Archive | November, 2012

What do I want for my “eggs?”

30 Nov

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon held by the New York Times on Women in Leadership. It was a great opportunity to sit down with women who are leaders in their fields, and who have great stories to tell, and to learn from them. One presenter, in particular, spoke extensively about her research on the lives of women who were pioneers in their field; what were their lives like as children, how did their families interact, when they went to college, who encouraged them to pursue their dreams?

When I speak with friends and family members who are new to the idea of egg donation, they all say the same thing: “You’re going to have a child running around somewhere! Doesn’t it bug you?” And, first of all, not my kid. I just don’t have the same connection to my DNA that other people do. But second, even if I had that connection to my genes, it wouldn’t bug me. I’m happy to have given this gift to another family. We’ve spoken extensively on the blog about adoption, and I think this is similar. I’m happy to help others have a family.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want good things for my eggs. Of course I’m curious about the type of family that they’re going to. The screening process is entirely unfair in that I don’t get to see THEIR family profile. They know almost everything about me; my height, weight, eye color, but more than that, they know my hobbies and my skills and my passions. But I know nothing about where my little eggies are going.

But I can hope. And I hope that they go to families that will support them in whatever they want to do. I want a family that will challenge them, argue with them, and make them critically think about why they do what they do. I want them to be loved, of course, but I don’t want it to be a love that limits them by overprotecting them. I want them to have the freedom to make their own choices, and parents who are responsible enough to make them own the consequences, good or bad, and who will help them learn and grow. I want purposeful parents who encourage creativity and who find joy in their successes, but who can find the silver lining in their child’s failures. I want a father who invests in his children, especially his daughters, and who allows them their voice. And I want a strong mother who encourages her babies to find balance and joy.

I’d love atheist parents, but if my eggs aren’t raised that way, I want a family that is ok with the idea that religion doesn’t define life, but it can complement it. I want parents who will teach and encourage compassion and kindness and humanity.

Basically, I want parents who are like me. But I’m so grateful that it’s not me having and raising these eggs. They’re not my children, despite our DNA connection, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t and don’t hope for wonderful things for them.

It’s #GivingTuesday!

27 Nov

Of course you’ve heard about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But have you heard about Giving Tuesday?#GivingTuesday is a new idea that allows people to give back to those in need this holiday season. Did you save a bunch of money by shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? How about making a huge difference in the lives of those in need, and passing on some of your savings?

Here at AbortionGang, we know of a lot of organizations that are in need of donations. Unfortunately, we can’t list them all- but we will list some below, in case you’re not sure who you can give to (orgs are listed in alphabetical order, and are all equally worthy of your donations!)

Backline  - A toll free talk line for those who need to talk about pregnancy, parenting, adoption or abortion.
Canadian Federation for Sexual Health - An org working to improve access to reproductive healthcare, especially for youth.
Canadians for Choice - An organization that researches and advocates for reproductive health.
DC Abortion Fund - A great abortion fund, this link will take you to their Holiday Event page, where you can buy tickets or just make a donation if you don’t live in the area.
Ibis - A research organization that looks into all types of reproductive health and justice issues.
Ipas - an organization that works internationally to make abortion safe and accessible.
Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy - an organization that works to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, and also support and empower teen parents.
National Network of Abortion Funds - want to give to an Abortion Fund, but not sure where the biggest need is? Give to the national org!
New York Abortion Access Fund - Sandy interrupted the lives of New Yorkers in so many ways- including doctors appointments. Can you help the NYAAF out?
Patherfinder International - another great organization that spreads family planing access internationally.
PEI Reproductive Rights Organization - Want to give in Canada? Here’s an abortion fund in Canada.
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - a faith based group that empowers people of faith to speak out in support of Reproductive Justice.

Where are you giving today? Leave suggestions (and links!) in the comments.

Savita Halappanavar, Ireland, and the false divisions in abortion laws

15 Nov

As most of you reading this probably already know, Savita Halappanavar, a young woman living in Ireland, died last month at a Galway hospital.  The details are not yet fully available, but it appears very likely that she would still be alive had she lived in a country with less restrictive abortion laws.  Savita apparently went into labor at 17 weeks of pregnancy (far too early for the fetus to survive on its own). According to her husband, she requested a termination, but was told that as Ireland was a Catholic country her request could be fulfilled only after fetal heart activity had stopped.  3 days later, the Savita finally got the abortion she requested; however, it was too late to prevent the fatal infection that developed while she was waiting.  She went into septic shock shortly thereafter and died a few days later.

