Week 6: Decisions and New Directions

This past week has been an interesting opportunity for networking, as well as testing the waters; despite the fact that the seven week scope of this project is fast approaching, I hope to continue research as the summer goes on, so I am keeping a loose deadline and my options open. I have largely stuck with my original research objectives, but as I continue investigating abortion legislation and access, new areas of study present themselves, and I believe them to be worth exploring.

The first of these came from a suggestion my advisor, Dr. Buchanan, made about looking beyond clinics and legislators for interviews. This week, I got in touch with a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in my hometown for an interview — these are faith-based groups that provide counseling and information on abortion alternatives, and educate women on what steps to take if they go the adoption or parenthood routes. I also contacted a clinic escort service for an interview — these groups provide an escort service for women trying to enter clinics that are surrounded by protestors who might try to shame a woman and stop her from entering the clinic. I am looking forward to speaking more with these groups in the coming weeks.

Speaking with the clinic escort service also presented me with a new opportunity: participating as an escort myself. I originally was unsure of how kosher a prospect this was; it could, after all, compromise my objectivity as a researcher to partake in a clearly “pro-choice” activity. After consulting my advisor, and weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to use the opportunity to not only volunteer in (what I view as) a positive way, but as a chance to watch the abortion controversy unfold in real time. I am choosing to view this as an investigative journalist’s approach to research, and a way to immerse myself in the clinic scene without stepping foot in an exam room.

I have also continued to try to get in touch with state delegates, and have expanded the legislative perspective to include senators and any congressmen or women who will get back to me. I have now heard back from Delegate Bob Marshall (R) and Delegate David Toscano (D), and am working to set up meetings with them. I have contacted Senators Janet Howell (D) and Richard Saslaw (D), and am awaiting their reply. Can’t wait to (hopefully) update you on how those interviews go!

I continue to expend much of my time and energy working on case summaries of landmark Supreme Court cases on abortion access, and state-specific cases that have come before Circuit Courts/Courts of Appeals. These summaries are taking longer than expected, but are all going toward a final, material product that I am excited about: my timeline. The original title of this project was “An Analysis of Abortion Access and Legislation in Virginia from 1973 to 2013,” which I realized implies that some type of literal or figurative timeline would be present in my research. I took some time to visit a Kinkos and see what materials they could offer to build a physical timeline, and have settled on a product called Styrene to construct a timeline, marking where in history landmark abortion cases fell, and what was going on in the world at that time. I think it will be a very educational tool once completed, and I look forward to sharing it with everyone in the fall.

Cheers to entering the “final” week of research, which is really just the start!