“Reproductive justice is education justice”

Student Power educates students on inequalities in virginia schools

By Dana Nickel, Staff Writer

Student Power, a grassroots student organization on campus, worked with an organization called Reproaction to organize and host an event, “Reproductive Justice is Education Justice,” at Mason on Wednesday, April 18.

“Reproductive Justice is Education Justice” is a panel featuring representatives from organizations in the Northern Virginia area that work with students and workers facing issues with reproductive justice.

The panelists came from Tenants and Workers United, Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and the Fairfax NAACP to discuss discrimination and gender and racial inequalities with Mason students.

Sara Deiso, a Mason student and member of Student Power, moderated the discussion by asking several questions focusing on the issue of reproductive freedom in Virginia’s education system.

The panelists began by explaining what Title IX does and provides for American citizens, primarily its function in schools and on college campuses, as well as explaining and defining reproductive justice.

The panelists explained reproductive justice in three parts: the right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to raise a child in a safe and healthy environment. Any violations of these principles are an example of a reproductive justice issue.

The panel also discussed another violation of reproductive justice on college campuses: sexual assault.

“Ninety-three percent of sexual assault survivors don’t report,” said Sarah Shannon, a representative from the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network.

Each panelist expressed concern for victims of sexual assault not feeling safe or comfortable coming forward to get the justice they deserve.

“If the school isn’t actively supporting a woman’s right to have a safe education, it sets the example to other institutions to treat women wrongly,” said Linda Shealey Cook, a representative from the Fairfax NAACP.

“It begs the question [of] who is then able and who is empowered to come forward,” Shannon said during the panel’s discussion about undocumented women that are victims of sexual assault, a focus of a large portion of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network’s work.

Ingris Moran, a panelist from Tenants and Workers United, went on to describe that these

reproductive injustices do not just occur in the professional world and on college campuses, they also occur at the middle and high school level where Moran’s work is primarily focused. Additionally, Moran mentioned that victims of injustice within the Virginia education system are mostly women of color.

The panelists also discussed the difficulties women face in the United States when it comes to actually getting an abortion.

According to the panel 78 percent of counties in Virginia do not have abortion clinics, and many private insurance companies do not cover abortion procedures, so many women are forced to pay out of pocket. Panelists also mentioned that there is an additional risk of “crisis pregnancy centers,” private organizations that are marketed to appear as if they offer abortion procedures, but exist only to convince women to not terminate a pregnancy.

Another point was the issue of schools allocating more money for student resource officers (SROs) instead of using that money to fund better healthcare plans in schools. They each explained that expanding reproductive healthcare, as well as general health and wellness services to all college and school campuses, would eliminate the struggles of undocumented immigrants and people without driver’s licenses to have access to healthcare without a car. New health centers would be able to accept the school IDs of the students, making healthcare accessible to any student attending the institution.

“Healthcare and reproductive healthcare is a basic human right,” said Shannon.

The panelists stated that they hoped the discussion provided the listeners with an understanding that many of these issues within reproductive justice and the education system are intersecting issues.

“That is how we will create change,” said Moran. She went on to explain, “Any oppression is oppression.”

Photo by Dana Nickel