Students and activists voice opinions on newly enacted restrictions

By Cory Thompson – coryetc@gmail.com – Staff Writer

This summer, a slew of GOP-backed legislation at the state level provoked an extended reaction from activists in Raleigh.

For 13 consecutive weeks, demonstrators gathered around the legislature’s doors to express extreme dissatisfaction with laws that would affect the voting abilities of college students, remove tenure from educators and severely limit access to abortion.

According to Jerry Nowell, a retired Cary retailer who holds a Ph.D. in political theory, it is the duty of a concerned resident to express their dissatisfaction in the most impactful way possible. Nowell said he used this duty to justify his arrest in the “Moral Monday” protests.

“Somebody’s got to clean the house,” said Nowell, 52. “I’ve got a 22-year-old daughter who’s going to live under these whacked out abortion laws for most her life, unless she moves.”

Nowell said he does not want to move. His family has been in North Carolina since pre-revolutionary times. His great-grandfather, Jeremiah James Nowell, served as the sheriff of Wake County in the 1880s. Nowell’s roots are deep in the region, and recent problems with his health further complicate matters.

Last year, Nowell and his wife decided to close the family furniture store, which opened in 1905, after doctors diagnosed him with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, he said.

Although his arrest might complicate life for himself and his family, Nowell said the circumstances forced him to act.

“Even though the faction that’s running things believes what they are doing is right, these abortion restrictions are fundamentally wrong. The tide of history is against them. They’re just like George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door, and time will prove us right,” he said.

Critics of the “Moral Monday” protests said they are not helping anyone, and the expense to the state is too high. Instead, they said protesters should simply vote instead of raising their arms in dissent.

House Bill 589, signed into law on Aug. 12 by Gov. McCrory, removes university ID cards as a valid form of identification for voting purposes.

According to Laura Haire, a core organizer for UNCA’s Feminist Collective, the voice of students still occupies a unique and powerful position in the university system.

“Professors often have a position they must maintain,” said Haire, a senior sociology and women, gender, and sexuality studies student. “Students are at the core of the movement.”

According to Haire, multiple on-campus organizations welcome student activists, and many groups will often target the same or similar issues.

“Alliance, the Feminist Collective and Students for a Democratic Society are involved in social justice and civil disobedience ideas,” Haire said. “It’s not just feminists that care about these issues, but reproductive rights are my baby.”

Students interested in contributing to the cause can attend the Open Umbrella Collective’s fundraiser for Femcare on Sept. 5 at the Mill Room. The event, hosted by Asheville Brewing Company at their 66 Asheland Ave. location, will feature a silent auction and speakers, including UNC Asheville’s own Alice Weldon, a professor in the Spanish department, and Lori Horvitz, who runs the women, gender, and sexuality studies program.

“I’m not going to be preaching to the choir,” Horvitz said. “Seven out of 10 believe abortion should be legal to some extent. No one wants an abortion, but these things happen.”

According to Horvitz, a number of factors ensure women will always seek abortions.

“It’s just like sex,” Horvitz said. “You can’t stop people from having sex. There’s a two in 100 chance of pregnancy with the pill, and condoms can break. Also, women get raped. What can we do? We won’t tell them it’s meant to be, as some politicians have said.”

Horvitz said she wants to raise awareness on the prevalence of abortions and the diversity of the women receiving them.

“I’ve got seven to eight minutes at the event, and I want to focus on access,” Horvitz said. “Even with these new restrictions, rich women will always have access to abortions.  People need to know it’s the poor women and minority women who suffer.”

Event organizers said a $15 donation at the door will help Femcare continue to provide low-cost and high-quality care to women in need.

“We’ve been shut down once,” said Lauryl Read, an after-hours organizer for Femcare. “We’re happy to be open again but at times like these we need all the support we can get.”

Photo by Cory Thompson - coryetc@gmail.com Senior Laura Haire and junior Al Humber review a talking point at last Friday’s Feminist Collective meeting.
Photo by Cory Thompson – coryetc@gmail.com
Senior Laura Haire and junior Al Humber review a talking point at last Friday’s Feminist Collective meeting.

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