Recently a representative from the Campus Women’s Organization at Pitt met with The Pitt News Opinions staff to discuss women’s rights and the upcoming election.
While CWO is a nonpartisan group and does not endorse any specific candidate, its members are concerned with women’s health and reproductive rights and funding for the protection of these rights.
We talked to CWO President Bella Salamone about these issues.
THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
The Pitt News: What is the group’s position on the 2012 national election?
Bella Salamone: We’re a nonpartisan organization, so we’re not affiliated with a political party. So our job isn’t to tell members who to vote for. What we’re really trying to do is to provide information to our general body about how candidates feel about women’s and reproductive rights.
TPN: What would you say to someone who is making their voting decision based on the fact that they think abortion is morally wrong?
BS: I find that to be an incredibly simplistic response to a very complicated issue. Morally, I have an issue with a social structure where we have children who don’t have homes, and we have women giving birth to children because they’ve been raped, and we end up with a foster system that doesn’t work. We have lower-income women suffering because they can’t have access to abortions.
TPN: So do you think then that there’s a middle ground at all between these two viewpoints? How do you start bridging that?
BS: I think everybody can agree that unplanned pregnancy is the place to start. So you’re talking about positive sex education, like getting rid of abstinence-only sex education and putting in comprehensive sex education in schools. Access to birth control and just generally fighting against unwanted pregnancy will get us to the place where we can have a new discussion about abortion and come together a little bit.
CRIMINALIZATION OF ABORTION
TPN: Do you think that the criminalization of abortions will limit abortions?
BS: I think the criminalization of abortions will lead to dead women, and that’s a problem.
TPN: So do you find the life of a woman who’s already alive to be more valuable than that of a fetus?
BS: Yes, I do. Because I think that the issue with the way that we’re centering the talk about abortion now is that we’re weighing women’s lives against unborn children and for some reason the unborn children keep winning.
MANDATING CONTRACEPTIVES IN HEALTHCARE
TPN: If an institution is morally opposed to contraception, where does the government get the right to mandate providing contraception to a woman who is working at Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A? How can the government force a organization to do something it is opposed to?
BS: So let’s take this back a couple decades, and let’s talk about businesses being morally opposed to hiring people of color and then having to do it because there has been a general decision that collectively we as America are giving rights to people. So you are a small business, and you can decide whatever you want, but you are providing a public service, and so we are mandating you hire people, regardless of your moral opinion of the color of their skin. Now we are shifting ahead.
TPN: Isn’t that a rhetorical fallacy to say that hiring people of color is analogous to providing contraception?
BS: I was using it as a general analogy on how people’s moral ideologies shift in relation to their government, and it’s the easiest one to chose. I’m not trying to imply contraception and racism are at all on the same level, but businesses can make moral decisions to a certain point until the government tells them, “You are infringing on the rights of a certain group of people with your decisions, and that is not OK.” Then the business has to comply.
ON PRO-LIFE VS. PRO-CHOICE
TPN: But could you say you are pro-life in that you’d prefer those babies had not been conceived? You’d just prefer they be able to choose contraception methods from Planned Parenthood.
BS: I’m pro- a woman’s right to choose in any circumstance, and I don’t have the right. With being pro-life, there is a sense of reaching into a situation and handing down a sentence, and I don’t have the right to do that.