The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Abortion rights speaker discusses access to women’s healthcare

GVL | Ella McClintock

On March 12, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Grand Valley State University hosted feminist activist and writer, Jessica Valenti for a talk titled “The Post-Roe Fight for Freedom.”

Valenti touched on issues such as reproductive rights and women’s access to healthcare in a setting that encouraged conversations around the impact of these policies, both from Valenti’s experience and GVSU community members.

Previously Valenti spoke on campus in 2009 and the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies had invited her back to be a part of their Feminists in the Backlash series. She is most known for her online newsletter Abortion, Everyday where she shares daily posts on anything related to reproductive rights. 

Julia Mason, Ph.D.,  the director of the department, was an organizer for the event. Mason said that “Jessica Valenti was invited to speak because of her expertise and advocacy in supporting the movement for reproductive and gender justice.” 

During the talk, Valenti discussed how she puts effort forth to disrupt possible abortion bans. She explained how in her view, legislatures will go to extreme lengths to attempt to write laws in ways that appeal to both sides of the political spectrum while also continuing to push a “pro-life agenda.” 

The talk was centered around three central aspects regarding abortion bans and how she believes they are becoming a national emergency: health crises, attack democracy and pushing the nation towards an “extremist state.”

Valenti described this health emergency and how it is rooted in the phrase “care denied, harm caused.” As women are denied safe access to abortions, it can lead to women undergoing dangerous reproductive procedures in their place. There is also the concern of an OB-GYN exodus, with doctors in the profession avoiding working in “pro-life states” where their ability to provide abortion care is now prohibited under law or comes with consequences. The reinstatement of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban includes up to five years in prison for doctors who perform abortions outside of narrow procedure circumstances.

The New York Times wrote that this exodus is causing “maternity care deserts,” as hospitals are forced to shut down their maternity wings because of a labor shortage which further contributes to the health crisis. 

The second aspect of this health emergency Valenti addressd is how these policies are an “attack on democracy.” Valenti explained that pro-life legislators want to make it seem as though the United States is split evenly on abortion, however according to her, the majority of the US is pro choice. NPR reported 55% of the US identifies as pro choice. 

Valenti said these law changes push our nation into what she describes as an “extremist state.” Valenti described how, in her opinion, lawmakers are putting out extremist abortion bans to “numb citizens,” so more “tame” bans could be passed. There is also the concern that pro-life legislation has passed abortion and legislatures are now looking to limit access to birth control, IVF, miscarriages and traveling for reproductive care. 

A recent example of this pro-life legislature bleeding into other aspects of reproductive care is when on Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled “that frozen embryos are protected by the state’s wrongful-death law in the same way that embryos inside a mother’s womb are,” according to the Atlantic

Valenti said certain legislation works to include specific exceptions to appeal to pro-choice voters. However, these exceptions are almost impossible to qualify for. 

After her talk, Valenti held a question and answer to offer the group a safe space to foster discussion and dive further into the content she presented. 

Mason explained the purpose of the event was to engage in dialogue about the current issues surrounding women’s health care, as these values align with the mission of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department. 

“In the current social and cultural context it is important to engage with complex narratives as a foundation for engaged citizenship,” Mason said.


More to Discover