Although I can only speculate, my best guess is that although Ms. Halappanavar’s treating physicians were aware that her condition was serious, they did not consider it life-threatening.  (Abortion is legal in Ireland according to its constitution when a woman’s life is at risk).  Although we doctors are often asked to determine a prognosis and to make pronouncements as to the likelihood that a disease will get worse or even become life-threatening, the fact is that we often lack the data to do so, and in the end it is a matter of opinion.  Highly-educated, highly-experienced opinion, but opinion nonetheless.  There are simply too many factors to take into account, and too few studies upon which to rely, to make any accurate predictions.  (As an example, I am sure all of you know somebody who was told he or she had 6 months to live and survived several years… or vice versa).

It is bad enough that doctors in Ireland are supposed to somehow determine whether a pregnancy is life-threatening or “only” health-threatening, a task which quite frankly is impossible.  To make matters worse, although they face criminal prosecution (and potentially lifetime imprisonment) if they perform a procedure that is not considered justified, no legal framework exists to help them determine in which situations they can legally perform an abortion.  How sick does a woman need to be for the situation to be considered life-threatening?  What conditions must be present?  What laboratory values must be exceeded?  There are no answers to these questions.

This problem is not new.  In fact, two years ago the European Court of Human Rights determined that Ireland had violated the rights of a woman (pseudonym “C”) who required an abortion on medical grounds for precisely this reason and cited “the lack of effective and accessible procedures to establish a right to an abortion” which “has resulted in a striking discordance between the theoretical right to a lawful abortion in Ireland on grounds of a relevant risk to a woman’s life and the reality of its practical implementation.” (Read more here in this excellent fact sheet from the Center for Reproductive Rights)

Unfortunately, even as the Court held that this woman’s rights had been violated, it found that the rights of two other applicants (pseudonyms “A” and “B”) who sought abortion on the grounds of their personal health and wellbeing were not violated. This judgment unfortunately solidifies a false division between types of abortions; those that are required for a woman’s life to be saved, and those that are required for her health to be maintained.  Whose health is most jeopardized by her pregnancy?

1) The woman with 4 children already in foster care, who suffered debilitating depression during each of her prior pregnancies, who might become suicidal in this pregnancy (applicant “A”); 2) the woman who could not afford to be pregnant or raise a child, who might not seek medical attention after complications from her abortion for fear of legal repercussions (applicant “B”); 3) the woman with cancer in remission, whose disease might get worse during pregnancy (applicant “C”); or 4) the woman who went into labor at 17 weeks (Savita Halappanavar)?

Anybody who claims they can answer this question objectively and precisely is fooling herself.  There is no way to objectively determine ahead of time which pregnancies are life-threatening and which pose a serious health threat.  Of course some are more likely to be problematic than others, but very dire-appearing situations often end up fine, and routine pregnancies can turn tragic in the blink of an eye.  In the end, the seemingly logical and ordered way countries go about restricting access to abortion (some allow abortion only to save a woman’s life, others to preserve her health, others for socioeconomic grounds, and still others without restriction as to reason)  no longer make sense, and the only reasonable thing to do is to leave the decision to the woman whose life is affected.

In response to the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, the Irish government formed a committee  that was tasked to report back to the Committee of Ministers by the end of October of this year.  Clearly this was too late for Savita.  Let’s hope they have gotten some work done and it’s not too late for the next woman who needs an abortion in Ireland.

What can we learn from The Baby Wait?

14 Nov

Adoption has been handled so badly on so many television programs that I approach any new show with credulity. Following Juno, there has been a proliferation of shows featuring real life  “birth mom” stories, including MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, TLC’s Birth Moms, Oxygen’s I’m Having Their Baby, and now Logo’s The Baby Wait. Each have their own special flaws, and some are more dangerous than others.

There are many good arguments that any shows about these intensely personal, extremely fraught decisions are exploitative. How can an expectant woman considering adoption make a free choice when everyone is already calling her a “birth mother”? How can she have the space to make such a decision with a camera in her face? And how could she ever change her mind without looking like a villain on primetime television?

