Midwife-run Birth Centre Opening in Toronto

22 Jan

Inherent in the struggle for reproductive justice is that “choice” without access is no choice at all. This obviously applies to abortion, but is also true of the spectrum of reproductive and sexual health issues under the reproductive rights umbrella, including contraception, sterilization, sexuality, gender identity, childbirth and parenting, to name but a few.

 

That’s why it’s good to see small steps towards making a range of choices available, especially to people who are not rich or could otherwise not access those choices. This week, the Toronto Birth Centre announced the imminent opening of its brand new facility in Regent Park, a neighbourhood on the east side of the city with a history of poverty.

 

The Toronto Birth Centre is a pilot project by the Ontario Ministry of Health. It is aimed at people with low-risk pregnancies, and run entirely by midwives (although obviously there are strict safety protocols in place in the event of complications). What it means for Toronto residents is provincially-funded access to midwifery in a dedicated centre for birthing; they are estimating 450 births per year.

 

I recognize that midwife-only births are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who are trying to access them, this is huge. The parallels to abortion clinics cannot be ignored; funding, staffing and regulating lends legitimacy to the endeavour in the view of the public, and allows visible access to services that are otherwise difficult to find. And hosting the centre in the Regent Park neighbourhood is no accident; the ongoing “revitalization” of the area smacks of gentrification, but services that make childbirth easier and more accessible for folks living in poverty are probably good news.

 

Of course I do feel only cautiously optimistic about the endeavour. There is no indication of how access to the midwifery services are regulated, ie who gets to use the Centre? It is my hope that they will reach out to underserved populations and make an effort to move away from the stereotype of midwifery as something that only white middle-class crunchy-granola types want or can afford. I also hope that the focus of the centre will go beyond birth, and work with pregnant people to help access other services that they need.

 

A centre with just midwives is such a promising alternative for folks who – for whatever reason – cannot or do not want to deal with doctors throughout their pregnancy and childbirth. It is my hope that the TBC will take advantage of its location and the great need in marginalized communities to move that one small step towards access, and eventually, choice.

If you’d like more info on the centre, please see the following link: http://www.torontobirthcentre.ca/

New Year, New Legislation Supporting Abortion Rights

17 Jan

It’s easy to feel disheartened by the number of anti-choice laws, ballot initiatives, and court cases sweeping the country.  In 2013, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions and everyday it feels like there is another major news story on how our reproductive rights are being restricted. With the start of a new year, there have been a flurry of articles arguing that 2014 could be a make or break it year for reproductive rights. In a lot of ways, 2014 already feels reminiscent to the restrictions we saw in 2013. This week the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives passed HR 7,  to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions, and the Supreme Court is hearing cases on the contraception mandate and the buffer zone surrounding abortion clinics. But in exciting news, we are also seeing new state legislation that would actually protect abortion rights! Here are some important bills for you to keep an eye on:

Washington’s Reproductive Parity Act

Currently abortion coverage varies greatly by insurance carriers and by state, and since the ACA requires that no federal funds can be used to cover abortion services, coverage is even harder to come by in the health exchanges. In a direct response to this ACA requirement, the Washington state legislature introduced a bill that would require all insurance policies that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services. This bill would not only increase access to covered abortion services but also make sure that abortion coverage would not be affected even by the ACA abortion provisions.

New York’s Women’s Equality Act

This 10 point plan was first introduced last year but failed to pass during the legislative session. Governor Cuomo recently re-announced his support for The Women’s Equality Act which addresses a number of important equality issues including equal pay, sexual harassment, and trafficking. In terms of abortion policy, this bill would codify Roe v. Wade into state law and ensure abortion access up to 24 weeks or when necessary to protect the life or health of a pregnant person (currently it only includes exceptions when a pregnant persons’ life is in danger).

New Hampshire’s Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Bill

Similar to the Massachusetts’s law currently being debated in the Supreme Court, SB319 would establish a buffer zone around abortion clinics. By establishing a 25 foot buffer zone, this bill hopes to help protect patients from harassment and intimidation from protestors.

Vermont’s Bill to Decriminalize Abortion

Bill S315 was introduced last week to decriminalize abortion in the state. While abortion is legal in Vermont, there are old laws that criminalize performing and advertising abortion services. As a result, this would law would officially recognize a persons’ right to have an abortion in the state of Vermont.

