Tufts Students for National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), a university-based chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, was formed at Tufts this fall to focus on political organization and on-campus activism for women’s reproductive rights.
According to junior Samantha Berg, president and founder of Tufts Students for NARAL, the newly formed chapter will have a mission of working toward NARAL’s political objectives, both on the Tufts campus and at the state and federal level, to oppose restrictions on and increase access to abortion.
“We’re really excited to get going, and we want everyone to support us,” Berg said. “We hope to leave a positive mark on the Tufts and surrounding communities.”
Berg, who interns for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts as a campus organizer, began planning to create a Tufts chapter of NARAL in May at the suggestion of organizers she met through her internship.
As the group’s founding member, Berg held a small general interest meeting on Oct. 5 to recruit what she referred to as a small but committed team of students. According to Berg, these students have been working on recruiting additional members, and she feels optimistic about students’ receptiveness to their messages so far.
“A large part of what we want to do is just educate people in the type of language that they should be using, what’s appropriate, and just making everybody aware of what individuals, especially young individuals, are feeling,” she said.
While Berg has many event ideas for the group, Tufts Students for NARAL is currently unable to book spaces on campus since it is a new organization that has not been recognized by Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate. Berg said she plans to seek Senate recognition of the Tufts chapter of NARAL, but this will require the group to be in existence for at least six months and to hold at least three events, excluding their general interest meeting.
According to Lillian Lanier, an organizer for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, most campus chapters of NARAL seek chartering and recognition from their school. Since this can be a time-consuming process, the groups organize and recruit members in the interim.
Berg said she hopes to collaborate with Tufts Film Series to screen “Obvious Child,” a romantic comedy about a woman’s decision to get an abortion. She also wants to collaborate on projects with Tufts VOX: Students for Reproductive Justice throughout the next year.
According to Tufts VOX co-president Paris Sanders, the group’s mission has significant overlap with that of Tufts Students for NARAL, and she is very open to collaborative work between the groups.
“There is a very large world outside of Tufts that is relatively non-receptive toward not only pro-choice initiatives, but even contraception, even sex education,” Sanders, a sophomore, said. “We’re really looking forward to work with NARAL in the future, and we’re extremely supportive of everything that they want to do on campus.”
Berg plans to host an endorsement party after NARAL announces its presidential endorsement for the 2016 election cycle.
Lanier said that NARAL prioritizes on-campus organization, so most campus chapters are involved in participating in both mixtures of on and off-campus activities.
“We’re really interested in supporting their vision and the work that they do on campus, and we also find that students are interested in doing some political engagement and activism off campus,” she said.
Clark University’s NARAL chapter has also done both on- and off-campus work, according to Clark University Chapter President Hallie Blashfield.
“During campaign season, we’ll do a lot of stuff with NARAL Massachusetts,” she said. “[But] right now at Clark, most of our work is very campus-centric.”
According to Berg, NARAL is particularly focused on crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which are designed to dissuade women from getting abortions. Recent undercover NARAL investigations allege that staff members at CPCs exaggerated potential side-effects of abortions and tried to make clients feel guilty.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts is currently advocating for “an Act promoting access to accurate medical information,” a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that would prevent the state from funding organizations that dispense advice based on medically inaccurate information.
Tufts Students for NARAL plans to assist with further undercover investigations into CPCs, according to Berg.
“We’re hoping that students in our network will help us with undercover work at CPCs to gather information and to help our bill in the legislature,” Berg said.
Lanier said that NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts provides many opportunities for students and will do so at Tufts as well.
“We’re really excited about building this relationship with [students at] Tufts,” Lanier said. “We hope to create a space at Tufts for pro-choice activists to feel power, engage students in political action, have fun and leave a positive mark on both Tufts and the surrounding communities.”