Which brings us to the second problem: nearly all of these shows are presented in a way that favors the adoptive parents. I’m Having Their Baby puts it right in the title who this baby will “belong” to, while the title Birth Moms assumes, of course, that the adoption will and should take place. The Baby Wait seemingly presents both sides of the story, yet really only one set of parents are doing the waiting (and the show’s airing on Logo, a channel with programming designed for LGBT audiences, seems to be designed to appeal to same-sex couples considering adoption). These frameworks mean the shows are biased to present one outcome – adoption – as more favorable than others, and that’s a problem.

However, I have often argued that we need to talk more about adoption, we need to pay more attention to the stories of birth parents, and we need to have people outside of the adoption community learn about open adoption and adoption loss. That is why, despite their many flaws (including whether or not they should be on the air), it’s worth considering these shows for the opportunity they present to educate more people about adoption.

What are they teaching us, then?

To answer this question, I looked more closely at the The Baby Wait, which I find the most nuanced of the shows I’ve mentioned (admittedly, this is not a high bar to clear). The show highlights waiting periods – the time after placement with the adoptive family during which a mother can legally decide to parent her child. The length of the waiting period varies state by state. Again, during this intense, vulnerable time I do not believe you should have television cameras documenting your every thought and move – the very existence of the show seems exploitative. Yet, given that the show does exist, it provides a window into the common narratives and challenges that many surround adoptions today.

Here, I’ve gathered some of the most telling quotes I noticed in the shows first two episodes, with my thoughts on what these quotes tell us about adoption today.

“It would be like losing a child, and that’s not something I want to give much thought to.”

In the first episode, this quote was said by Paul, an adoptive father, when discussing the possibility that his new daughter’s birth mother would decide to parent. My response: exactly. Exactly! This is what the mother is going through during the waiting period. She is losing her child. That is the grief that she is facing to make way for your joy (and, in this case, to be used for television drama). Paul does recognize this, saying “This is now also a loss for Gen. And we have an incredible responsibility to live up to our end of the deal.” Yet, because of the way the show presents it, Genavieve’s loss is always portrayed as somewhat easier than the loss that Mark and Paul would face should she change her mind.

Genavieve is our birth mother.”

No, Mark (Paul’s husband), Genavieve is your daughter’s birth mother, not yours. I think it’s important to recognize that Genavieve has one replacement to the child, and another relationship with her daughter’s adoptive fathers. We don’t have a word for that relationship, making it difficult to situate birth parents within adoptive families. (And, in fact, because your daughter only has two adoptive father, you could drop the “birth” part – it’s not necessarily to delineate between an adoptive mother and a birth mother in this context.)

“I was really sad when they handed Morgan to Mark and Paul before me. I know they’re going to be her parents, but I’m her mother. I want to hold her so badly.”

Seeing Genavieve’s face when, immediately after birth, her daughter was handed to Mark and Paul before her was one of the more heartbreaking moments of the episodes. She, who had done all the work of pregnancy and delivery, has the moment of joy taken away from her by hospital staff who favor the adoptive father’s claim to the new baby. This was a moment to respect her, her work, and her relationship with her daughter – and it was denied to her.

“$36 for a piece of fabric?”

At a Gymboree store, Genavieve’s boyfriend seemed aghast at the cost of a baby outfit that Genavieve wanted to buy as a gift during her first post-placement visit with her daughter and Mark and Paul. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Mark and Paul in their beautiful Manhattan apartment, at their country house in Pennsylvania, and looking at $1000 strollers in a store that is actually called Buy Buy Baby. These examples highlight the differences in background, specifically class background, that birth and adoptive families often face. So often, adoption involves the transfer of children from families with less means to families with more, and adoption decisions are made from less privileged position. This is not just about money, it’s about who gets to parents on what terms, and whose parenthood is deemed acceptable (though, surely, the fact that the adoptive parents here are a same-sex couple warrants discussion beyond the scope of this post). This is not a system that promotes reproductive justice.

“That concerned me that she would be there and she would be holding Morgan.”

Paul and Mark both expressed nervousness at having Genavieve and her family over for Thanksgiving before the waiting period passed. This nervousness is understandable, and reflects a fear that many adoptive parents feel. This tension early in the relationship could make it challenging to forge the type of trust and friendship required to make open adoptions successful. It’s understandable as an emotional response on the part of the adoptive parents, and it’s good to see them openly discussing it — and it’s even better that they didn’t let this nervousness alter their plans to see Genavieve.

“If she tries to get Morgan back, she needs to leave.”

