Hyde Amendment Week of Action at Davidson College

by Kristen Sands, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at Davidson College

Hello again from Davidson College, North Carolina!  During November, our on-campus student activists were hard at work generating thoughtful conversation about reproductive justice.

Kristen Hyde event Nov 2017 1

On Thursday, three of my fellow students and I hosted an educational luncheon event covering the Hyde Amendment as part of All* Above All’s November week of action.  We presented information on the history of the Hyde Amendment and the barrier it poses to abortion access, encouraging our audience to consider how this is an economic justice issue as it allows the government to deny people of lower income abortion coverage as part of their health insurance programs.

To illustrate the true impact of the Hyde Amendment, we discussed how 1 in 6 women of reproductive age in the United States are Medicaid recipients, and to understand the disproportionate effect that Hyde has on Women of Color we broke down to the group that 30% of these women are black and 24% are Latina/Hispanic.  We discussed other populations subject to the Hyde Amendment, including Native American women enrolled in federal health insurance plans, women in federal prisons and detained undocumented immigrants.  To get an idea of the individual experience of the Hyde Amendment, we discussed Jane Doe, the 17-year-old immigrant from Central America who made the decision to have an abortion but was blocked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement from receiving the procedure for over a month.  The ACLU worked tirelessly on her behalf, and ultimately after weeks of litigation they obtained a court order requiring the government to immediately permit her access to an abortion.

Kristen Hyde event Nov 2017 2

Moving forward to educate students about what they could do, we spoke about All* Above All and NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s efforts to repeal of the Hyde Amendment and encouraged students to educate themselves, follow these organizations, and help raise awareness.  Students were excited to hear that activism on a local and state level could make a difference, as municipalities can pass resolutions standing up to the discrimination of the Hyde Amendment and states can decide to fund medically necessary abortions through their own Medicaid programs.  Finally, we encouraged students to consider a candidate’s stance on the Hyde amendment when deciding which candidate they will support.  Even if a candidate or elected official is pro-choice, if they are not pro-coverage, we want to keep this in mind in our activism and voice that this is an issue that matters to us!  Many students who attended our educational event didn’t know a lot about the Hyde Amendment, which made me feel even stronger that this kind of outreach and education is so important!  Following the event, students were eager to sign All* Above All’s “Justice Pledge” and felt empowered by their new understanding.

Kristen Hyde event Nov 2017 3

 

Next, on Sunday evening I collaborated with the Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter at Davidson for an abortion storytelling event titled “#IDefy.”  The goal of the event was to break down abortion stigma and promote empowerment, awareness, and empathy.  Before sharing abortion stories, we went through some facts on abortion procedures, covering the differences between basics of medication abortion and surgical abortion.  This was to bust any myths in the audience and give a Davidson I Defy speak out Nov 2017brief but practical sense of what we would actually be talking about.  We then introduced the 1 in 3 Campaign led by Advocates for Youth as well as Planned Parenthood’s #IDefy campaign, both of which inspired this event. The central purpose of the event was to share abortion stories, some from our campus and some from the 1 in 3 collection of stories.  Hearing the experiences of real women from our Davidson community and beyond was deeply powerful.  Re-centering the conversation on abortion back to the patient was revitalizing and a meaningful reminder of the humanity behind this unfortunately politicized issue.  To close the evening, we heard from our campus Health Educator, Georgia Ringle, who is a wonderful pro-choice advocate on campus and has supported many women at Davidson throughout their decisions about abortion.  She spoke about her personal goals to combat shame and stigma on our campus and her availability as a confidential and judgement-free resource.  I was thankful to hear from many students that they left this event feeling thankful for the bravery of their peers who were willing to share their stories and inspired by the compassion of the group.

Thank you again NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and also All* Above All for giving me the resources to bring this essential education to my campus!

Abortion storytelling as artivism

by Molly Burchins, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at NC State University

This November, as a Campus Leader at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, I received an incredible opportunity to work with Poppy Liu, founder of Collective Sex, and Amelia Bonow, co-founder of #ShoutYourAbortion, on bringing their abortion storytelling program to NC State.  This program was brought to communities and campuses across North Carolina in order to bring abortion out of the political realm by starting a new conversation.  These two organizations have both done incredibly important work around destigmatizing abortion, and empowering people to tell their own stories.

