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Student Activism is Back!

November 16, 2009
Politicians beware: student activism is back, and here at Harvard we’re starting a student revolution to STOP STUPAK.
I am a freshman at Harvard University, where, despite the presence of enormous individual student ambition and drive, it’s pretty much impossible to incite enthusiasm from any large-ish group about anything besides the upcoming exam in Social Analysis 10. When only about twenty people show up to watch candidates debate for the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy, it’s hard to imagine mobilizing students to spend time and energy making their voices and anger heard over the recent Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the House healthcare bill (or even provoking their anger in the first place). Don’t get me wrong, students here are certainly engaged beyond their academics in just about every extracurricular pursuit imaginable, but because of the student body’s diversity of passions, it’s hard to pique broad interest for one cause.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, after receiving an email message from Gina Glantz and Kim Gandy (two fellows at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and experienced political and advocacy aficionados), I showed up to a “Stop Stupak Emergency Planning Meeting” to find a room packed with students: law students, humanities graduate students, graduate government school students, college students, and, notably, a large contingent of freshmen. “Yes!” I thought. “Students care about reproductive health care, women’s right to choose, and the knowledge that women’s health care is health care. We understand that no one plans an unplanned pregnancy, something that both private and public insurance plans will be forced to cast aside if the Stupak amendment makes it into the final version of the healthcare bill.”
 As Gina Glantz, Chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and longtime field organizer, gave an introduction and set up the meeting’s format, the bodies in the room and the energy buzzing in the air increased. Kim Gandy, former president of NOW, sat beside her, having postponed a trip in order to help organize a powerful student movement that will pressure Congress to protect coverage for comprehensive health care.
The first steps in any advocacy movement are to understand the problem, decide what needs to be change, and establish goals to best effect that change. We reviewed Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s thorough and accessible run-down of the Stupak amendment and what it does to women’s health care coverage, and went over the implications the amendment might have as the healthcare bill progresses to the Senate. Gandy emphasized that the Stupak amendment goes beyond the compromise that CAPP established, which was to prohibit federal funding for abortion. The Stupak amendment would, in addition, restrict women’s access to PRIVATE abortion coverage, affecting how we spend our own money out of our own pockets.
We established two primary goals in our advocacy:
1)                   Ensure that the Stupak amendment doesn’t end up in the final health care bill
2)                   Mobilize college students at Harvard and beyond to start a movement advocating for women’s health care, reproductive rights, etc.
 
Our immediate priority is to convince the Senate to bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t include Stupak or anything like it. If the House and Senate bills differ (which they doubtless will), both bills will go to the Conference Committee, where the committee will mix and match the two bills and come up with a compromise. The Conference Committee will be our next target, and we need to ensure that Stupak is stripped from this final bill.
 
Next, Glantz presented an acronym for urgent organization and planning: UNLOCK (Urgency, Need to plan quickly, Lead and leverage, Organize organize organize, Count real numbers, Kill Stupak Victory). Gandy then briefed us on the Senate, emphasizing that we must focus pressure on states with an anti-choice democrat or a pro-choice democrat in a state that’s pro-life (Louisiana, for example). These states (Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maine, Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri) are essential in the fight to stop Stupak.
 
ACTION: if you are from one of these states, or know anyone from these states, it is imperative that you call your senator and urge him or her to oppose any bill that limits abortion funding more than it already has been from the CAPPS compromise.
 
So what action are we planning to STOP STUPAK at Harvard?
 
In conjunction with the upcoming national day of action this Wednesday, November 18th, we’re planning a STUDENTS STOP STUPAK rally at the Harvard Square T-stop at rush hour. We’ll hold coat hangers, signs, and circulate petitions as commuters and students filter through the Boston subway system. We’ll get media attention, and force our representatives to understand that students and voters care and are angry. 
 
Please join us!
If you are a student, feel free to adopt our plan of action and join us this Wednesday with a protest of your own. 
 
If you are in or near the Boston area, come to the Harvard Square T-stop between 3:30 and 5:30 PM to show your outrage and stand up for women’s reproductive rights. 
 
Follow Stopstupaknow on twitter for updates.
Join our facebook group to garner support for Students Stop Stupak.
Check out our website and get ready for a student revolution to STOP STUPAK NOW.
Stay tuned for more action alerts and ideas, and in the meantime, sign the petition to STOP STUPAK.
 

Questions? Ideas for student stopping Stupak? Leave a comment below. 

(Cross-posted from amplifyyourvoice.org)

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