Michelle Xu/The Hoya Megan Smith of Catholics for Choice after a screening of "The History of Sex, Choice and Catholics."
Michelle Xu/The Hoya
Megan Smith of Catholics for Choice after a screening of “The History of Sex, Choice and Catholics.”

For the sixth consecutive year, H*yas for Choice is holding Choice Week to promote dialogue about sexual choice on campus. However, this year the event has stronger significance — it is also the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

“Even though Roe v. Wade helped to secure the right to a safe and legal abortion, 40 years later there are still those out there who are working extremely hard to restrict this right, especially for the most marginalized women in the U.S.,” HFC Vice President Haylie Jacobson (SFS ’15) said. “Choice Week is a reminder that there is always work to be done in protecting a woman’s right to choose.”

In years past, Choice Week was HFC’s only visible time of year, but the organization has increased its year-round campus visibility in recent years, growing from six members in 2010 to a listserv of 400 this semester.

“[Choice Week] doesn’t hold as much weight as in years past, when it was kind of our coming-out event every year, but it’s just kind of to remind people of how important choice is,” HFC president Kelsey Warrick (COL ’14) said.

According to Jacobson, Choice Week still has a role to play in educating the student body about the complexity of the pro-choice movement.

“We’re trying to show that there’s a diversity of opinions and beliefs within the choice movement,” Jacobson said.

The week began with a screening of “The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics” Monday.

The film encouraged Catholics to follow their beliefs even if they contradict with the Vatican’s official teachings. In addition, the film warned viewers against imposing their own views regarding abortion and contraception on others.

“I’m not Catholic myself, so I didn’t know too much about the Catholic reasoning behind their views,”HFC Events Co-Coordinator Zoey Krulick (SFS ’15) said. “It opened my eyes to a lot of Catholic ideas, and it really made me happy to see that there is a place in the Catholic community for people who are pro-choice.”

Other events scheduled for this week include “Bro-Choice,” a discussion about men’s role in the fight for reproductive justice Tuesday, a speech by Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington CEO Laura Meyers on Wednesday and a “Celebration of Choice” event Friday.

HFC Events Co-Coordinator Laura Narefsky (COL ’14) highlighted “Bro-Choice” as an important event, adding that male support for the issue is often overlooked.

“It’s an aspect of choice that people kind of skim over a lot,” Narefsky said. “Everyone associates choice with a women’s issue, and that women should get involved, but [‘Bro-Choice’] has been one of our most popular events.”

Bringing diverse issues of sexual choice out into the open can help facilitate discussion on a subject that is sometimes considered taboo, HFC events co-coordinator Laura Narefsky (COL ’14) said.

“I would love it if people of all opinions could come to the events and learn from it because I think a lot of the problem with what we’ve talked about is that people don’t know what pro-choice is,” Narefsky said. “Pro-choice is not just pro-abortion, and so coming to these events [and] learning about these things is one of the best ways that you can engage in dialogue.”

HFC is not recognized by the university, which can make logistical coordination for the weeklong event challenging because the group does not have access to official funding and cannot table or advertise in spaces on campus beyond Red Square, which is designated a free-speech zone. However, board members say they have grown used to these roadblocks.

“We actually love not being a [Student Activities Commission]-recognized group because if we were we would be so limited in the things that we could do,” Warrick said. “While it’s hard to navigate the red tape, we don’t really feel like it’s detracting from our mission at all.”

Reflecting on its unofficial status on campus, Narefsky said that the student body is generally accepting of the group.

“People respect you if you’re passionate,” Narefsky said. “With the occasional controversy or tension, I think it’s maybe not a welcoming environment, but people understand that we’re here.”

In the discussion about reproductive justice, students on both sides of the issue have been active on campus. In January, Georgetown students organized the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. Conference co-director and Right to Life Treasurer Kevin Sullivan (SFS ’14) said that he respected HFC members’ right to express their opinions.

“We honestly disagree on a lot of issues, but we’re happy to engage in dialogue at all times,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that he believes that the manner of expression of pro-choice views has begun to alienate some students from engaging in dialogue.

“On the pro-choice side, it’s becoming more and more radicalized in the sense of what kind of language is used,” Sullivan said. “There’s less of a tolerance for students who try to voice their pro-life opinions, especially women who are pro-life.”

Regardless of her individual perspective, Chandini Jha (COL ’16) said that she valued the events as a way to be part of an open dialogue about sexual choice.

“I feel like the whole idea of choice is something that we don’t really talk about on campus in a way that’s really open,” Jha said. “Even if you don’t agree with what people say during Choice Week, it’s good to hear other people’s perspectives.”

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