Amid an ongoing national debate over abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, about 300 students gathered in the Michigan Union on Thursday night for the third annual Abortion Speak Out.

The event, which invited people to share their personal experiences with abortion, was hosted in collaboration with the 1 in 3 Campaign, a national group that aims to make abortion a less taboo topic.

“I thought it was very powerful and I’m so grateful that all of these people were so brave and able to share their stories,” said LSA junior Kelsey Almony, a member of Students for Choice. “And I hope that other spaces can be created like this for other people to share their stories.”

During the speak out, only individuals who had an abortion were permitted to share, and organizers placed restrictions on recording or social media to protect and respect the privacy of those sharing their stories. Microphones were placed both at the front and back of the room, providing individuals the option hide their identity by speaking from behind the crowd.

Many speakers said they were driven to share their personal experiences in light of the national debate surrounding calls for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, as well as the prospect of the Supreme Court taking up Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole. If the justices uphold a lower court ruling in the case, almost half of Texas’s abortion clinics would close. The case considers whether Texas legally enforce laws that would have the result of limiting the number of abortion clinics.

Caroline Kagan, a Music, Theatre & Dance senior, said she had heard about the speak out since she was a freshmen, but this year felt particularly compelled to attend.

“I thought it would be interesting to come and hear everyone’s stories,” she said. “I wanted to come and support people who had actually been through a very serious issue that maybe Planned Parenthood guided them in.”

Business junior Nikki Yadon said she sees efforts to defund Planned Parenthood as a “bunch of political propaganda.”

“I think organizations are getting a really bad rep for providing these services and that shouldn’t be happening,” she said.

Many who shared their stories hoped to convey the various aspects of going through an abortion and the importance of having a right to choose. Others said they hoped sharing their stories would help them feel more at peace, as well as educate those in attendance — a key goal of the event.

LSA senior Connie Gao, Students for Choice co-president, said organizations like Planned Parenthood not only serve women, but also people of all kinds of gender identities. She said Students for Choice plays an important role in furthering that mission.

“We try to take a holistic approach to this issue,” she said. “We operate through a reproductive justice framework, where we recognize both a person’s right to choose and a person’s right to parent their child in a safe and healthy environment. I think having a campus presence that specifically reaches out to students is very important. I’m a strong believer in grassroots action.”

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