Since moving to Fredericksburg from my home in Pennsylvania, I have quickly come to see Virginia as my second home. It is for this reason that I registered as a Virginia voter soon after I came to college. Although I was hesitant at first – because I felt like I was betraying my home state – I became extremely relieved with the decision to switch resident states when, soon after I registered, TRAP laws started to be introduced in the state. These toxic pieces of legislation, meant to close abortion and family planning clinics with extraneous and unnecessary regulations, made me realize that it was vitally important that I vote in Virginia – because the laws in this state would affect me the most. If action is not taken, I, or someone close to me, could wind up in a very dangerous situation in a post-TRAP Virginia.
This is all just the back story to explain why some girl from Pennsylvania who goes to school in Fredericksburg wound up at a Council Meeting in Manassas. But there I was.
The Manassas Council was looking to vote on a piece of zoning legislation that would have ultimately forced the existing women’s health center in Manassas to shut down and then made it extremely difficult for another center to open up in its place. As this center is the closest center to me that offers abortions in Virginia and the only center of its kind in the entirety of Northern Virginia, it was important to me that these councilmen (and yes, the entire council was made up of men) look a young college woman in the eye and hear her out before they decided whether or not to impose these ridiculous restrictions on women’s health centers.
After sitting through about two hours of citizens’ time dominated by anti-choice opinions, it was my turn to speak. So I spoke:
My name is Paige McKinsey, and I am a student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I have many friends from Manassas who attend UMW, and I am here on their behalf as well as on behalf of other young women like myself.
While you have heard many narratives tonight from both sides about terrifying stories of clinics with women screaming and empowering stories of women utilizing these centers, I have another narrative to tell that hits close to home for me. As a college woman, I, along with my friends face the reality that throughout our college careers 1 in 5 of us will be raped. As the vast majority of victims do not report their assault, it is unlikely that they will wind up at a hospital if they seek treatment, but rather they will go to a women’s center similar to the one in your city. Centers like yours provide women with life saving treatment for STI screenings which are often required after an assault as well as abortion services if a pregnancy results from a rape.
I ask you, if you impose these unnecessary restrictions where are we supposed to go? This is why I ask you to vote ‘no’ on these zoning restrictions. Thank you.
I will never be sure if it was my narrative that moved the councilmen to vote down this zoning ordinance. For all I know, their minds were made up long before I spoke. But what I can be sure of is that they heard what I had to say. That college women like myself were represented. And, best of all, that there is still somewhere for us to go when we’re making our own decisions about reproductive health – as it should be for women across the country.