The Women’s Health Protection Act 

While this isn’t an example of state legislation, it is an exciting development in Congress. In 2013, the Senate introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act that would prohibit states from passing TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. This law would make it illegal for states to pass laws impeding access to abortion services including building standards for abortion clinics, and mandatory ultrasound laws.

All of this legislation is still in the beginning of stages, but it is nonetheless an exciting step in the right direction. But why does this matter when Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington and New York already protect a person’s right to choose and there are so many other states that are restricting abortion services? Because it’s about the message it’s sending. Of course, ideally we want to be seeing this type of legislation introduced in states where people face significant barriers to accessing abortion services. But seeing efforts to protect abortion access is a huge deal and what I believe is an important part of changing the conversation about abortion policy. Since 2010, we have been bombarded with abortion restrictions and examples of our reproductive rights being threatened. While there have been victories in defeating ballot initiatives and court cases, and important community organizing and activism, at the legislative level we have mostly been on the defensive. It’s shocking to think that the last time Congress passed proactive abortion legislation was in 1994 with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act! Seeing legislation introduced that protects the right to choose allows us to be on the offensive, gives us time to talk about why these issues matter and engage with communities and lawmakers. But most importantly, this type of legislation shows that no matter the number of anti-choice laws introduced, we are not done fighting.

So thank you Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, New York and to all those supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act for bringing us some much needed positive news. Here’s to hoping 2014 is a year filled with a lot more of it.

How do you talk to your family about your work?

8 Jan

Whether it’s over the holidays or on an unexpected phone call, talking to family members about the reproductive health, rights, and justice work you do can be difficult.  Our bloggers give some tips, tricks, and strategies for navigating these sometimes challenging conversations.

Peggy: My suggestion to anyone navigating talking about abortion/reproductive healthcare/sexual healthcare/etc. with family is to keep yourself safe. Only say as much about your work as you are comfortable saying, and have a plan that allows you to walk away or change the subject when it gets uncomfortable – unless you are cool diving in. You don’t owe anyone a discussion, explanation or argument around your work. Be proud of what you do, for sure, but there’s nothing wrong with staying within your comfort zone when talking about it, especially around family during the holidays which is bound to be an emotionally vulnerable situation to begin with. My best advice is to set boundaries for yourself in advance and stick to them as best you can.

Chanel: I hate when people say this, but pick your battles. It often feels like there’s so much at stake, even when there isn’t, and so deciding you’re not going to keep arguing is a failure on your part. I had to end a long friendship over politics, abortion specifically, and it still haunts me, but the truth is that it was simply toxic. We have enough work to do, there’s no reason to keep that shit hanging around if we don’t have to.

Deva: My family is pro-choice; every woman I am close with in my family has told me their abortion(s) story, but talking about abortion with my family is still hard. It is hard because inevitably I am more liberal in what I think being pro-choice means. My piece of advice for discussing abortion with your family is to listen and be patient. If you listen long enough you will understand where their anger, disappointment or fear around abortion originates. Hearing awful comments about something you love, from people you love will always hurts. And that hurt is where where patience comes in. Be patient with yourself and others. Let yourself feel angry and disappointed, but try to wait those feelings out–ask calm questions and do not react from that place of hurt. Instead, breath deeply and tell them you understand where they come from (even if you don’t), and patiently explain why you believe their thought process is flawed. Some times people just need to be heard, and you giving them a chance to voice their opinion will open the door for you to voice yours. There may not be agreement, or even common ground, but I feel that if you listen and are able to be patient in your words of prochoice wisdom it will be a happier holiday for all. Also, remember to tell them you love them after a disagreement. I don’t believe in leaving or going to bed angry, and no matter how offensive their words, for me, nonjudgmental love is at the core of being prochoice.

Sara: The thing about my family is that I kind of had to create my own to feel like I was a really a part of one, but around the holidays I make an effort with the family I was born into. I come from a family that I have always thought was very progressive and liberal, but as I have become more and more active in social justice and politics, not just reproductive justice but other issues as well, I’ve questioned how my family got to where they are today. The best way to describe them isn’t just the “I’m liberal but let’s keep it a secret so we don’t alienate the neighbors” mentality, but more like “I’m liberal but I think others should do all the hard work to achieve what I believe we deserve”. It’s incredibly frustrating. I almost feel like I could handle being the black sheep liberal in a room full of conservatives better.

