The big issue that I think initially pushed me into feminism was the "choice" issue and reproductive justice. Since high school, I’ve been super interested in abortion rights and access, and have worked with any number of national organizations in guaranteeing that my generation and the next continue to have safe, legal access to abortion and other reproductive health care. So enveloped in this issue, I didn’t realize that I was missing a HUGE, enormous, astronomically important piece of the issue. Choice is really important and, I think, a key aspect of the reproductive rights movement. However, it is NOT an all-encompassing view of repro justice. In fact, it skips most discussions about what "choice" REALLY means.
"Choice" means having the option of choosing to pay for an abortion, paying to give birth and adopt out, or paying to raise a child. "Choice" also means telling your doctor that you do NOT want to be sterilized, and having a doctor who obeys that request. "Choice" can mean that you don’t have to worry about your doctor choosing a C-Section for you because it makes the procedure take less time. On top of all of those, "choice" is being able to have the financial means to go to a doctor who knows your cultural traditions, recognizes the value of those traditions for you, and who abides by your every wish to make your medical experience as pleasant as possible. So, really, choice is a lot more than "choosing" an abortion. Some women live in communities that perhaps encourage abortions for Women of Color, or other communities that post billboards encouraging Black/African-American women to stop obtaining abortions. These messages aren’t clear and steer clear of actually explaining the issue fully.
I think there needs to be a shift in the way we as a culture look at this issue, and it starts with re-evaluating what we mean when we use the word "choice". I would love to see a transition away from the epic, never-ending battle of Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life (whatever either of those terms mean) and into a movement for reproductive justice. The issue is about so many things outside of abortion that it just doesn’t fit to phrase your stance based on that one issue. One of the ways I think we need to start making that transition is to make information about repro justice more accessible to more communities.
This past weekend, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP ) put on its annual reproductive justice conference. The theme this year, as you perhaps know, was "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom". I didn’t plan my schedule well enough to go (*pout*), but it sounds like it was an amazing weekend, and I think the conference organizers did a great job of highlighting that this issue is more than abortion. However, the conference was held on the east coast, which is a pretty hefty plane ticket if you’re coming from almost anywhere. Conference attendees were able to choose how much they paid for the actual conference, childcare was available, and the overall experience sounds like it was pretty accessible for folks with disabilities. It sounds like organizers did everything they could to make this conference one that had as few barriers for attendance as possible. Unfortunately, it also took place over the course of 3 days which is a pretty substantial chunk of time for people who may need to work nearly everyday. The point is, unless you had money to afford a plane ticket or lived in the area, or you have the availability with work/school to take off for a few days, the conference wasn’t very easy to access. What that means is that a lot of voices went unheard at that event, and it isn’t unlike other similar events.
I attended the March for Women’s Lives in 2004, which was an incredible experience with the women in my family. Meanwhile, if you didn’t have the funds to afford to travel to Washington D.C., purchase a hotel room for at least a night, and also take that time off work, that event was also missing some representation. These events are absolutely necessary if we ever hope to invoke change in the future for this issue, and I don’t think we should stop having them. On the same token, I hope we can start finding ways to reach out to low-income women (who are often the women who are most impacted by this issue), Women of Color, and other marginalized identities to make sure those voices are heard, too. I recognize the challenges of an organization to make these events accessible without also draining their funding, but I would love to see (and be apart of) those efforts to include more people.
Crossposted from intimate association