This post is cross posted at JWA
The end of summer marks the beginning of a relatively short but tumultuous season for the high school student: the college application process. The Common Application went up August 1, and with it came a slew of essays that students across the country must finish by January. Topics range from choice of major to hobbies to why you want to go to a particular school. I’ve been slowly working my way through them, and I found myself trying to answer the question of what activities I plan to pursue at college.
I had not expected that question, and decided to look through a list of clubs and organizations at one of the schools for which I was applying to get a better idea of what is out there outside of basic things like sports and Hillel. In my search, I and stumbled upon a group that seemed so obvious that I was surprised I hadn’t though of it before: Students for Choice. Some campus pro-choice groups affiliate themselves with the Feminist Majority Foundation, others with NARAL Pro-Choice America, and others are unaffiliated, but I realized (happily) that all of the schools to which I am applying have some kind of pro-choice organization, and that it is natural and incredibly likely that I will join and take on some kind of leadership role.
Why does this matter to anyone but me, you’re asking. Here’s the thing: lots of organizations have an impact on college campuses, but I think that pro-choice groups in particular are relevant at this point in time. From a New York Times magazine article about how the difficulties involved in training and recruiting abortion providers to a New York Magazine article about how today’s younger generation is significantly more pro-life than the generation before it, often it seems that my generation just doesn’t care as much as our parents did about abortion. Some people say that it is because of a growing feeling of distance from the urgency of Roe v. Wade, and I’m inclined to agree with them—if I think about the people my age that I know who are pro-choice, it is not usually an active thing, but just another issue like caring about the environment or gay rights. When the Stupak and Nelson amendments came along earlier this year with provisions that many people said were trying to restrict access to abortion, none of my friends talked about it at all. Now, my experience is anecdotal, and should not be trusted to represent all of America. However, it makes sense to me that a generation of girls born knowing that they have access to birth control and abortion would not feel as passionately about protecting that right as one that had to fight for it to begin with.
There is a long history of pro-choice Jewish activists in America, from Gloria Steinem (her father was Jewish) to Sonia Pressman Fuentes and Betty Friedan, two of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which since the sixties has worked towards advancing women’s wellbeing, including securing their reproductive rights through access to birth control and abortion. But just as in the general population, there seems to be a growing anti-choice sentiment among the Jewish community, exemplified by the fact that In Shifra’s Arms, a specifically Jewish crisis pregnancy center based in the DC area, and Friends of Efrat, an organization dedicated to “saving” children in Israel, have come into existence. Seeing the shift within the Jewish community hits even closer to home.
So that’s why it is so important to have pro-choice groups on college campuses: even if young people can take their right to choose for granted at this very moment, they shouldn’t. Yes, women can get abortions legally in America, but that is not the end of the story; from crisis pregnancy centers that try to mislead women away from getting an abortion to intimidation and violence towards abortion providers, there are still plenty of problems with abortion in America today. Not to mention the idea that down the road, there is always the terrifying prospect of abortion being banned again. So that’s why I believe that it’s important for me to join a pro-choice group when I go to college: because reproductive rights are important, because I want to make sure that abortion stays legal and safe for women, but also because I want my peers to learn to appreciate and want to protect the rights that we have been lucky enough to have been born with.