#ShoutYourAbortion was founded in 2015 after the hashtag went viral and enabled thousands of people to share their abortion stories.  SYA empowers people to tell their own stories on their own terms, and aims to humanize and normalize the experience of abortion.  Collective Sex is a storytelling initiative and an all-femme production company that aims to “decolonize storytelling” by destigmatizing stories about sex, body, intimacy and identity.  Their project, the short film Names of Women, depicts a first person account of an abortion experience, produced through the lens of healing and spirituality.

Their idea for this program was to give people a chance to hear and share abortion stories, and to discuss the complexities around abortion access in a way that increases compassion and empathy.  Along with their program, I also had the idea to bring Poppy and Amelia to my campus for an afternoon discussion with a smaller group of students.  Because my awesome professor let me hijack our class for the day, this discussion ended up taking place in my Feminist Theories class, and allowed students who were studying the theory behind this kind of advocacy work to see the theory in action.  This was a really exciting opportunity for my classmates, because they were able to talk to Poppy and Amelia about their work in a more intimate setting.  I couldn’t have asked for a better discussion, and everyone was able to walk away with a new perspective on this work.

 

Molly Nov 2017 blog 1

Later that evening, we hosted their 90-minute program, in which Poppy and Amelia discussed their respective approaches to creative abortion storytelling as a form of activism.  This program included a showing of the short film Names of Women, which was produced by Collective Sex, and a few of SYA’s digital abortion stories, and aimed to enhance creative storytelling as a form of “artivism” (art as activism) that helps to depoliticize and re-humanize discussions around abortion.  Because the program was about abortion, there was a lot of hesitation from university staff members to advertise this program to their students, and this really affected the program’s attendance.  Regardless of the small audience, we were able to modify the program and still create incredibly meaningful conversations around abortion.

Molly Nov 2017 blog 2

This program, along with the two incredible people who created it, will be returning for another Bible Belt tour in the spring.  I’m really looking forward to hosting this program again and making sure that these conversations reach more and more students!

UNC Asheville Activism and Exposing Fake Clinics!

by Kelli Early, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Asheville

One phrase that I use to guide my activism is “The best revolutions aren’t based in the hate of the oppressors, but the love of the people.”  I kept that phrase in mind duringKelli October blog 1 October as a Campus Leader for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and while working with another student group, Planned Parenthood Next Generation, as we focused on identifying the actors working against full reproductive freedom in North Carolina.  This goal come to life through an avid petitioning campaign, canvassing, and direct action during the #ExposeFakeClinics week of action.  The month started with a campaign to educate and empower students to oppose the 20-week abortion ban.  While we gathered over 40 signatures and had multiple students join our student organization, there was push-back by conservative members of our community.  But the only thing these anti-abortion students and community members accomplished by yelling “murder” and other unoriginal slurs at my fellow organization members was we came together even more and gathered over 45 letters to Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis telling them not to co-sponsor the 20 week abortion ban because of its illogical, anti-choice ideological nature.

This negativity continued to fuel our passion for advocacy, and the following weekend multiple students from our group went canvassing with Planned Parenthood of Asheville.  The canvass took place in different public housing communities to engage residents about questions they have about Planned Parenthood, in the hopes of breaking stigma around abortion providers and raise awareness of all of the services Planned Parenthood offers (the majority of which are not abortion).  While I would have liked there to be more conversation around the power dynamics of mostly white college students canvassing a low-income neighborhood, I was excited to see conversations were stigma was broken around our local clinic.

Lastly, the #ExposeFakeClinics week consisted of a teach-in about fake Crisis Pregnancy Centers, where I invited my PP organization and leaders among other student organization to learn the basics about fake CPCs.  In the teach-in, the group discovered Bethany Christian Services, which utilizes classic fake clinic CPC tactics to deceive young, low-income people.  For example, one example of this is that they provide “abortion counseling” to “help individuals reconcile their choice of abortion.”  All that this fake Kelli October blog 2“counseling” does is further the idea that abortion is shameful and regrettable–instead of a private choice that should be made between the person who wants the abortion and their medical provider.  On top of this highly stigmatizing “service,” their website primarily uses pictures of Women of Color; but, when reading through Bethany Christian Center’s online reviews, it came to light that a Woman of Color received racist remarks about her pregnancy when she went to Bethany Christian Services.  Due to all of this, our group decided to hold a direct action outside their office to expose this location as a fake clinic.

Reproductive Justice 101 with SisterSong

by Marie-Antoinette Sintim, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Chapel Hill

I’ve been learning about Reproductive Justice for a while and I’ve learned a lot.  You know when you feel confident about something that you forget that there’re still a million things to know?  Well, November 12, 2017, was that day for me.  Kate, my badass feminist friend, had worked really hard for there to be a Reproductive Justice training on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, and as the Campus Leader at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, I worked with her to get SisterSong to come and conduct this training.  It had been advertised not just to the UNC community, but to nearby communities, as well.  We had pizza and cookies!  I was very excited (I believe in food always).

