By ABIGAIL BUCHHOLZ
A panel of local progressive candidates spoke on campus about the representation of women’s issues in politics on Sept 23. The event was spearheaded by a group of UMW clubs including the Women and Gender Studies Student Association, Women of Color, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, PRISM and UMW Votes.
The candidates included Jessica Foster and Neri Canahui-Ortiz, who are running for state delegate in the 88th and 54th districts respectively. Also at the event were Joshua Cole running for delegate and Qasim Rashid running for state senate, both in the 28th district.
Several students at the event said that women’s voices are insufficiently represented in politics.
“At times I feel like women’s voices are not being heard,” said Desmone Logan, a sophomore biology major and the secretary for Women of Color. “This is a great time for [candidates] to hear our voices, to answer our questions and for them to tell us how they’re going to fix the inequality that America is dealing with today just in the Fredericksburg area.”
This event gave the UMW community a chance to hear candidates’ perspectives on women’s issues.
“We kind of decided that we wanted it to be very casual, open to the public, and just sort of building up the student voice in this whole event,” said Sarah Parker, a junior women and gender studies major and the president and founder of the Women and Gender Studies Student Association.
The event brought together established and newly-formed organizations. The Women and Gender Studies Student Association was chartered the previous Friday. Parker said she appreciated the opportunity to work alongside other clubs.
One line of questioning directed at the candidates was about targeted restrictions on abortion providers, or TRAP laws.
“These types of laws are put in place specifically to restrict abortion access. They try to get passed off as protecting women and protecting the unborn, but it’s truly just a tactic from the anti-choice movement to restrict women’s access to choose,” said Izzy Gettier, a senior women and gender studies major and president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action on campus.
Joshua Cole responded to students’ concerns.
“Every year we bring legislation that would attempt to overturn those TRAP laws or make it safer for women to have their own autonomy and right to choose and it’s always voted down in committee and never makes it to the floor. When we take the House of Delegates we will repeal those TRAP laws,” said Cole.
The overall focus of student questions was how the candidates would protect the disenfranchised and enforce women’s bodily autonomy.
“Us men, all three of us here, should not be telling women what to do. Women deserve the right to choose. It’s hard enough for a woman to have to go through [abortion] and we can not criminalize,” said Canahui-Ortiz.
Students in attendance echoed the sentiment.
“Women need to have power over their own bodies…if we don’t have control over ourselves, then what do we have control over?” said Parker. “I think giving women total and complete control over their bodies, which is something we should have had all along, is one major step in getting women to the point where they can experience life and human existence as something that is actually their own and something they have a position of power in.”
Foster, the only female candidate at the event, agreed.
“There are bills in place right now that are obstructing a woman’s ability to make the choices that are necessary for her and her family. For example, mandatory ultrasounds and mandatory medical procedures are barriers put into place so women can’t freely choose. I’m a strong supporter for removing those barriers,” said Foster.
The candidates also encouraged those in the room to be the next generation of leaders.
“Run for office on every level so you can shape the future of every woman in the United States,” said Canahui-Ortiz.
Cole also encouraged the students to gather their friends and vote.
“Say, ‘girl, we’re gonna get the state minimum wage raised this year; girl, we’re gonna get our rights back this year; girl, we’re gonna pass the ERA’… Don’t go to sleep, don’t give up, don’t be quiet, don’t stop tweeting, and make sure you pull everyone out to the polls with you,” said Cole.