… said Genavieve’s mother when Genavieve was feeling a large amount of regret, threatening to quick her out of the house if she chose to parent. Lack of family support is a common reason for expectant mothers to consider adoption.

“I want her back so bad. I’m so tired of people saying that I can’t do it. And for once I just wanted someone to say I could.”

It’s easy to say that Genavieve couldn’t have been a mother – and it likely would have required a great deal of support for her to parent her daughter, as well as taking her longer to finish school and become self-sufficient. Mark and Paul are loving parents with a secure and stable home. When they keep custody of Morgan at the end of the episode, the viewer knows she will always be loved and provided for. But to what extent was this family made at the expense of a young mother’s own hope to parent her child, a hope that continually dismissed and belittled? It’s easy to say that this happy result was the inevitably best result, but we must wonder if another path was possible – because Genavieve will likely be wondering that for the rest of her life.

“Alright, well, take care of yourself!”

This is the parting line from the social worker (or employee at the adoption agency, it’s unclear if she was, in fact, a social worker) when Genavieve calls to confirm she will not be changing her mind. To which I say, where the hell were you all episode, social worker? Where were you when Genavieve was feeling depressed? Where were you when Mark and Paul were feeling nervous about their first visit? Where were you when everyone needed ongoing support and counseling to process their grief and joy, and make sense of this new and strange relationship?  And where will you be now that the adoption is complete? Perhaps she was there all along and it simply was never filmed, which was a huge misrepresentation. The more problematic scenario, though, is that she wasn’t there, and Genavieve was not receiving the support that every parent in this situation deserves.

“It’s an open adoption. I know it’s very different. It’s not how it’s normally done. But Kristen is a part of our lives.”

In the second episode, adoptive mother Marcie begins the conversation of open adoption with her friends at her baby shower, stressing the importance for her relationship with Kristen, the expectant mother who plans to place her daughter with Marcie and her husband Mike. She’s starting the conversation early and focusing on the mother as a person with her own importance, without even mentioning the baby. There is a respect conveyed here that Marcie will continue to show throughout the episode.

“I was so ashamed. Before I got pregnant with Ellie, I was in the good place, I was starting to pull things together and I was going to go back to school. Then I found out I was pregnant and I just became so obsessed and I became wrapped up and consumed with the shame. ‘Oh, she’s still so young and here she is on Baby #3.”

Kristen has a 4 year-old son and a 13 month-old daughter. Because of a history of substance abuse, her son lives with her parents, while she and her daughter live with her mother-in-law. It worth noting that the show is featuring a birth mother who isn’t a teenager and who already has children. What’s more important here, though, is the huge amount of shame that Kristen will continually mention. Whenever life-altering decisions are made because of shame and stigma, we, as reproductive justice activists, must know we still have a great deal of work to be done.

“We were thrilled, because we had seen the pain she had gone through, so in order for her heart to be healed and be able to have what she desires so badly was a blessing for us.”

Here, Marcie’s mother tell Kristen how pleased she felt when she learned Mike and Marcie had been matched for an adoption. One of the less discussed challenges in adoptions is the prolonged, exhausting, emotionally-draining struggle with infertility many couples face. In moving on to adoption, many couples must mourn the loss of the family they thought they would have, and make room for the new kind of family that adoption requires – a family that has room to include an ongoing relationship with the birth parents as well.

“You know that if at moment you want to see her, you just need to call us and say you’re on your way.”

Mike says this to Kristen while they’re at her home the first day of the adoption. Mike and Marcie went to Kristen’s house after they were discharged from the hospital so that she could spend some more time with the baby, and so that they could have longer to say goodbye. The openness he’s conveying here is what most birth mothers need to feel supported in their decision. They must feel welcomed as part of the child’s adoptive family in their own right.

“I still can’t seem to shake the shame about getting pregnant.” And later: “I’ve definitely avoided people because I’ve been afraid of them thinking I’m a bad mom or that I’m not good enough or that I’m a let down.”

Oh, Kristen. No women should feel this, and no women should be making decisions based on shame.

“I love you so, so, so, so, so much.”

So says Judah, Mike and Marcie’s son, on the phone to Kristen when he first meets his new sister Ellie. Kristen tearfully replies that she loves him, too. Kristen is part of their family.

“How are you?”  “I’m worried about you.”

