Pro-choice students gathered in the Marvin Center Tuesday to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. The monumental decision legalized abortion throughout the country.
About 75 students attended “Words of Choice,” a theater piece that featured three D.C. actors performing 12 short plays. The plays, which approached the issue of reproductive rights from serious and lighthearted angles, focused on the personal experiences of people affected by reproductive rights issues.
The 90-minute event also brought several pro-choice speakers from outside of the GW community to comment on the production.
Cindy Cooper, a freelance writer and former communications director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, developed the slogan “engaging in pro-choice theater” for “Words of Choice.”
“I think we needed to break out of talking about policies and laws and start talking about people,” Cooper said. “I get very frustrated with general coverage of the general media because it focuses on the politics of abortion rather than people and experiences.”
In a play titled “To Hell and Back: Emily Lyons,” the actors presented the story of an employee at an abortion clinic who was seriously wounded when pro-life activists bombed her workplace.
Another skit, “Taco Bell Launch,” based on an excerpt from the satirical publication, “The Onion,” included a newscast about Taco Bell’s newest menu item – a contraceptive burrito.
“The piece pokes fun at all of the hysteria about these things,” said Marjorie Signer, director of communications for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “(It looks at) the lighter side of unplanned pregnancy.”
The GW March for Student Lives, a coalition between University groups Voices for Choices, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the Student Global AIDS Campaign, sponsored the event. The group’s goal is to encourage the GW community to participate in the March for Women’s Lives on April 25.
“I think that it is all about raising awareness,” FMLA President Joy Welan said. “Just opening up that discussion is important as well as publicizing the march.”
Last year, President George W. Bush signed legislation banning all partial-birth, or late-term abortions. Last Friday, the president appointed Charles Pickering, an anti-abortion activist, to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pro-choice activists said they are afraid that this could be Roe v. Wade’s last anniversary if Americans re-elect Bush.
“I’m most worried about the overturn of Roe,” said Evelyn Becker, deputy communications director of NARAL Pro Choice America. “We are certainly doing everything in our power to preserve the right to choose.”
Becker said if any Supreme Court justices retire, Bush will appoint anti-abortion replacements. She said one to three justices could retire in the near future, furthering the potential to overturn or alter the ruling.
Following Tuesday’s discussion, Olga Vives, action vice president of the National Organization for Women, encouraged audience members to rally for reproductive rights.
“It is about time that we put an end to this discussion because it is a fundamental right for women to be able to plan their families,” she said. “The government has no role in this decision.”
-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.