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Feeling Comfortable In The Grey

7 May

We live in a world that likes things to be black or white. You’re either for something or against something. Conservative or Liberal. Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice. No matter the issue, conflicting ideas are reduced to defined opposing views, with a clear line that marks the boundary to the other side. This construction is mirrored in our politics and in the media, resulting in structured talking points and campaigns that tell a single story and fit one narrative. The problem is that this representation isn’t accurate. No matter the issue, there is a spectrum of opinions that expand beyond the clearly defined boxes of “for” and “against,” and this is especially true when it comes to choice.

 

Now, I think and know that many in the pro-choice community would agree that choice shouldn’t be presented in this black and white dichotomy. Instead we need to focus on the grey and better represent the nuance and complexity within reproductive choices to honor that everyone’s narrative is different. The problem though is figuring out how to hold onto the greyness, while working in a system that operates in the black and white.

 

I really began thinking about this tension when I was at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference at Hampshire College. CLPP is a conference I’ve wanted to go for years, and I was lucky enough to get to spend that weekend in April thinking deeply and critically about the issues I care about most, while being surrounded by inspiring reproductive justice activists. The last session I went to was called What If We Let Roe Go?, which was facilitated by Aimée Thorne-Thomsen with the panelists Angela Ferrell-Zabala and Julia Reticker-Flynn. The presenters brought up that while Roe is fundamentally important, since it only addresses the legal right to choose, it misses the myriad of other interrelated and contextual factors that intersect and impact one’s ability to have a choice in the first place. The panelists urged us to think about who we leave behind by only focusing on Roe, and how doing this affects the movement. Together, the panelists and audience began a dialogue about how choice is complex, and how by just focusing on Roe we may be limiting our scope. This narrow messaging may fit within the political realm and the need for talking points, but it fails to address the nuances in our experiences.

 

For me, what this session brought up was how limited our approaches can be and made be question whether laws and regulations are the best way to move forward.  This was reinforced last week after reading Jessica Valenti’s thoughtful and powerful article in the Guardian. Sharing her story of the birth of her daughter at 28 weeks, Valenti shows us once again, that this is complicated, and that “choices are far too nuanced and personal for us to ever believe we could create a policy around them.” She reminds us that issues around pregnancy and choice aren’t consistent or clear cut, and more importantly they don’t have to be. Our pro-choice beliefs and reproductive decisions are never in conflict with one another, but result in varied narratives and experiences.

 

Now, I’m not sure what the best answer is or how exactly to move forward. Do we have to operate within the structures that exist in order to affect the change we want to see? Or do we change our tactics? No matter what the best path is, it’s a conversation that needs to keep happening and it has been great to hear thoughts and perspectives from others on what to do. But most importantly, what I appreciated was the reminder that we should dream bigger. It’s time to be bolder and think beyond the limitations in the system. As we go forward let’s find ways to feel comfortable in the grey, embrace our different pro-choice narratives, and support initiatives that focus more broadly on the intersections of experiences that influence choice. It’s a messy world out there, but that’s what makes it interesting.

 

Abortion Gang at CLPP 2014

14 Apr

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Bloggers from Abortion Gang recently spent 3 days at the radical glory that is the CLPP conference, and we tweeted up a storm! You can find the tweets by searching #CLPP2014 on Twitter.

Check out Abortion Gang bloggers @chaneldubofsky, @annapopinchalk, and at @PProvide, as well as @graceishuman,@OpinionessWorld, @AbortionChat,  @RBraceySherman@poonam_pai ,

@SisterSong_WOC@LeahDoolittle@KimberlyInezDC@aimeett and others.

 

Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!

 

 

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What Kind Of Fuckery Is This?: An Anti-choice Legislative Primer

14 Apr

This past weekend at the CLPP conference, Amanda Allen, a Legal Fellow from the Center for Reproductive Rights, gave a quick-and-dirty breakdown of the legislative shenanigans no reproductive rights activist could possibly have failed to notice. Amanda tracks these bills at the state and federal level as part of her fellowship. In addition to the kind of anecdotal evidence we’ve all been tossing around – she mentioned that no one at the Center can remember a legislative season which so clearly had it in for the health and choice of female-bodied persons – she’s got cold hard numbers that speak volumes; this amazing woman is tracking hundreds of anti-choice bills right now.

The hundreds of anti-choice bills, however, aren’t the big problem. There have always been anti-choice bills, if the numbers have perhaps been less staggering. The real problem, as Amanda noted, is that the last election cycle brought changes in state legislatures and, even more importantly, governorships, which means that bucket-o-crazy bills like the Ohio “heartbeat” legislation can now pass the state House and Senate and be signed into law. It’s that last bit – the actually-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-of-being-signed-into-law bit – that is relatively new, unusual, and highly alarming.

Amanda pointed to 5 distinct trends in the ever-evolving whirligig of fun that is the avalanche of anti-choice legislation we are currently facing:

1) Later abortion bans and complete abortion bans. The Ohio “heartbeat” bill, which would prevent abortions as early as 18 days into pregnancy, falls under this category, as does the Nebraska ban on abortions after 20 weeks. It is very possible that a challenge to these will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, where a 5 to 4 conservative majority that recently declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals could very well do the same with fetuses. I don’t mean to be alarmist here; this possibility is very real and in fact, in my opinion, very likely.