Would we have students?  Faculty?  Neighbors?  A random protestor?  Luckily for us, the people that showed up were students, friends, and neighbors who were eager to learn about reproductive Justice.

Apart from a great crowd, Ash of SisterSong expanded the narrative of Reproductive Justice, choosing not to focus on just cisgender white women, but on trans people, non- binary people, and People of Color.  Attendees shared stories about their reproductive lives, in all forms.  The more I do this work, the more I am reminded that for many people these are stories that are hard to tell no matter how many times they are shared.  And that to be trusted with such a story is a privilege and should be respected.  There are never enough spaces to tell those things that we are afraid to utter ,but we had that space during this training (and because of the sacredness I won’t share other people’s stories here, but I’m sure we all have our stories or know those of our loved ones).

Founders of RJ

While teaching us about the Reproductive Justice framework, Ash allowed for questions, no matter how uncomfortable.  I learned that I won’t always be prepared for uncomfortable questions!  In my discomfort, I decided not to lead with my exasperation and anger with attendees who didn’t understand the importance of Reproductive Justice…maybe today I would lead with some compassion instead.  I started talking to myself like you do before you’re about to say something you don’t quite know how to say and told myself: “There are things that these people don’t know about Reproductive Justice and I don’t know everything, either, and I’m not right always and don’t always use the right language or phrase everything correctly.  I’m still learning, too.”  The mere fact that these folks had come to a teach in about Reproductive Justice meant something!

So, today I learned something new and so did they!

#BlackLivesMatter, and Black Health Matters, too: Reproductive Justice

by Anna Katz, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at Duke University

This November, I had the privilege of attending the first annual Black Health Matters Conference at Harvard University.  Given my work as a NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Campus Leader and love for all things sexual health, I was particularly looking forward to Saturday’s panel Who and How: Sexual Health Activism for Our Most Underserved Communities.  As I ponder what shape my budding career might take, I am always thrilled to hear the varying ways activists approach this critical work.  With panelists working in academic, government, and the nonprofit sector, the event promised to offer several unique perspectives on sexual and reproductive health.

But perhaps most exciting was the opportunity to attend a reproductive health event that centered and amplified the voices of four Black women leaders in the sexual health field.  Mainstream reproductive rights activism historically sidelined women of color, trans women, poor women—virtually anyone who didn’t reflect middle- and upper-class white leadership.  Frustrated with this marginalization, a group of Black women created Repro Justice Repeal Hyde Art Projecttheir own movement, coining the term “reproductive justice” in 1994.  Now a national leader in reproductive justice, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”  To ensure that these rights are universally recognized, they believe, we must analyze power systems, address intersecting oppressions, center the most marginalized, and build coalitions across issues and identities.

In doing this work, we must first contextualize sexual and reproductive health activism within a history of reproductive oppression.  Our nation has a broad and shameful history of sexual and reproductive coercion of Black folks and other communities of color, contributing to an abiding distrust of health practitioners and organizations like Planned Parenthood.  From the forced reproduction of enslaved African and African American women to the coercive sterilizations of the American Eugenics Movement, from J. Marion Sim’s surgical experimentation on enslaved women to the non-consensual extraction of Henrietta Lacks’ cervical cells, from contraceptive pill trials on Puerto Rican women to the infamous “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” folks of color have continuously been stripped of bodily autonomy, often for the purpose of “advancing” reproductive science.  The generational trauma of such violating practices cannot be minimized; as activists, we must acknowledge our nation’s ugly histories and recognize where the mainstream reproductive rights movement has failed the most vulnerable.  The panelists echoed SisterSong’s push for centering those who have been marginalized and emphasized that paying lip service to historically subjugated groups is not enough. “Activism is a doing, not a saying,” explained panelist Jill Smith, HIV/STI Project Manager at the Maryland Department of Health.

I am proud to be working with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, an organization that is committed to serving all North Carolinians and prioritizing those disproportionately impacted by harmful policies.  In an attempt to echo this commitment on Duke’s campus, I am building partnerships with groups that tend to be excluded from reproductive health conversations.  I am thrilled to be kicking off next semester with a sexual and reproductive health trivia night in collaboration with The Bridge, an online community for Black and Latina women.  Through such coalition-building, perhaps we can build an on-campus reproductive justice movement that is truly inclusive and intersectional.