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Women’s Center lease not renewed amidst protest

<rthfield Women’s Center is not renewing its lease with Carleton, according to an October 9 email announcement by pro-choice activist group Student Advocates for Reproductive Choice (SARC). The announcement followed a meeting between SARC and college administrators, including Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers and Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston.

At present, the Northfield Women’s Center leases space in the Medical Arts Building (200 Division Street), which the college owns.

The meeting follows several terms of SARC-led activism, including phone banking campaigns and a petition urging the college not to renew its lease with the Center.
SARC’s petition alleges that the Northfield Women’s Center “intentionally gives women false information about their reproductive health.” The petition garnered over 1,000 signatures in its first month of publication.

Nevertheless, the Northfield Women’s Center says that space concerns guided their decision to leave the space.

“At the time of renewing our lease in 2016, we were aware of the possibility that Carleton would need to move into our current location in the building,” Northfield Women’s Center Executive Director Liz Blanchard told the Carletonian.

“As the Northfield Women’s Center continues to expand the resources and services available to pregnant and single women in our community, we too have increasing space needs. With this in mind, as a courtesy, we gave early notification to our property manager of our intent to not renew the lease.”

Rogers corroborated this account. “They indicated that changing space requirements and parking needs were the reasons they plan to move,” he said.

After months of pressing the college to terminate its lease with the Center, SARC leader Natalie Jacobson ’18 was not expecting college administrators to tell the group that the Center, in fact, terminated its lease with the college. Jacobson was expecting one of three outcomes from her meeting with Rogers and Livingston.

“We thought maybe they would say ‘we’ve decided not to renew the lease’; ‘we’ve decided to renew the lease,’ that was option two; and option three, just delay the answer,” Jacobson said. “We had no idea that there would be an option four, which was that the center itself had decided to leave.”

Jacobson added that last year, SARC met several times with college administrators to discuss the college’s agreement with the Northfield Women’s Center. Initially, administrators told her they would have an answer by the end of this summer, and later followed up to say they would have an answer by the end of fall term.

This summer, SARC mobilized students and alumni, resulting in “hundreds of calls and emails” to the college, according to Jacobson.

SARC’s October 9 email emphasized that, despite the Northfield Women’s Center’s decision not to renew its lease with the college, the Center will relocate, continuing to pose threats to reproductive healthcare in Northfield.

The email also said that crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics in a 15:1 ratio in the state of Minnesota, and do not offer abortion as an option for unplanned pregnancies.

Jacobson said that it is not a coincidence that the Northfield Women’s Center is named similarly to Northfield Hospital’s Women’s Health Center, which is not a crisis pregnancy center.

According to its website, the Northfield Women’s Center is a member of the American Pregnancy Association. Brad Imler, the President of the Texas-based nonprofit, aims to “increase the number of full-term pregnancies.”

According to Rogers, the Northfield Women’s Center’s lease expires in May 2019. He added that the college plans to use the space for college purposes.

SARC is a campus affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, which identifies as “the state’s largest grassroots pro-choice organization.” The group is currently working with SHAC and the GSC to lower the cost of STI testing on campus.

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