An end to the silence and a start to change

The Out of Silence readings hosted by The Women’s Studies Committee (WSC) were centered on series of short vignettes that reflect the real-life experiences of people, which afterwards transitioned into cordial dialogues between everyone who attended the event.

Maureen Sanders, the organizer of the event, believes that there is an aura of silence around women’s reproductive issues in general.

“We really don’t hear very often on the subjective stories that mothers don’t tell and that is especially true about abortion. When we do hear from mothers, its usually about a happy thing like Mother’s Day or when you have a healthy baby, baby shower and expecting mother. We don’t talk about the things that are very painful such as miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion,” Sanders said.

The Women’s Studies Committee Department of SMSU hosted the Out of Silence event in the lower conference center on Mon., Mar, 4. The vignette performances featured women who told experiences related to abortion.

This included how family, friends, and couples reacted when a woman talked about terminating a pregnancy. The plays also illustrated the fear of some women who sought out this procedure. The fear was commonly themed around being slut-shamed, degraded into the baby killer, and whore category.

One of the readings “Dear Harriet” by Kristen Lepine informed the audience of the deep stigma surrounding abortion. People are still shamed and sent death threats after mustering up the courage to share their stories with the world.

“I think that abortion should be available right now given the way things are right now in the United States because motherhood is a very difficult, very expensive, and even a life-threatening issue for some women. We do have a fairly high maternal mortality rate in the United States given high quality of our medical care and it’s surprising that we lead many developed countries in motherhood mortality, and we don’t have paid maternal leave which causes mothers to take a big financial hit as well as health risk,” said Sanders.

It is no secret that earlier this year, Trump and his administration issued the gagrule that inhibits groups that provide abortion care or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds. This might lead to destructive effects for women seeking safe legal abortions and reproductive health care.

Out of Silence is a project started by an organization called Advocacy for Youth. Advocacy for Youth asked for people around the country to share their stories and experiences of having abortions. They received 700 stories from people all around the country, and then partnered with playwrights in the Washington D.C area to turn these stories into short scenes.

“I’m happy that tonight, I was able to bring together people from various constituencies on this issue,” said Sanders “so that we could have a careful nuanced conversation to try to make some progress to see where we might find areas of consensus such as better birth control, having better support for mothers and families, recognizing the major sacrifice that it is to become a mother not just to give birth but for a life time.”

Sara Karpen, a freshman at SMSU, attended the out of silence readings for the first time.

“This event helped me glorify my own opinion of being pro-choice. It was interesting to hear the different stories and to talk about things that I can’t really talk about with my male friends. They don’t always have the most clear-eyed opinions because they are boys and you can’t put that kind of pressure on boys because they don’t understand what it’s like to go through something like abortion or even getting pregnant.

With all the responsibilities being put on the girl to be safe with contraceptives or to make the decision of whether to carry the baby or put it up for adoption. I’ve never heard a story where a guy was called a manslaughter or whore because he got a girl pregnant”, she said.

The WSC oversees the Women’s Studies minor. They bring speakers and events to campus, like the Out of Silence and FarmHer events. They also host annual campus events like Telling Women’s Stories and the Homecoming Tea at the Women’s Center. The WSC manages the on-campus Women’s Center and is affiliated with student clubs such as the LGBTQA Club and the SMSU Feminist Club.

Their mission is to promote curriculum related to the inter-disciplinary study of sex and gender and foster a climate of equity and inclusion at SMSU. Recognizing that Women’s Studies includes the study of sex and gender more broadly, the WSC is currently working to towards creating a Diversity Studies minor at SMSU.