World Can't Wait has been working to bring the truth about abortion and women's rights to students with scientific and moral clarity, answering the hard questions, and motivating students to stand up at this crucial moment. Click the link above to learn how you can join in and participate, too! Also see Debra Sweet's recent piece on the Scott Roeder trial: When does Murder become Manslaughter?
This past week, Cat Givens, an activist from Akron who also traveled to Omaha to defend Dr. Carhart this past summer, was invited to speak at a Cleveland high school classroom. This is her report.
The high school is housed in a 1929 neoclassic building in Cleveland with marble steps outside and metal detectors just inside the door. Though the structure is old, it is well cared for, having gone through an extensive two year renovation to provide cutting edge classroom technology for the teachers and students. This class is for bright students and offers high school graduation in three years.
The teacher of political sciences is an activist who instructs and inspires his class. A short google search shows him standing with several students at a hearing on the problems of a local polluting plant. His students are aware of the problem of abortion access and were ready to find out more.
I brought along my friend, J, who is a retired clinic counselor and has been present at hundreds of abortions. She also is one who does clinic defense our local Women's Clinic. Between the two of us, we explained to the students the realities of what it's like in the clinics and on the streets. We talked of funding, government interference and reduced access to medical procedures.
The students were quick to identify with the erosion of rights, and in particular with having to fight against certain mindsets of those in power.
When I played a record (that's right, a vinyl disc on a player with a needle) from my father's collection, the shock and disgust on the faces of these young adults gave me hope. The song played was "Sleepy Time Gal", which tells of a man promising a woman a cottage where she will learn to be domestic, and she'll like it. And she'll do all her partying at home from now on. I explained this song was recorded by over twenty artists and played on the radio from the twenties through the 60s. This was the mindset of the men in power in government. This is the mindset we are facing. It is antiquated and not useful.
One young man told how he is fighting this very mindset, now in 2010, in his own family. He said he found the lyrics "disgusting." The males in the room told how their families are telling them to "Be a man!" and conform to certain roles, and they find it exasperating. The females were just pissed off at the lyrics, and surprised at the normalcy of it playing on the radio for several decades.
We showed the film, "Motherhood by Choice, Not Chance", which chronicles the abortion laws in the United States from the mid 1800s (when abortion first became illegal) through present. The film showed actual women who are affected, case by case, and clinic doctors who were fire bombed, to put this all into perspective. The film shows how our rights were so quickly challenged and are being eroded furiously by those who wish to enforce religion on the public. We talked about Dr. Tiller's death, and the mounting attacks on Dr. Carhart.
We discussed the Hyde Amendment, and touched briefly on the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which they had previously discussed extensively with their teacher. These students were also up on the latest on the trial of Dr. Tiller's murderer. The knowledge these students already had on the issue was comprehensive.
J and I shared our own clinic stories, and told about C, who's assailant goes on trial in February. (C was beaten unconscious by an anti-choice protester at our clinic).
One student asked J, "How much does an abortion cost?" When J answered her, I asked her what would she do if she needed an abortion? "Get the money from my parents, if they have it." I asked what she'd do if they didn't have it. She was silent for a moment, before whispering, "I don't know. There would be nothing I could do. I couldn't have it."
That's when I told about the funds that are available for women who need an abortion but cannot afford it. But these funds are tough to get, and only cover a percentage, J explained. We then gave the names of the providers, and told of the need to fund these organizations.
The woman who teaches clinic defense in Cleveland had sent me an excellent resource guide for action which I copied and gave to each student and the teacher. I asked the students what they thought they could do. Most really did not know what to do. Since they are too young to vote, they couldn't affect legislation much. We suggested they write letters to their congressional leaders, and letters to the editor, but what really accomplishes change is street level action. They could fundraise, educate their peers, show that film as it's free on the internet, and they can show up at the clinics and defend the clients. Twelve of the eighteen students signed up to do Cleveland Action. We also asked them to think about what else can be done, and make a plan.
The students thanked us, and asked us to come back again. One young woman told us, "It is one thing to hear about abortion and the laws, but to see first hand what is being done to women, in the name of some god, really makes me angry. I want to stop these people."
The students have the World Can't Wait web address, along with numerous other resources where they can take action. D, the escort trainer in Cleveland, will be coordinating with me to get these students together for an action soon.