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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Mara Klein-Clarke Runs Abortion Resource in Ireland

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English BA, 1997

As the founder and director of the Abortion Support Network, Mara Klein Clarke raises money to help women in Ireland and Northern Ireland get safe, legal abortions in England.
“When you restrict access, people with money have options, and people without money are put into these really desperate circumstances. We’ve heard from women who have drunk bleach or tried to crash their cars. Money opens doors, and a lot of times people with money don’t understand that the people without money don’t have the same doors even to knock on, let alone open. To me that’s what UMass Boston’s always represented.” 
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Boston, Clarke worked in the Office of Institutional Development on campus and then moved to New York where she worked in corporate public relations throughout the dot com boom and bust. She lived in Sweden for awhile, continuing her work in PR, and then moved back to New York City where she started volunteering with a local group helping to ensure that women had access to safe and legal abortions. 
“I discovered that all across America, women were unable to access abortions where they lived, usually because of money and also because of restrictive laws.” 
In 2005 she moved to England, and held a variety of roles including working for the Mayor of London. In 2009 she founded the Abortion Support Network. 
“My time at UMass, and the path that brought me to UMass, were both instrumental in my commitment to this sort of work.” 
Growing up in an upper middle class town outside of Chicago, she managed to get a music scholarship to go to Eastern Illinois University. Despite working, she ran out of money, and wound up moving to Connecticut to be a nanny. She also worked as a truck stop waitress on the third shift, and nursed a sense of discontent. 
“I needed to get a degree, because that’s what we were told. Those were different times. If you got a degree everything was going to be ok.” 
She had some family in Boston and UMass Boston offered an inexpensive and achievable option. 
“When I went there, something like 80 percent of the student body worked. There weren’t dorms. It was the right place for me because I was working my way through school, and I was able to take classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and waitress the other five days of the week for twelve hours, and it just seemed like a good fit.” 
She joined the Jazz band and played in the pit orchestra for a student performance of West Side Story. She also edited the Yearbook, and was a copy editor for the student literary magazine Watermark and the Mass Media. 
“I signed on to be a writer on the Yearbook, and then because the staff at the time was, like, five photographers and me, I wound up learning graphic design.” 
The Student Media Adviser, Donna Neal, was one of her favorite things about UMass, and she remembers particularly a class taught by Lee Grove. 
“I took his American Detective Fiction course, and I still remember the course description. It was like, they wore trench coats that were never Burberrys’. They keep a bottle of hooch in the back drawer and they seldom carry guns. I loved that class.” 
Recalling classes with Duncan Nelson and Chet Fredrick that opened her mind to whole new universes of literature, and odd moments like when one woman had a panic attack in an exam and stripped naked, Clarke found great inspiration and guidance from the people she met at UMass Boston.
“At UMass Boston, you had the opportunity to learn in a different way than you do at some other universities,” she says. “Back then, the average age was around 28, and I had the experience of being in a class with a World War Two vet, a young man who’d come over from Cambodia on a raft, someone who was the first in their family to go to university, and somebody who’d just gotten off of drugs after ten years of addiction and was charting a new path. It taught me that everybody has a story, and everybody has a perspective, and that you should always be open to other people’s experiences, and not so much in your own head.” 
Her favorite class was called The Political Novel. 
“It’s really fascinating to not just read the books, but to also know the context of communism, and the cold war, and whatever was going on at the time when the books were written.” 
They read books by Monroe, Kafka, Remark, and Camus. The class inspired her to read everything written by Don DeLillo. 
“Your education is the one thing that people can’t take away from you,” she says. “Make sure that no matter what you’re taking for your degree, that you take at least one class that totally pushes your comfort level and takes you outside your boundaries.” 
Through student activities, hanging out at the Wits End in Wheatley, drinking coffee and doing homework, she made a small group of friends — Brian Prudy, Jolene Westerdale, Laura Whelan, Marcie Quinlan, Richard Chase and Phil Flixler (d. May 2013) — who became her support network. 
“We didn’t spend so much time hanging out because we were always running to class and then heading to work. But it was comforting to know that there was a group, that we belonged there, that we were all trying for the same thing, a diploma, which for some of us seemed like an impossible achievement.” 
While taking classes, she waitressed to pay tuition and fees. 
“Students at UMass, and the students who I used to wait on from BU and BC and Harvard and the other places, they seemed like different species. I had a lot of bitterness back then.” 
Growing up in a chaotic family situation, where she’d been thrown out of her childhood home, and watched some of the people she grew up around make it through ivy league or quasi-ivy colleges, she sometimes felt like a failure. 
“UMass was a place where I didn’t feel like an alien, and especially in Boston. I could get an amazing education that, firstly, I could afford, and secondly, where I didn’t feel completely different from the other students there. Despite having such a diverse student population, UMass was somewhere I could get a great education without feeling poor.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010