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From Supreme Court steps to campus tabling, ASU activist promotes 'pro-life feminsim'

Margaret Golonka, president of ASU Students for Life, is a regular fixture at marches, campus events and abortion clinic pray-ins

ASU Student Activist Margaret Golonka

ASU drawing senior Margaret Golonka (middle) stands with others protesting the Supreme Court's decision for the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedtin case in Washington, D.C., in June, 2016.

Every year at the end of January, members of ASU Students for Life join the crowds filling the streets of San Francisco for the West Coast Walk for Life in holding signs that read: "pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-life." 

For Students for Life President Margaret Golonka, a senior majoring in drawing, it’s an opportunity to congregate with people of similar viewpoints and spread the club's message to the world. When she's back on campus, she conducts tabling events, prayers at Planned Parenthood locations and collaborations with other ASU organizations. 

Raised Catholic, Golonka started to get involved in the pro-life movement when she was a student at Xavier College Prep. During her junior year of high school, she joined a club called Right to Life, now known as the Respect Life Club.

The club at one point prayed in front of an abortion clinic, where Golonka said she saw women at the clinic looking "down" and "sad."

“I remember one woman came out and she sat on the curb and put her head in her hands,” Golonka said. “So just seeing her so sad made me be like, you know I don’t want that for any woman.” 

That moment inspired Golonka to continue working for the pro-life movement.

After the club traveled to clinics and crisis pregnancy centers like Maggie’s Place, Golonka said she realized that she wanted every woman to have a safe and supportive environment.

Golonka joined ASU Students for Life when she came to college, initially to study social work. With other members, she attended pro-life marches in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. 

Golonka said she found it exciting to be with like-minded people coming together for a worthy cause. But she said the sensitivity of the issue means that emotions at the protests are running high. 

“It’s a very wild environment,” Golonka said. “The opposing protests can be a little wild too like last year they had this really loud projection voice saying that it was the voice of God …. they will also show the pants with the really big blood stain. It's just crazy."

While attending a rally following the June 2016 Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court decision, which held that states could not restrict abortions in a way that puts an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions, Golonka was interviewed by C-Span in front of the steps of the Supreme Court.

For that moment, pro-life and pro-choice activists were united in a common cause: clean and safe abortion clinics.

“The first night was pretty hectic – there were people from both sides merging everywhere,” Golonka said.

She decided to protest with people from the pro-choice side of the issue because even though she's against abortion, she wants legal abortion clinics to be sanitary.

Golonka became president of ASU Students for Life during her senior year. She said she never thought she would have a leadership position but with each day, she said her voice grows louder as she becomes more confident in the role. 

Her friend and the former president of ASU Students for Life, Jackie Welsh, said the pair inspired each other as they worked for the pro-life movement. 

“She was always very dedicated about being out there late into the night, drawing, writing messages of support, bringing a youthful, beautiful face to what we were trying to communicate,” Welsh said.

Golonka said leading ASU's pro-life movement required her overcoming her natural shyness.

The teacher who supervised the Right to Life club at Xavier, Gavin Ahern, said Golonka's worked to overcome her natural shyness. 

"Her compassion and her commitment is driving her to get past that and do what it takes to speak out and talk to people and be more vocal,” Ahern said. 

This year, Golonka is not only running tabling events and attending the pro-life marches, but is also trying to connect with groups like the Womyn’s Coalition in order to promote what she calls "pro-life feminism."

“I identify as a feminist because I realize how sexism has played a part in my upbringing in very subtle ways,” Golonka said. “I definitely believe that women should be able to do whatever they want, make whatever choices that they want up until it affects the unborn person there.” 

She hopes to conduct a roundtable discussion with other feminist groups on campus sometimes in the future.

“It’s really exciting where we are as a movement, realizing more that we need to center on women’s needs,” Golonka said. “And so that’s why I feel excited about bringing feminism into the pro-life movement.”

According to Welsh and Ahern, Golonka has emboldened her voice and shines brightly in the pro-life arena. 

“Right away for Margaret, you could see the commitment in her. Now look at her, she’s the president of the club at ASU. I’m definitely proud of her,” Ahern said.

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