Protesting the choice

Thirty-five years after the 1973 Roe v Wade court decision legalized abortion, protesters still take up their signs in dispute. On Tuesday, Oct. 28 five middle-aged women stood in the freezing cold, bundled and shivering, presenting their signs of protest. Standing across from Planned Parenthood on Mansfield Ave., these women pray and protest on behalf of 40 Days for Life, a nationwide campaign to end abortion that boasts 150,000 participants. Bridget Mount, a St. Albans resident explained her pro-life views. “There are more children, completely innocent children, being killed than there were being killed in the war,” Mount said. The Planned Parenthood across from the UVM campus is one of four in the entire state that performs abortions. Dawn Touzin, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Planned Parent?hood of New England made it clear that this is not their main objective. “They ignore the fact that we are a primary care facility. They choose only to focus on the one thing they disagree with,” Touzin said. “Our main concern is our patients.” Kathleen Stutzman, a senior at UVM, has had first hand experience with protesters outside an abortion clinic. “Last winter, I helped my best friend get an abortion by driving her to her appointments. It was really difficult for me sitting in the car with her when she was crying, seeing pictures of the baby,” Stutzman said. “Everyone is free to express their opinion. But I wish [abortion protesters] did it in a more constructive way, instead of condemning people who do use it,” she said. “Their actions don’t do anything but further their own sense of morality.” Michelle Morin of Burlington said that most people who are actively pro-life are “people who have dealt with life and death issues. Dealt with very intense issues. Have adopted a child, couldn’t have a child.” Morin continued, “They understand just how precious the life is – what the difference is between having a living baby and a dead baby.” “I don’t know what I would do [if pregnant], but everyone should be able to choose,” Stutzman, as a pro-choice student, said. Michelle Morin of Burlington furthered the point. “The mother still knows, her body knows, her emotions know, her heart knows,” she said. Jean Osborne of Colchester explained why she protests. “That baby is a baby from the time it is conceived,” she said. The emotional scars of killing a child are incredibly detrimental to the woman, and many of the ladies expressed concern about this. “The woman is totally destroyed,” Osborne said. Planned Parenthood spokesman Dawn Touzin said that her views are “most certainly” pro-choice. Touzin, like Stutzman, sees the issue as one of women’s rights. “Having fought for many years for civil justice, for women’s rights issues, the ability to protect women’s right to decide goes right to my core,” Touzin said. “We need to protect and trust women in making their own decision,” she said. When Mount was faced with the argument that, for many young women there are circumstances in which abortion may seem necessary, even the only choice, she responded with understanding. “I think God understands that, for sure,” Morin said and recalled that she was pro-choice in college as well. However, this understanding does not hinder Morin’s pro-life philosophy. “Even in … grueling circumstances life can come out of those situations,” Morin said. She referenced the Virgin Mary and the immacu?late conception, saying, “She wasn’t planning on that.” Whether pro-choice or not, hard economic times are affecting every?one, including UVM’s health services, in some cases making it difficult to provide students with birth control. “Our main use to UVM women is our prevention services and access to birth control. Many colleges have been hit hard by prices of birth control,” Touzin said. Their assistance is appreciated by students, even if only as a last resort. Amelia Schumacher, a freshman at UVM, expressed appreciation for Planned Parenthood’s proximity to the campus. “It’s good to have Planned Parenthood, especially for college students, to have it that close to campus,” Shumacher said. Morin expressed that college students are actually one of her main concerns. She is currently pulling for the Pregnant and Parenting College Student grant program legislation, which is a way for students to get grants, in conjunction with the school, who are pregnant or have a child. The grant program requires the school to reserve the best housing for expecting mother/father students who already do, or plan on having their child living with them, as well as provide affordable childcare. “There are good public policy reasons for making sure our students are attending school and accomplishing their goals because that’s better for us as an economy; stable relationships benefit all of society. Everything about our public policy is improved if college students don’t have to interrupt their education,” Morin said. According to Morin, UVM is ill-equipped to handle students with children, and it’s an issue that is rarely addressed. Morin said of UVM, and many other schools, “It’s a failure of the college itself. It’s impossible to have a baby in a room with a roommate. That’s impossible.” The battle over regulation of abortion has only gained steam since its legalization in 1973, and the future seems to hold more of the same volatility.