By Alisha Hockensmith/Assistant News editor

Two Eastern students were among more than 300 who attended a student leadership conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Never Go Back campaign. Erin Michalik, president of the Women’s Activist Group, and Amy Fugate, vice president of the group, left Jan. 20 for Washington, D.C., and returned early Thursday morning.

“We just felt that it was important that our group at least had a voice and got to have this experience … and go to Washington and see what really happens,” Michalik said of their trip.

The Never Go Back campaign recognizes the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and the Supreme Court ruling that a Texas law, which made abortion a crime, was unconsitutional.

Students from 33 states and Washington, D.C., listened to speakers including Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, and Kate Michelman, president of NARRAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League).

The students attended panels such as “Organizing on your campus,” “Storytelling as grassroots activism,” “The impact of the erosion of reproductive rights on women” and “Understanding judicial and legislative threats to Roe vs. Wade.”

“It’s a networking experience because you get to meet people who have a little bit more power and experience then you,” Michalik said.

“They give you tips on how to fundraise and how to deal with your administrators that won’t let you say the word abortion.”

The two also attended a candlelight vigil in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building where many protesters had gathered.

Michalik said the experience was interesting. “The pro-choice side was like screaming and chanting and the pro-life side was like holding hands and singing,” she said. “I was just watching.

“It was just really amazing because we had a big group of pro-choice people out there and a big group of pro-life people that came out there afterwards,” said Fugate. “It was kind of uplifting actually.”
Fugate is a member of the Feminist Majority Foundation and joined in on some of the protesting. The Feminist Majority Foundation requires that their affliates be pro-choice.

The Women’s Activist Group is not an affiliate, but individual members have the choice of joining.

“We want to be open to everybody, and that includes pro-life students,” said Michalik, who considers herself to be pro-sex education.

“I think pro-choice now-a-days means more about having the choice to use birth control,” Michalik said.

Reproductive health is important to the Women’s Activist Group, who have campaigned to have an OB/GYN in Student Health Services.

“Reproductive rights … sex in general around here seems to be such a taboo subject,” Michalik said. “We have to talk about it.”