By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 24, 2013
The Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union was filled to the brim Thursday evening — many had to stand at the back for lack of room as they waited to hear personal stories about women’s abortion experiences.
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The University's chapter of Students for Choice hosted the event, 1 in 3 Abortion Speak Out, to create a safe space for women who have had abortions to share their experiences. This "speak-out" forum was the second of its kind nationally. The first occurred in the Civil Rights and Public Policy conference at Hampshire College in Massachusetts last year.
Public Policy junior Carly Manes and LSA senior Sydney Gallup, co-presidents of Students for Choice, said the was event was intended to be an open environment where women could feel free to discuss their experiences with abortion and feel supported.
“We decided to do an abortion speak out because we think it’s the best way for people to speak directly to their own experiences and their own story,” said Manes. “A lot of women on campus don’t talk about their abortion experiences.”
The event began with a monologue from guest speaker Katie Stack, who was featured on a special episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant TV show entitled “No Easy Decision.” Since then, she has investigated anti-abortion organizations nationwide through The Crisis Project and advocated for reproductive freedom on numerous college campuses.
Stack talked about her personal experience of getting an abortion at 20 years old and her experience filming the show. She showed the audience a clip of the emotional TV segment, explaining how, at the time, it brought the “burly camera crew” to tears.
Stack explained that the reason she speaks so openly about her own abortion is to make others feel safe enough to talk about their own.
“I feel like what’s important about story sharing is that you should be able to say your truth, have your audience accept it, and have them be comfortable enough to share their truth,” Stack said.
After Stacks’s monologue, women were given time to discuss their own abortions with the audience. Five women told stories, including several on the Advocacy for Youth website that were read by Students for Choice members.
Initially, Stack worried that a safe environment wouldn’t exist because of negative comments that were posted to the event’s Facebook page. Many people criticized the event, with one threatening to bring 10 to 15 of her friends with “terrible abortion experiences” to the event.
Stack and other Students for Choice members also feared heckling. To ward against such behavior, they read the University’s code of conduct at public events at the start of the talk.
However, attendees remained civil, and a majority stayed to hear every woman’s personal story.
LSA sophomore Cheyenne Stone said she came in without expecting much, but left with a much better idea of the hardship women face before and after their abortions.
“Hearing the truth behind it makes me realize how important it is that people are not silent and that people do get the support they need,” Stone said.
LSA sophomore Shannon Folster said she found the event to be less political than she had expected.
“I didn’t realize that it is much less political than when you talk about it in general,” Folster said. “But to hear people come up there and to hear how emotionally raw it is … I don’t know, I didn’t expect to be so emotionally open to that and the honesty is what I wasn’t expecting.”