Home JMU students, faculty raise issue with Obenshain on choice issues

JMU students, faculty raise issue with Obenshain on choice issues


obenshain2Today, two former James Madison University faculty members as well as current and former students called attention to Republican attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain’s time as a member of the James Madison University Board of Visitors and his crusade to stop the university’s health center from dispensing emergency contraception.

On April 18, 2003, while a member of the JMU Board of Visitors and Chair of the Education and Student Life Committee, Mark Obenshain led an effort to prohibit the university health center from dispensing emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs). He said he hoped they are banned on college campuses while taking his cues from extreme social conservatives like Delegate Bob Marshall.  Obenshain’s efforts resulted in banning emergency contraceptives on JMU’s campus.

In June of that year, nearly 3,000 students signed a petition calling for the Board to reverse its decision and student representatives asked again in October 2003. In January 2004, the Board voted to allow the health center to resume dispensing ECPs.

On a press call, earlier this morning, participants held Obenshain accountable for ignoring common facts regarding contraceptives while on the Board of Visitors at JMU in 2003:

“Mark Obenshain made it his personal crusade to restrict JMU womens’ right to make their own health choices,”stated Dr. Violet Allain, a member of JMU’s faculty at the time.  “He believed it was acceptable for him to dictate decisions about women’s health care. He felt it was appropriate that he decide, not women or their doctors, what is best for them. It’s no surprise then that Obenshain called legislation requiring women to undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound procedure  ‘common sense legislation’. Mark Obenshain is way too extreme for Virginia.”

“Mark Obenshain has a long history of imposing his extreme views onto others,” said Debra Fitzgerald, another member of JMU’s faculty at the time Obenshain served on the Board of Visitors. “He felt his views were more important than allowing women to make their own healthcare choices.  As a faculty member, I strongly felt that Obenshain’s actions were not at all reflective of James Madison University’s mission or its core values.”

“Mark Obenshain’s actions on the Board of Visitors embarrassed our university and our community, and they made JMU a less desirable place for students to attend, and for employers or researches to take seriously,” added Kai Degner,  Harrisonburg City Councilman and former JMU student. “I remember the outrage the Board’s decision created on campus and in the state. In the same fashion Ken Cuccinelli sued UVA, students don’t want their school to be dictated to by people imposing radical beliefs. I was glad that, after Obenshain finally left the Board, that his effort to ban contraception was overturned and students were again free to make their own health care choices.”

“As a JMU student, on a campus that is 60% female, it is outrageous to think that a member of the Board of Visitors, particularly a male, would work so hard to impose his extreme views on our university,” said current JMU student, Carter Black. “College students and women across Virginia should take note of what happened here in 2003 and imagine what our Commonwealth might look like if Mark Obenshain becomes Attorney General, she continued.”



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