GSFS Reproductive Justice Symposium to Showcase Student Work

Today and tomorrow, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Department is hosting Oberlin’s first Reproductive Justice Symposium, an exhibition of student research and creative projects related to reproductive justice. Many of the students presenting their work took Lecturer Scott Branson’s “Abortion before and after Dobbs” course this semester and had the opportunity to present their projects at the symposium.

“The project for the class was to create something that students could present at the symposium, so this event is going to kick off with this presentation hall, where student work will be on display and they will have a chance to talk about it in an informal setting,” Branson said.

The symposium allows students to present their research in many forms, including zines, posters, videos, and online resources.

College first-year Mary Ann Montgomery will be presenting a zine in collaboration with College fourth-year Brandon Denton.

“The zine is titled ‘Not Government Property: Abortion, Dual Power, and Bodily Autonomy,’” Montgomery said. “We focused on the possibility of establishing dual power and medical autonomy in terms of abortion as well as broader struggles considering gender, sexuality, and healthcare.”

Montgomery chose to create a zine for this presentation because of the medium’s history as a facilitator of resistance.

“There’s such a rich history of zines and incorporating art and accessible language to advocate for a certain cause,” Montgomery said. “We really wanted to make this information accessible and also be able to cover a comprehensive range of topics.”

Following the student exhibitions, the symposium will include a roundtable discussion with researchers and advocates working in various fields related to reproductive justice.

“This discussion will include a variety of perspectives; a [healthcare] provider, an abortion doula, a journalist who’s been covering the struggles around abortion and connecting it to the attacks against [transgender] people, a criminal defense attorney who defends criminalized abortions, and a sexual health educator,” Branson said. “It’s gonna be a really great discussion. They will present their work and then we’ll have a conversation that I’m moderating, with questions from the audience.”

Tomorrow’s symposium will include a number of pop-up classes taught by educators, Oberlin alumni, and other organizers and advocates. The Oberlin Multicultural Resource Commons was one of the Oberlin organizations invited to lead a workshop for the symposium. MRC Associate Director NiK Peavy and LGBTQ+ Community Fellow Katie Graham are leading a workshop titled “Parenting with Pride: An Unconventional Guide to Having Children.”

“This workshop is about thinking of the large idea of reproductive justice — the right to choose to have a child or not have a child — and there is so much that goes into that,” Graham said. “When it comes to queer identities, it can get really complex and even if you’re planning on having a kid, there can be complications. There are a lot of inequalities, especially in queer parenting, and helping people work through them is something I’m really passionate about.”

The MRC workshop will introduce students to the reality that many people face when it comes to starting families and allow them to work through some of the challenges. “The session will discuss the barriers to entry but also the barriers to success,” Peavy said. “So not only do you feel comfortable going to a medical facility to do this, but also the rates of success may be lower than what you expect. This has been a great opportunity for me to do some of this research. When Katie brought this idea up, I thought it was interesting because — on college campuses especially — we mostly just talk about abortion rights, which is extremely important; especially here in the state of Ohio, it is something we need to be talking about. It is also important to talk about, if you want to have a kid, is this something you can do? Not only do you have the right to do so in your state, but also can you afford it? Are you mentally prepared? I think it will be really important to have that conversation, especially right now.”

Some other Reproductive Justice Symposium workshops and lectures include “So you want to be an advocate?” — led by Ohio Women’s Alliance Deputy Director Jordyn Close and Senior Campaign Manager Anastasia Martinez — and “So you want to be a sex educator in a post-Dobbs America?” led by Michigan-based sex educator and facilitator Tory Sparks, OC ’17.

“I know that there are probably a lot of Oberlin students who are interested in being sex educators but are not sure what that path is,” Sparks said. “I want to bring some professional advice and guidance to help map out the field to folks who are interested in sex education as a career. This workshop is going to sort of combine that with questions of, what is the place of sex education in this world, with everything that’s happening with attacks on bodily autonomy and healthcare? And then what does it look like to become a sex educator? Who is doing that work?”

Sparks said they understand the panic that must be present on campus regarding reproductive rights.

“When I was on campus, there was so much going on about how to become an advocate in ways that were not for me, because I’m an educator and I’ve always been an educator,” Sparks said. “So, I want to have conversations with students about the many different ways to be involved right now. I was really excited to see that there will be another workshop called ‘So you want to be an advocate?’ because I think that works really well. There’s a lot of different things that people can do with their lives to try and solve some of this mess and build this better world that we can imagine — where we have autonomy.”