A phone conversation with Marcie and Kristen, showing Marcie’s ongoing recognition of and concern for Kristen’s grief. She goes on to say, “I know that we have Ellie, but we have you first. You were put into our life before she was. I hate to know that you’re hurting so bad.” This is an adoptive mother that is not just looking for a child to complete her family (though she is, of course, looking for that), she has genuine care for Kristen outside of the fact that Kristen gave birth her daughter.

“I got a whole new family.”

In the end, this is what I have found is most important for birth mothers’ ongoing well-being and mental health: are they considered part of their child’s adoptive family? When the answer is yes, they have less regret and experience more joy in continuing to be part of their child’s life. This does not mean it’s easy. Kristen also says: “Am I gonna feel this way for the rest of my life? … Is there more that I could have done or should have done?” And the answer to this, too, is yes: she will probably wonder about this forever. For birth mothers even in the best of open adoptions, there is almost always a loss accompanying whatever is gained. This grief should be an openly acknowledged part of adoption, because only be first acknowledging it can we become accountable to it.

I have not really written this post to encourage you to watch this show, or others like it. But, for those that are watching it, or are having conversations with those watching it, I hope that you’ll think carefully about what’s shown, what’s missing, what challenges your assumptions about adoption, and what needs to change.

Do not let an anti-choice youth conference fool you. Young people are pro-choice.

9 Nov

This weekend, the International Prolife Youth Conference will be happening in California. Their theme is “Abolitionist Rising,” an attempt to compare the abhorrent practice of slavery to legal abortion. Hosted by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust & Priests for Life, the conference’s goal is to equip youth to fight against abortion and change their perspective of the anti-choice movement.

While many anti-choice supporters, websites and blogs are mourning the election results, the IPYC facebook (which we will not link to) has stayed upbeat. I wondered if perhaps they thought they found the cure to the dying GOP platform: getting youth involved. While it sounds like a good idea, the anti-choice movement gravely misunderstands today’s youth.

The Presidential election just a few days ago tells us a lot about millennials. Sixty percent of those 18-29 years old voted for President Obama, compared to 44% of those 65 and older. There is a clear trend towards younger people being more progressive. The Center for American Progress found that of 21 core values and beliefs held by America’s youth, only four of them could be deemed conservative. They also found that 84% of today’s youth believe that “we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it and that cost is not an obstacle.” Remember that anti-choicers are strongly against birth control, including financial coverage of it and the use of it by women of all ages.

Advocates for Youth researched what today’s young people think about abortion. 68% of Millennials believe abortion should be available in their community, compared to 60% of the Boomer generation (interesting to note the high majority of both; this is one explanation for why the majority of anti-choice leaders are older people). Today’s youth are more multicultural; there are more people of color among today’s youth than among previous generations. This diversity is another point against conservative, anti-choice groups who have a difficult time reaching out to people of color (their “black genocide” movement seems to incite more anger than anything).

Perhaps the IPYC leaders are excited because they believe they can mold young people’s minds into becoming anti-choice? Their facebook description states the conference will “change your perspective of the pro-life movement across the nation.” They might have a point there–until these young people decide to educate themselves on the issues instead of just listening to speakers. Take the example of Libby Anne. Upon doing her own research, Libby Anne realized that the anti-choice movement actually does more to cause abortions than stop them. She realized that the policies of the pro-choice movement reduces unplanned pregnancies and helps women around the world. Youth attending the IPYC will likely listen to speakers this weekend claim they want to “help women,” but many will soon see that the anti-choice movement is causing a lot more harm than good.

So this weekend, when you see anti-choice activists tweeting about the IPYC, remember that just because the election is over, it doesn’t mean the anti-choice movement is going to give up or go home. They didn’t four years ago, and they definitely won’t now. We can’t stop caring either! Sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights, tell the American Association of University Women what you think Obama and Congress should do on Day One,  join the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment–let’s set our own priorities!

Moving Forward, Repealing Hyde

7 Nov

Like many Americans, I was glued to my television last night, anxious and uncertain about the future of the US. I sat there and could only think about moving forward. It was too hard to think about the opposite outcome, and to worry about how we would be able to protect and expand our rights if we did not re-elect President Obama.

Luckily, some of that positive thinking paid off.

It’s no secret that abortion and reproductive health and rights played heavily into the election. [Last night] I sat waiting to see if the elected leader of our country would be someone who supported my right to reproductive autonomy or someone who would make it difficult or impossible for me to access health care services. We have spoken: we have had enough attacks, and we want to move forward with politicians who respect and support our rights.

