by Joey Honeycutt
I volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina because inaction is not an option.
When I was 20 and a junior in college, I volunteered with NARAL as a campus organizer for the 2004 March for Women’s Lives in DC. I did it because I was passionate about reproductive justice and because, for me, the march signified resistance to the Bush administration and its anti-choice policies. I really had no idea what I was doing (I was 20!) but my ignorance worked in my favor, since I was too naive to realize how much work I was getting myself into. In the end, we got a busload of students from Western North Carolina all the way up to DC (and back) in one piece, and we marched on the Washington Mall with over a million other people who were equally dedicated to protecting choice, freedom, and, quite literally, women’s lives.
While the march was invigorating and inspiring, and I was thrilled be there and to have gotten others there as well, I was anxiously anticipating it all being over and my being able to heave a sigh of relief and congratulate myself on a job well done. That was, until I heard then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton speak. With her characteristic no-nonsense manner, she reminded all one million of us that our work did not end that day; that instead, it began. She cautioned that those who sought to undermine choice and limit access to abortion would not be stopped by marches in the street, and that no amount of clever protest signage or catchy chants would deter them from their mission to roll back the progress of Roe and cast us back to the dark ages of coat hangers and back alleys. This march, she told us, was not for them. No, this march was for us: to galvanize us to action well beyond the demonstration itself; to give us the energy and the drive and the passion that would be necessary to carry us through the uphill battles that were to come.
Little could I have imagined then how intense those battles would become. Now, nine years later, the Right’s war against reproductive justice rages on, and their tactics have become simultaneously more underhanded and more effective. Instead of challenging Roe v. Wade head-on, anti-choice activists now seek to steadily chip away at reproductive rights and abortion access at the state and local levels. Here in North Carolina, they have succeeded in passing the Orwellianly-named “Women’s Right to Know” Act (HB 854), which senselessly requires women seeking abortions to view ultrasound images of the fetus before exercising their legal right to terminate the pregnancy. As if that bit of legislative bullying weren’t enough, now, our State Senate wants to pass a law mandating public schools to disseminate lies and misinformation about abortion to students. And who knows what they might try next?
I will turn 30 in a few months. Almost a third of my life so far has been spent fighting for reproductive justice. I am older now, but NARAL Pro-Choice NC continues to educates me about abortion issues facing my state and my country, provide me with opportunities to take action and advocate for the changes that need to be made, and help me form relationships and connections with other like-minded pro-choice activists. And while there’s no denying that threats to reproductive rights and abortion access have increased in the years since the March for Women’s Lives, it is also true that our movement is growing stronger. Again, I gain wisdom from the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said, “It is often when night looks darkest, it is often before the fever breaks that one senses the gathering momentum for change, when one feels that resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy.” As a volunteer for NARAL, I get to be a part of that gathering momentum, and when change comes I will be proud to know that I did my part alongside such an awesome organization.
Joey Honeycutt is a 2004 graduate of Warren Wilson College in Asheville. In 2009, she earned her Masters in Social Work from UNC-Charlotte. In addition to her volunteer work with NARAL, she works professionally as a victim advocate for survivors of sexual and relationship violence.