Guest post from Kat, aka @meadowgirl.
May 2009 was the turning point for me as a feminist, a human being, an activist. Dr. George Tiller was murdered during a church service in Wichita, KS. Twitter exploded over the horrible news and my heart broke. People ask me all the time why I’m so “abortion obsessed” and my answer is: because if not me, then who? If I can’t find a way to speak up for those who are too afraid to, then who will? I managed to find my voice and a place for me doing what makes my heart happy without a degree, without having any real idea what I’m doing! I have passion and compassion- that’s all I’ve discovered are really needed in this work. I get asked how I got involved, how did I ever decide this was something I wanted to do- this is my humble story of my pro-abortion rights journey.
I am an activist. I am a feminist. I’m an aunt, daughter, sister, friend and best friend. I’m a white, cis-gender, unmarried, childfree 40-year-old woman who lives with her dad in South Texas. I’m a liberal, progressive Democrat who voted for Obama, whos mother died in Sept 2002 and frequently wonders, how the hell did I end up HERE?
It didn’t start out that way. I graduated high school in 1989- “the good old days” by many of my generation. We assumed much about women, our rights, feminism and our place in all of it. I know I did. I was proudly pro-choice, I thought America was the best place to live and the place to be. I was part of what I’ve heard called the Third Wave, we came after Gloria, the Generation X of feminism. I grew up just outside of Oakland, in what’s known as the East Bay in Northern California. I also thought I knew all about feminism and lady business and that we had rights–that was that. I read The Handmaid’s Tale in 1988, given to me by my mother and saw it through the lens of a confident 17-year-old girl who never knew a time where birth control was illegal, abortion wasn’t available and we had even had a woman run as Vice President.
I recently reread the novel before giving it as a special gift to my 18-year-old niece. It terrified me, turned my blood cold and reminded me far too easily of the daily news. Bombings, transvaginal ultrasounds, personhood amendments and fights over my fundamental right for contraception are moments that give me pause in my fight. I didn’t want to fight–I wanted to keep thinking that Roe vs. Wade means abortion is legal. It is. TECHNICALLY. It took the assassination of a doctor who performed later abortions to make me get off the fence. Choose a side and be willing to be vocal about it. I didn’t know what an “abortion fund” was until then, I didn’t know that the Hyde Amendment was still being used. Stupak-Pitts was gearing up during the ACA fight. I had no idea about any of this until the very end of May in 2009. It took the horrible unnecessary murder of an amazing person to make me examine my inner being and decide what did I want to be known as when it comes down to it? Did I want to be thought of as someone who sits by while my rights to my bodily autonomy are chipped away? I wasn’t raised that way, so fight it was going to be.
I never thought I’d end up decided that for my 40th birthday in last November that I would end up fundraising for the Lilith Fund, a local abortion fund. I found them via Twitter thanks to Google. Technology has enabled me to be a part of my world like nothing else. It’s brought the most amazing, life-changing and wonderful human beings into my life. I raised $500 from total strangers! My need to do something, anything was about more than money. My awareness, my heart and my belief in the fundamental rights of bodily autonomy and choice exist now like never before. I made a choice! I’ve never looked back and I don’t ever regret a single minute of my “donate to my birthday” experience.
I started getting to know different feminists, abortion rights advocates and just amazing women. It was perfectly accidental and I like to view it as the way it should work out. I didn’t know women couldn’t pay for abortions and that meant that women were basically forced to have children they can’t afford. I didn’t know that while abortion might be legal, it’s rarely affordable, accessible or easy to obtain. That women don’t choose abortion as a lazy excuse, that they don’t use it as birth control, they don’t steal government money to pay for them–that none of those scenarios are true, but so what if they were? What if a woman does just want an abortion because she wants one because a pregnancy is inconvenient? I never really turned inside and realized it was ok for those to be their reasons. Their reasons were none of my business but it was part of my belief that it was worth fighting for them to have that choice. Maybe a choice I didn’t want to make for myself. I gained an education on Twitter that wouldn’t have been possible in the halls of higher learning.
We talk a lot about “poor” or “marginalized” women, economic justice, eradicating poverty and equality for all. I’m poor, I’m undereducated and I’m a Blue in a state so deeply Red, the mainstream media rarely covers our reproductive rights issues. We want to help women but I’ve noticed that sometimes the more educated, well-meaning women forget that we are already here, fighting. I don’t have any money, I don’t have a nicely framed piece of paper telling folks I’m smart but I do have a big fat mouth and I’m NEVER afraid to use it. That’s your power, ladies. That’s how we include everyone. I discovered it wasn’t just women, it was ALL people who need inclusivity. I learned a lot of new words, a lot of new definitions of gender, sexuality, race, ability. I never realized that poor women are forgotten until I realized I was poor and I feel forgotten by “the movement” all the time. I pretty much shoved open the door of activism by sheer force of will and personality. I wake up to a world where I make my voice matter because I want to matter. I think if more “educated” women remembered their best asset is friendship, we could all fight this fight together. I don’t need you to validate me when I want you to be my friend, my fellow suffragette and fighter for injustice! I don’t mind how old you are, where you live, what fancy degree you didn’t get or where you want to go to get there. Let’s remember that we are all in this together–there is nothing that can’t be accomplished when many voices rise up for hope and compassion. Don’t ever let your “lack” stifle the voice that you were given and can vote with- that’s how I did it!