I am ecstatic that President Obama will lead our country for four more years. During the election he spoke clearly about his position on reproductive health, calling it an economic issuethat affects women and families. I couldn’t agree more, and neither could voters, like those in Florida who rejected a measure that would have severely limited abortion coverage and access. While there is much work to be done, I can breathe a bit easier knowing that the leader of our country believes in health care and reproductive rights.

We’ve heard throughout the course of campaign season from both the public and the president that reproductive health and rights are critical for people to lead healthy and safe lives, but there’s one piece of the puzzle that no one is talking about: the Hyde Amendment and ensuring abortion coverage for low-income people in the US. Hyde prohibits federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, and politicians have looked the other way for 36 years while people have struggled to come up with the money for care, putting off paying bills, rent, or even going hungry to afford an abortion.

While I appreciate the President’s position, especially at a time when reproductive health and abortion services are being severely limited at state and local levels, I also know that if people can’t afford care, then they don’t have a choice. Hyde has devastated communities and families for three decades. We must compel the President, who believes in reproductive rights and justice, to make change.

Now is the time to reopen the conversation about Hyde and abortion access: the public and the administration have been clear in their support of reproductive rights and affordable access to health care. We have a long way to go and a hard history to overcome, but we cannot back down. We must ensure that all services, including abortion, are affordable in order to secure people’s reproductive rights and ability to make decisions.

If President Obama believes that the lives and health of low-income people matter and that everyone deserves access to reproductive health services, he must take a stand this January and strike restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion when he presents his budget to Congress. And we, as advocates and reproductive justice activists, need to remain vocal for the next four years and hold our elected officials and administration accountable to living up to their promises of supporting all people’s rights, not just those who can afford it.

Why Pro-Choice Millennials Are Voting Today

6 Nov

Need to find your polling place? Check here. Want to know who are the pro-choice candidates on your ballot? Check here.

We’re getting ready for the media to lambast young voters, and especially young women, as being apathetic this election season. To combat this pathetic and inaccurate myth, we decided to tell you why we’re voting today:

Megan S.: This election matters to me because it will determine the future direction of our country, and whether we’re committed to protecting our basic human rights, like the right to health care. It matters to me because I’m a young person and I know the future of my country, even beyond the next four years, hinges upon us standing up for what I believe in today. I am voting because my voice counts and I want us to continue to move forward together.

Dena: I vote because countless women, men, and children have fought and died throughout the years for the right to vote. I vote because as a queer woman of color, my reproductive rights and civil liberties depend on it. I vote because there are too many disenfranchised voices and voters in this country. I vote for the countless individuals around the world who cannot.

This election matters because we need a President who will work to build up and protect the many freedoms we have as American citizens. We need a President who will make America a nation that we can all be proud of. We need a President who will push for human and civil rights for all Americans, not just the seldom few. Last, we need a President who will level the playing field so that all of us has an equal shot to succeed in this nation.

Quite frankly, I’m voting because my life depends on it.

Shelby: Today I’m voting for pro-equality candidates on the local, state, and national level because the decisions made by politicians impact the complicated, intersectional lived experiences of people across the US and the world. I’m casting a ballot for a country in which no young woman is ever denied access to reproductive health services, or sterilized against her will, or shackled while she gives birth. I’m voting for a nation that embraces and uplifts trans folks, that never tells its citizens who they can love, or supports social, economic, and cultural oppression of people based on the color of their skin, their country of birth, and/or their economic status. I’m voting for the America I want: a nation that actively works to fulfill the promise of “created equal” without any qualifiers.

But I am also casting my vote in this election for the next one. Because we have lived with the myth that young people are apathetic long enough. In reality, the young folks I meet understand that environmental justice, racial justice, reproductive justice, anti-racism, queer justice and immigrant rights are all connected, not just in the head but in the body and the heart. I want my elected officials and the media to be stunned tonight as they grapple with the new reality that the block known as “young voters” blew the election out of the water and are never to be ignored again. Today is the day we go, en masse, to the ballot box to send the message loud and clear: we are the new revolution and we will never, ever go back.

Sophia: While many of my AG cohorts will be standing in line to vote or working GOTV operations today, I’m going to sleep in. I voted. By mail. A week and a half ago. No, I don’t do absentee ballots because in Oregon, all voting is by mail. The burnt orange envelope arrived a few weeks ago along  with a fat voters information packet and thorough directions on how to fill out the ballot (blue or black ink; where to sign).

