What brought me to the reproductive justice* movement? Well…
It was November 2003. I was in the fall semester of my sophomore at Spelman College. I volunteered during the last 2 days of a 4 day conference hosted by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, with the last 2 days of the conference being held on Spelman’s campus. Those two days changed my life. I met so many women and young women of color who represented many organizations, communities, campuses, and agencies. They all came to the conference with different focuses (abortion rights, gender justice, birthing rights, immigrant rights, HIV, among many) yet they all shared the same purpose: to work towards a society in which women have complete control over their reproductive health and well-being. It was even more empowering that these women were women of color (Black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American/Indigenous).
I’ve been in this movement for nearly 9 years. It’s been filled with many wonderful moments that make me so proud, but there have been many days where I have asked myself why do I continue to do this work. At times, I can become so angry. I ask myself, “Are people really this uninformed/confused/crazy/nuts/insert adjective?”
Why am I angry? Let’s see…
* People still think that “pro-choice” means “pro-abortion”. Pro-choice is more than just fighting for abortion rights. It’s about supportive women to make the best decisions for their reproductive health, be it abortion, becoming a parent, or considering adoption.
* It’s 2012, and yet we’re still fighting for access to contraception, though men can get Viagra with no problems.
* We spend a lot of time trying to prevent teenage pregnancy, yet we inadvertently stigmatize the young people who are already pregnant or are parents now. We need to develop programming and services that will lift up and support young women who are already mothers or who have decided to carry their pregnancy to term.
* Anti-abortion billboards that continue to pop up in communities of color, insinuating that women of color are irresponsible and (in some cases) encouraging racial genocide.
*People are still misinformed about emergency contraception. Emergency contraception DOES NOT cause an abortion.
* The notion that women of color cannot be trusted. Either we’re having too many abortions or we’re having too many children. Which one is it? It can’t be both, right?
* It seems everyday, there is some lawmaker that introduces a bill that in some way affects a woman’s right to have a child or not to have a child. “Hey, how about we create a bill that will criminalize women who have miscarriages?”
*Victims of domestic violence continue to lack control over their access to reproductive health services.
*We have amendments named “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”.
* Millions of dollars are still being spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs that are not effective for young people.
*Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, who provide vital services for thousands of women, men, and teens, are being defunded. People actually do go to Planned Parenthood for services other than abortion. Breast cancer screening, anyone?
* You have people like Rush Limbaugh calling law students sluts for wanting access to birth control.
*Female inmates are being shackled while giving birth.
*People are doing whatever they can to give “personhood” rights to unborn fetuses, yet after-school programs are being cut, and there are thousands of children in the foster care system that need stable homes. Perhaps we should spend more time and energy on these matters instead of protesting outside of abortion clinics.
So…what keeps me in the reproductive justice movement?
I stay in this movement because I believe that we can live in a world where women can exercise their free will to make the best choices for their reproductive health and lives. I stay in this movement because I have to. Women’s lives are at stake: the women living today, and the women for generations to come. I believe in the work that many of us are doing to make the lives of women and girls, especially women of color, safer, more enriched, and empowered. Despite all of the setback, this is why I stay in the reproductive justice movement.
* By the way, here’s an awesome resource created by Forward Together (formally Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, distinguishing the differences between the reproductive rights, reproductive health, and reproductive justice frameworks.)