Wagoner began the session by explaining that it was not a debate about reproductive choice or abortion, rather it was about the history and value of reproductive rights along with how they are viewed and the resources that are available.
“Today’s event is about lifting up the best of this value, to increase our civic understanding and responsibility,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner concluded her introduction speech by asking the panel “If one wanted to be fully informed about the history and practices of reproductive choice, what would we need to know?”
Bekhor started the discussion by explaining that reproductive rights included health care, which is prenatal care, birth control, sterilization, the right to an abortion, sexual education and the overall sense of bodily autonomy. She said that Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which called into question the right to privacy and means that bodily autonomy may be up for prohibitions by states.
Bekhor said that the Supreme Court is unelected officials that have no code of conduct and no ethical code that make final decisions because there is no higher court. She said that the people who put them there were elected presidents and elected legislators.
“It comes down to voting,” Bekhor said. “Voting with the lens to say ‘Where is my interest and how is my interest being served?’… The impact is large and it is not something to take lightly.”
Wagoner then asked Holiday to explain the evolution and impact of reproductive rights and how it became a polarizing issue.
Holiday began by talking about how women have been used in the past to make change in the United States because women as a group are often considered a minority even if they are not a minority. They are viewed as minorities because they often do not have the access or power that men have in the U.S.
Holiday said women were used in the past to develop chattel slavery in the U.S. which is the ownership of a body and then the ownership of the offspring of that property. She also said that women have also been viewed as wombs that do not have control of their own bodies. The majority of abortions have always taken place with women who are already moms who are thinking about their children.
“It is certainly an issue to force a woman to carry a fetus to term because that might prevent that woman from having an educational opportunity, or moving the rest of the family out by having education and having enough money for the other children,” Holiday said. “I ask that we look at life more broadly. Quality of life for everyone involved when we speak about abortion.”
Wagoner moved the discussion along by introducing Linda Bartelt and John Bartelt, who would be showing a presentation and speaking about how reproductive rights are playing out now and how to access good information and resources.
Linda Bartlet began the presentation by speaking about her personal history regarding an ectopic pregnancy she had in her 20s. An ectopic pregnancy, also known as a tubal, is when the fertilized egg is implanted into the fallopian tube instead of traveling to the uterus.
She said that she did not know it was a tubal pregnancy and when she went home she was in excruciating pain, so she ended up at the hospital at midnight. During this time she debated waiting until the morning to go, but she decided to go and was able to find out that her tubal had burst and she was internally bleeding.
“Today’s law would let me die,” Linda Bartelt said. “Back then. Roe v. Wade was firmly in place and I had a procedure that in that day and age I didn’t know was a procedure to save my life. It wasn’t even acquainted with an abortion, it was an abortion however today in some states it would be questionable whether I would be allowed to live.”
John Bartelt continued the presentation by explaining that a fetus is not fully formed until the third trimester, showing pictures of what an eight-week-old fetus looks like versus the picture that are shown today which are a of a fully formed fetus.
He explained the reasons why women have abortions, the amount of states who have banned abortion pills, the bills that have been introduced that restrict abortion, about men in political positions who are making decision regarding reproductive rights, the resources that are available and the importance of voting.
“You need to take your country back, so get out there and be active, START voting, get involved in politics, get involved in CAB or something,” John Bartelt said. “When you’re comfortable with how things work and what the rules are, and everything else, maybe just city council keep working your way up, get involved. Teenagers helped in segregation. You’re older than that.”
Vidriezca ended the panel discussion by thanking the panelists, students, and the faculty and staff members that attended the event.
Cherie Atalor, sophomore computer science major and international student from Nigeria said she attended the event because she has been following reproductive rights in the U.S. and she finds what is happening to women infuriating, so she was interested in learning and basking in the knowledge that the panelists could provide.
“My personal vendetta is that you can entertain a thought without internalizing it, but l have a stance and I wanted to understand more on how I can support women in America from an international perspective,” Atalor said.
Samira Felix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an earlier version of this story, Zarah Vidriezca’s name was misspelled. The Campus Times regrets the error.
Samira Felix, a junior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is news editor for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer.