Pro-choice and women’s rights advocate Katha Pollitt made the affirmative case for abortion rights being “good for society” in the kickoff event for Bowdoin’s NARAL [formerly known as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League] Chapter last night in Kresge Auditorium. 

Pollitt embraced the discomfort that comes with talking about abortion as beneficial medical procedure for society, saying that “if you’re sorry about your abortion, you can talk about it all you want” while women who do not regret their abortions, or had one for a pregnancy that resulted from voluntary sex, are shamed. 

In an interview with the Orient, Pollitt noted that her position may “annoy” some people who are pro-life and explained that allowing and vigorously debating opposing and potentially offensive viewpoints is essential to understanding an issue. 

“Maybe at Bowdoin, everything is just really great, but then there is the world outside the campus and that’s why I thought ‘what if Bowdoin students started an abortion fund for poor women in Maine?,’” said Pollitt. 

“There’s all kinds of things people can do, but I think students are naturally focused on their campus, so if the problem doesn’t present itself on campus in a way that people know about it then nothing happens.” 

Uma Blanchard ’17 and Rachel Baron ’17, the organizers of the event and founding members of Bowdoin’s NARAL chapter—which is yet to be officially chartered by the Student Organizations Oversight Committee—echoed Pollitt’s sentiment. 

“I think Bowdoin is a little bit weird but there isn’t that much political action around the campus—it’s about consciousness raising and awareness and not that much about political action, which is why this is so important,” said Blanchard.  

Pollitt added that part of what may contribute to a lack of activism within a student body is that lack of exposure to vastly different viewpoints may lead to a poor understanding of the issue at hand. 

“Being offended is not the end of the world,” said Pollitt. “Maybe [pro-life advocates] do take offense, but they tend not to come to my talks, to my regret.” 

Distinguished lecturer Susan Faludi, who helped facilitate the event, noted in an email to the Orient that she has known Pollitt for over 20 years, starting when they were both covering women’s rights issues as journalists. 

Baron noted that their decision to bring Pollitt to campus now was timely, given Planned Parenthood’s recent media attention after several sting videos surfaced alleging that the organization has engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. 

Speaking directly about these incidents, Pollitt claimed that the videos “play into the stereotype that people have” of abortion clinics as “money grubbing, filthy, horrible places full of awful people.” She added that several major vaccinations were created following research done with voluntary fetal tissue donation.

“I don’t think too many people are going to say ‘I’m not going to let my child have a polio vaccine because that’s how it was developed,’” said Pollitt. 

Pollitt, who is traveling around the country promoting her new book “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights,” explained that part of the reason she wrote her book is that the abortion debate is often “held on their [pro-life advocates’] turf,” and that forces women to justify their abortions.

“Now you find a lot of people saying ‘I’m not a feminist but’ and yet they say they want equal pay, they want reproductive rights, they want to be equal—so want the content of feminism but the word bothers them,” said Pollitt. “I think the word [feminism] bothers them because the stereotype of feminists put forward in the media is hairy legs, bra-burning, birkenstock-wearing, man hating.”  

When asked about an April 22 column she wrote on why same-sex marriage advocates were winning legal victories while abortion advocates were stagnating, Pollitt was unsure if victories for the LGBT community helped or hurt women’s abortion and reproductive health rights. She cited her prediction that abortion rights were going to be restricted in Ireland due to conservative backlash after the country voted to legalize same-sex marriage but then realized that it actually galvanized support for abortion rights advocates. 

Regarding the 2016 presidential election, Pollitt said that while she has thrown her support behind presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, her politics actually align more closely to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“I do think it’s a good idea to think about electability,” said Pollitt. “I have the great fortune of living in New York state where our primary is a little bit delayed—if he [Sanders] is still in the race [during primary season], that would be amazing--that would be really astonishing and then I don’t know what I’d do.”