2) Personhood laws.
These laws give a fetus the legal protections of a person. One of these bills passed the North Dakota House but died in the state Senate; more have been put forth in the last two weeks in Alabama. For my part, I would like it noted here that my spellcheck does not recognize “personhood” as a word. My spellcheck is probably pro-choice.

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How to Be an Accountable Ally

13 Apr

I was at CLPP this past weekend — a yearly conference at Hampshire College called From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Advancing the Movement for Reproductive Freedom. As you can imagine, a lot of shit goes down in this space, most of it good, some of it ugly, all of it challenging and inspiring. One big theme of the conference was how some organizations are not accountable allies. What we didn’t talk about, at least at the panels I attended, was HOW to be an accountable ally. How do you make sure that in fighting for your own rights, you’re not trampling on someone else’s?

Let me put a disclaimer on this: I’m no authority on the subject. I have a shitload of privilege and am unpacking it as we go along. If you see a gaping hole, please speak up! This is not the end all, be all — it’s the start of a conversation.

So. How do you be an accountable ally?

1. Own your history. This came up frequently at CLPP, mostly in reference to Planned Parenthood and their failure to message effectively on Margaret Sanger and her history with eugenics. In order to be an ally, you have to be willing to talk about the uncomfortable shit, especially when it involves racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, etc. Before you think about helping transform another person’s history, confront your own.

2. Examine your privilege. I’ll go on the record as saying that I hate the word privilege. It reeks of jargon and academic superiority, but it’s important nonetheless. A non-exhaustive list of articles to read on privilege:

3. Do some learning. The last thing you want to do is show up in someone else’s space and expect them to educate you about their lives, their struggle, their issues. Do some research on your own. Asking questions is fine, but expecting someone else to break it down for you is not. What do I mean, exactly? Asking a woman of color to explain the rocky history between feminism and racism is not acceptable. Most people are not walking encyclopedias, and it is not her job to educate you. At the very least, do some googling before you approach someone about their history.

4. Admit it when you screw up and apologize. I’m 100% guilty of being defensive instead of making a disagreement or confrontation into a learning opportunity. This is critical — we’re going to fuck up in this work, and we have to be humble enough to admit it when we do. Claiming that you had good intentions is not enough — own your mistakes! I’ll be the first to tell you that this is pretty freaking painful in the moment (not to mention an ego blow), but well worth it in the long run. No one is The Perfect Ally, an admitting it proves that you’re aware of your own faults.

5. This is a process, and it won’t be easy. So forgive yourself when you make mistakes, because you will. Just because you intend to become an ally doesn’t mean that you are one — being an ally is a two way street. It’s an honor and privilege (!) to be trusted by a community that’s not your own.

For more on CLPP, take a look herehere and here. And please add your comments and additions to this list.

Notes from CLPP: Sex Education Justice.

15 Apr

See my previous intro on our “Notes from CLPP” posts.

Here are the highlights from my notes from the session called SexEd!: Movement Building in Action for Sexuality Education Justice.

I didn’t write down who said what, but the organizations presenting this information were: Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.

What is Sexuality Education Justice?
  • A holistic view of sexuality and sexual health, positive body image, self esteem, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexuality all seen as part of life
  • Going beyond STI and pregnancy prevention
  • Celebrating sexuality as part of human development
  • Attention, commitment, and resources for young people and the sexual health of young people including marginalized communities
  • Sex ed as a part of people’s lives, not an extra issue

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Notes from CLPP: Abortion Care.

13 Apr

See my previous intro on our “Notes from CLPP” posts.

Here are the highlights from my notes from the session called Abortion Care.

From Emily Kane-Lee at the National Abortion Federation:

  • 87% of counties in US don’t have an abortion provider
  • Advanced practice clinicians: nurse practitioners, midwives, physician’s assistants are legally permitted to provide abortions in 13 states. Why so few states? Politics
  • 37 other states: only physicians can provide abortions
  • Laws passed right after Roe v. Wade stating only physicians can provide abortions with the aim to protect women from unskilled abortion providers, ended up limited who can perform abortions
  • NAF created a toolkit for advanced practice clinicians (APCs) to help fight laws preventing APCs from providing abortion care
  • APCs generally serve rural communities, underserved communities
  • We must use inclusive rhetoric when talking about abortion providers and not just use the term “doctor” but instead  “health care provider”
  • How do we get medical students to see that abortion care is also important?

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Notes from CLPP: Prisons as Agents of Reproductive Oppression.

12 Apr

This weekend, busloads of progressives gathered at Hampshire College for the annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, this year called From Abortion Rights to Social Change: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom.  I learned so much there, and while the space was definitely problematic at times, I want to share my notes from all the sessions so those who weren’t there (or were in different sessions) can learn too.

Here are the highlights from my notes from the session Prisons as Agents of Reproductive Oppression.

From Imani Walker, Co-Founder of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights:

  • The majority of women in prison are there for non-violent, drug related crimes
  • Experience of victimization starts in girlhood
  • Many incarcerated women are dealing with past abuse and self medicate with drugs

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