Weeks 7 and 7+: A Turning Point

These past two weeks have yielded nothing if not insightful interviews, referrals for future research, and plenty of opportunities to put the topic of abortion access in perspective. Unfortunately – as I like to tell myself is the case with many other novice researchers – it is only now dawning on me that I have strayed too far from my original goals for this project, and in doing so, have compromised the value of the work I am producing. The James C. Reilly scholarship goes toward public policy research, and in my pursuit of knowledge regarding Virginia’s legislation and policymaking process, I found myself more interested in the social justice of the matter.

This project does not lend itself well to an investigation of the thousand different narratives and perspectives that come along with such a deeply personal matter as abortion; rather, the black and white dichotomy of “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice,” (which really are just social constructs perpetuated by the media) is favorable. It makes this issue somewhat neat and tidy, and thus, the research pretty cut and dry as well. The social justice slant became appealing because it allowed me to investigate the miles of gray area between pro-life and pro-choice on the access spectrum. I wanted to know who and how and why, and focus less on the two “sides” of the argument. I hope in the remaining weeks of summer I am able to get back on track with studying current legislative endeavors, state exchanges, and the judicial history of abortion access in Virginia, and will hopefully be able to incorporate the insight I have gained from activists as well.

That being said, I would not trade the interviews I have conducted for anything. This past week, I was able to interview solely pro-life groups: a pro-life OB/GYN practice, the Virginia Catholic Conference, and Americans United for Life. These groups really put things in perspective for me. Not that my personal beliefs should have any bearing whatsoever on the integrity of my work, but it is probably clear from some of my previous posts that I lean more towards the “pro-choice” view on abortion. Getting to understand how the other side of the political aisle thinks, operates, and strategizes for the future has proved critical in gaining a comprehensive picture of abortion access in this state.

I was also able to visit a crisis pregnancy center (as mentioned in the previous post), and was able to see what kind of counseling is available regarding abortion alternatives. This got me thinking about the intersectionality of this topic: religion, community, medicine, politics. Abortion is a crossroads of all these things, and there is no easy answer to the debate surrounding it.

This past weekend, I was also able to undergo training to become a clinic escort, and look forward to what new insight I might gain from that perspective. It is emotionally-charged work, and both sides are very invested, but I think it will be necessary for me to witness this firsthand.

As I know that the scope of this research is intended to be only 7 weeks, this should technically be my final post; however, as one opportunity for research/interviews has led to another, it has become clear that this will be more of a summer-long project. I will only be working part-time on this for the remainder of the summer, but will post a final summary of my work upon its completion, towards the end of August.

Please comment with any questions or thoughts! Looking forward to updating you next month.