Women’s rights group, Herd FREE, is fighting for reproductive education, equality for all

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West Virginia’s leading organization fighting for women’s rights and equality for all, WV Focus on Reproductive Education and Equality, now has a Marshall University chapter called Herd FREE.

Herd FREE’s mission is to raise awareness about women’s rights issues, such as access to reproductive care, protecting Roe v. Wade and defeating WV’s Amendment One, an attempt to ban women’s right to an abortion and cut Medicaid’s funding of abortions for poorer residents, set to be on the state voting ballot in November.

“Herd FREE allows students across campus to stand up and fight for issues and causes they believe in to make a difference,” Elena Compton, a sophomore social work major and member of the group, said.

Compton, who is also the student representative of Marshall’s women’s commission, said she joined the group to make phone calls to voters for their Tie-Dye and Tie Up the Phone Lines event Tuesday, Oct. 16 in the Memorial Student Center. During the event, members of the group made phone calls to West Virginia voters to raise awareness and discuss the importance of voting no on Amendment One in three weeks.

“It’s important for women to be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies, and that’s why it is essential to get out and vote no on Amendment One,” Compton said.

Compton said it is important to educate and talk to voters about these issues, because a lot of people are unaware but generally agree with the group when issues are explained to them

There is currently a negative stigma around women’s reproductive rights, Compton said, and one of Herd FREE’s main goals is to help combat that.

“Birth control and reproductive rights are so useful and essential, but they have been stigmatized for ages, and we have to change that,” she said.

Compton said she and Herd FREE are also working on starting a sexual assault support group on campus called Be Herd. The group will focus on policy, education and referrals for help for anyone needing it.

“We’re currently looking for more members and interested students to get this group officially started,” Compton said.

Be Herd meetings will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays in Prichard Hall Room 143, directly prior to Herd FREE meetings which are Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m. in the same room.

“Our hope with this group is to empower students to take leadership on issues most important to them regarding women’s rights and specifically reproductive rights,” Katie Wolfe, communications coordinator of WV FREE, said.

To reverse negative stigmas regarding women’s and reproductive rights and to combat the fact one in four women will be sexually assaulted during college, education at an earlier age is essential, Wolfe said.

Currently, only eight states in the U.S. require teaching young people about consent in sex education classes, Wolfe said.

“We aren’t even teaching people what consent is or what it means to respect other people’s wishes,” she said. “That’s something that has to change for us to see any progress on this issue.”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected]

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