Editor's note: It is not typically The Beacon's policy to grant anonymity to sources unless the source may face significant danger, retribution or harm from being named. In the case of this piece, anonymity has been granted to respect the privacy of the student and reduce unnecessary harm.
**Trigger warning: This piece includes topics of abortion, mental health, and PTSD.
I was 16 when I got an abortion. The reasons really don’t matter, but for me, it was simple. There wasn’t a debate. I was in foster care myself at the time. I know what the system looks like — I don’t trust it and I don’t wish it on anyone. So, obviously, I wasn’t going to give birth to another foster kid.
But my situation should not and does not mean anything when it comes to my right to choose. Maybe you come from an upper class family with perfectly supportive parents. Maybe it’s your dream to be a parent, but you want to finish your education first. Maybe you’re the perfect age, perfect financial status, perfect health, have every maternal quality.
It doesn’t matter. I utilized a health care service, a human right, and that’s it. What I’m saying is not new or revolutionary. The same sentiment has been written in The Beacon before. It will be again if nothing changes. There are millions like me, and plenty on our campus, who have made the same choice.
I know not everyone will like it. I don’t need or expect them to. I respect people’s opinions, their freedom of speech and their freedom to assemble. I’m not opposed to Voice for Life existing on this campus. I’m not opposed to a speaker coming to address their cause. Sure, it’s unpleasant and makes me feel a little less comfortable on this campus, but ensuring other people’s rights sometimes requires sacrifice.
What is not okay, not anyone’s right, is charged, triggering, false and unavoidable advertising. I wasn’t given any notice to steer clear of Franz on Tuesday, Nov. 14. I wasn’t given a choice whether someone handed me a flier saying, “Planned Parenthood betrays women.” Imagine being confronted in the place you live, work and study with an intentionally placed reminder of your trauma — not part of the environment that no one can control, but a conscious choice one of your community members made, fully aware of the effects it could have on others. Students at UP were subjected to that exact experience.
As I looked at that bright pink display, “Save babies. Empower women. Abolish abortion,” complete with baby dolls labeled with their corresponding week, I was flooded with memories from that time. How could you not be? My abortion wasn’t traumatic. It was a relief. It was the healthcare I needed. But the circumstances surrounding and leading up to it were traumatic, like many teen pregnancies. And it was traumatic in no small part because of people like this. As I walked up to that clinic years ago, there was one single protester out front, with a sign, “Face it… Abortion kills a person.” The protester didn’t say anything. She just stood there and stared. I walked in, as I felt her willing me to turn around. I’m so glad I didn’t.
So, I stood there in Franz and waited as it washed over me: the images, terror, shame I don’t deserve and anger I’m forced to bottle. Anyone with PTSD knows this isn’t rare and some external triggers are just part of life. But some are created intentionally. Voice for Life decided that promoting their cause in this way was worth the harm that would be inflicted upon their peers. And a series of staff decisions — whether purposeful or mistakes — allowed that to be okay.
It is not okay. It created an unsafe environment for students — an environment based in propaganda, not fact, and judgment, not acceptance. When that happens, it’s my right to speak up. And that is what makes this even worse. Because I am not provided any opportunity for a parallel space on campus. I am not provided a place to speak. Previous attempts at establishing a pro-choice club on campus have been denied. A Catholic university is not the same as a Catholic Church. The Catholic Church will probably never support the right to choose. But as a Catholic university, UP must serve and support all students, including the ones who have gotten abortions, the ones who want/need to, the ones who will, the ones who would and the ones who support the right to choose.
If the events on Nov. 14 have shown us anything, it is that University of Portland students need and deserve a pro-choice club. Freedom of speech goes both ways.
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