Our ballot had initiatives like the school bond (yes!) that allots funds from the corporate kicker tax to Portland Public schools that desperately need repair. There is a proposal that if voted in would remove estate tax on property transfers (vote no).  And I voted in favor of Kate Brown and President Barrack Obama.

What isn’t on the Oregon ballot are any voting rights laws, which have become a central issue during this election year. Time and again we have seen giant lines and giant ballots, designed to depress turnout. We have seen voter ID laws in numerous states and State Attorney Generals instituting mandates and confusing rules to invalidate votes. There are racist bill boards, misleading robo calls, flyers in Spanish directing voters to incorrect polling places.

Election fraud. Voter disenfranchisement. None of it an accident, in actuality, a result of the radical tea party wave of state congress people, mayors and Governors elected in 2010.

If I want anything, it would be for more states to allow voting by mail like Oregon and Washington. And for states to begin voting out these radical politicians hell bent on removing voters’ franchise in order to regain power.

Nicole:  In the sole developed country where only half the population has voted in elections for the past fifty years, is it really necessary to ask why it is important for young women to vote?  We need to change this, and we are the ones to do it.

We look beyond the red and blue states and the electoral college and see the power of our voices.  We understand that free, honest elections and peaceful transfer of power are a gift, to be appreciated and honored by voting.  We recognize how much is on the line, the next president will nominate a Supreme Court justice who will in all likelihood determine if Roe is overturned.  We remember that our government is by and for the people, not some people, all of them.

For some, their political action this season starts and ends at the voting booth, but not for us.  I started working in April before the primary when I went to Pennsylvania for the first time to begin educating voters about the voter id laws.  From then on, do you know who I saw phone banking and canvassing and registering voters? Young women.  You should be proud.  No matter what is said, you know the time you put into this election.  The friends you explained why their vote matters.  The grandparent you got an absentee ballot for.  The neighbors you registered to vote.  You did that, and it counts.  Even if the world isn’t quite ready to recognize your commitment to democracy, we do and we thank you.

Kaitlyn: I vote because I love the voting process. I LOVE it. Having spent time in countries where the democratic process is less than orderly, I love our voter registrations, I love our peaceful, sometimes hours-long lines. I love the sense of community and neighborhood it creates. Since Twitter happened, I love people’s updates from the centers. ‘Singing Britney Spears’ ‘Stronger’ while waiting in this freezing line,’ someone wrote, ‘other voters not amused.’

I love that on this day, after months of ever-worsening political divisiveness (a friend’s father yelled at me about how terrible liberals are until I cried the other day – true story), we all come together and do this thing that says that we are Americans. I love that there are no fights at the centers, no people yelling and screaming and being harmful to one another. I love that we come together to make decisions about who will represent us, and whether we like it or not, we abide by the will of our fellow peoples.

Most of all, I vote because Slava, who works for my father and has been for more than twenty years like a crazy, increasingly less comprehensible Russian uncle to me, went through the process of getting his citizenship so that he could vote. He beamed with pride that first election day; he told my father very seriously that it was his right as an American to go vote and he should be paid for that day (he was). Then he showed up to vote and was turned away. He had no idea he needed to register. Don’t worry, he never made that mistake again. Although his English has slipped to a word or two and I don’t think he could tell you anymore how Congress or the electoral college works, he still votes on every election day. That’s our right and our duty as Americans, and it is bad-ass. I don’t care, today, how you vote – and you must know how seriously I mean that. Friends, countrymen, Americans – just vote.

NYCProchoiceMD: I vote because although our system is far from perfect, it’s allowed our country to grow and progress for the last 200 years and will continue to do so only if we continue to participate in it. I vote to preserve the human and civil rights of my family, friends and neighbors in the hopes that some day soon we will look back aghast at the days when the right to choose when, how, and with whom to have a family was up for popular vote. I vote because I am part of the solution, and you are too.

Deva: I vote because I believe in democracy’s ability to bring freedom and safety to society. As a citezen of the United States, a country whose policies effect the world, I feel responsible to do my part to elect a person who will be rational and kind.

More importantly, I vote to respect the privlidge of voting, and to honor the fact that I live in a time and country where being a woman doesnt mean I can not vote. And as a daughter of a resident alien (who can not vote), I vote because not doing so would mean my family doesnt have a say in our country’s future.