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Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

New feminist club and Mercer pro-life group to collaborate

Two Mercer University organizations established separately this year joined together in an unconventional collaboration. Mercer Students for Life and FORGE, which stands for

“Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality,” represent contending sides of a larger national debate on reproductive rights.  

However, instead of engaging in unproductive conflict, these organizations are demonstrating how to accept different beliefs and work towards a common goal.

FORGE was founded by sophomores Emily Cuarenta and James Stair.

“We want to include transgender people, people with mental disabilities, people of all ages and people of all races,” Cuarenta said. “[We want] to create a more open line of communication that affects certain groups while it does not affect other groups.”

FORGE focuses on a variety of topics including but not limited to gender equality, gender wage gap, sexual assault and sexual education.

“We thought it would be relevant and important that Mercer has a feminist alliance like this,” Stair said.

Some people have negative opinions about the feminist movement that FORGE does not believe represents their purpose.

“People think [feminism] means, ‘Oh, everybody who is a feminist hates men and wants to blame the world’s problems on them,’ when really it’s just about recognizing the privileges you have where you have them and helping people who do not have those privileges,” said FORGE member Marisa Enlow.

In general, FORGE identifies as being pro-choice without imposing that belief on its members, according to Cuarenta.

“When people think of pro-choice, they immediately think of abortion, but they ignore the choice part of it all. It’s not just abortion,” Cuarenta said. “There are three options available: continuing pregnancy and keeping the child, adoption or abortion. You can still be pro-choice and choose life.”

On the other side of the reproductive rights spectrum, Mercer Students for Life was founded this year by senior Victoria Yrizarry.

“We believe that life should be protected from conception until natural death,” Yrizarry said.

Mercer Students for Life does not identify themselves with other extremist pro-life groups, according to Yrizarry.

“There are very extremist pro-life groups who do stereotypical extremist things; people pray out of abortion clinics or go to Planned Parenthood and cause distress,” Yrizarry said. “We’re not a religious organization. We’re not a politically affiliated organization. We’re not focusing on taking away the choice, but we’re just trying to show people that one of the choices is life.”

Representatives from both groups met a couple weeks ago and explained what each of their purpose is.

“[Mercer Students for Life] is not about forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy with no help after that . . . There is a misconception that pro-lifers just leave a woman on her own; [they’re] trying to show that that’s not what they do,” Cuarenta said. “What [FORGE] is trying to show is that we’re not all about, ‘Let’s murder babies.’ People seem to think that being for abortion is being for murder.”

After understanding the purpose, the two groups were able to acknowledge a common goal and work together to make changes on campus that would be beneficial to multiple individuals regardless of political ideologies.

“We’re looking at getting things like changing stations on campus and seeing where they need to be or if there are some already,” Yrizarry said. “I’m just really happy that we can both be civil and push our ideas together.”

With the national debate on women’s reproductive rights being so polarized, members of the organizations think this collaboration should set an example for others.

“FORGE found common ground with us, and it says a lot when two groups that are thought to have completely different outlooks end up coming together,” said Mercer Students for Life member Jackie Sevier. “It reminds people that even amidst all of the disagreements among activist groups, cultures and even individuals, there is always something that brings us together. It’s just a matter of finding it and realizing that we are stronger together.”


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