Now, coming from a small family, I should specify that my biological nuclear family consists only of my father and my daughter – I am the only child of two only children, only one of whom is still with us, and my daughter is also an only child. But other branches are larger, and the cousins are presumed conservative because of our environment, but who really knows? Because we aren’t allowed to talk about it.

So you can take the high road, and when your family asks what you’re doing with your life right now, you can say “I’m a community organizer” and change the subject to the weather or college basketball (because I’m from coastal North Carolina, these are the subjects we know we can all talk about with gusto – you may want to choose something else). OR, you can be me, and since I had an event prior to a Christmas family function, I drove over to the family farm to pick up my father not even realizing that I was wearing a Planned Parenthood t-shirt. Luckily I carry clothing in my car at all times for just such a situation, and I would have changed once I noticed. Except unfortunately my father saw it before I did, and he has a long history of pushing my buttons, so once he addressed it in not the nicest tones, I dug my heels in and insisted Duck Dynasty-style that I had a right to free speech and would be continue wearing the shirt I had on. Eventually the argument progressed to standing beside the car in front of the house, moving from Duck Dynasty to Jerry Springer, and whipping it off so that I was standing in my bra outside for anyone to see and announcing to my father that I AM READY TO LEAVE FOR DINNER CAN WE PLEASE NOT BE LATE.

I got to wear my t-shirt. And surprise, surprise, it didn’t start any debates and no one refused to talk to me. It was actually probably a bit of a let-down for my father as he didn’t get a chance to say “I told you so”.

I suppose the lesson here is not for you to go crazy the way I did, although if you want to know the truth, sometimes that feels like the highlight with this crew I was born into. You have to entertain yourself somehow, you know? The moral to this story is to be yourself. Don’t hide what you do and don’t hide what you feel, but do it respectfully. Okay, maybe the episode with my father doesn’t scream RESPECT, but sometimes crazy is the only way to get through to him, and it’s usually the family you aren’t quite so close to that you have to mentally and emotionally prepare for. If anyone at your family get-together chooses not to respond civilly, you can sidetrack the conversation – isn’t it wonderful that two people from the same family can have such differing viewpoints, can still love one another, and can catch up on each others’ lives every year at holiday get-togethers? Then take a slow sip from your wine (or ‘shine, if you’re from MY family – they drink sweet tea but I need something a little stronger to get through) while you let that sink in for them…and if they continue to push the issue, THEY are the ones who get the annual talking-to from the elders about their behavior, even if everyone thinks you are the one with the crazy opinions and too many hippie bumper stickers they hope the neighbors don’t notice in the driveway.

Dena: My family is mostly pro-choice, save my grandmother. My approach to conversations around reproductive rights and justice is just to be open to hearing my grandmother’s perspectives and sharing mine, even though we almost always end up respectfully disagreeing. I love having an open, safe space in my family where these debates can be had, but at the end of the day we all still love one another. And that’s what truly matters to me.

Anna: I will be the first to admit that I am overly sensitive and hate upsetting other people’s feelings, and so in the past I always went the easiest route and vaguely described the work I was doing in hopes of not ending up in a charged situation. Considering that I only see my extended family once or twice a year, this seemed like the best tactic because there was never enough time in our visits to have the space to properly talk, listen and understand each other’s thoughts and values. This worked for a while, mostly because my family is mostly pro-choice and tends to shy away from political or controversial conversations. But one day the topic of abortion came up with a close family member who is generally more conservative and I decided I needed to speak up and share my thoughts. So I listened, I asked thoughtful questions, explained my views and responded in a way that showed that I wasn’t pushing my agenda but rather curious to share our thoughts in hopes of getting to a place where both of us could try to understand where the other was coming from. And in the end while no opinions changed, we both learned something from each other because we love and respected each other enough to thoughtfully listen and have a constructive dialogue.

That experience made me realize that I need to talk openly about abortion and reproductive rights because I am proud of the work that I am doing and want to share that with my loved ones, and I also hope that if I do, more people can learn and be aware about why this work is important. So my main tactic is to do so in a way that acknowledges that it’s okay if opinions differ and that these conversations are meant to share the happenings in my life, not to directly change the views of those around me. The first way to do this is to read the situation in a “pick your battles” sort of way to make sure that there’s the space in your relationship to respectfully disagree. If there is, then listen, ask questions and take the time to explore together. And don’t be afraid! Sometimes people can surprise you and have actually been looking for a space to share their thoughts. Most importantly, always say thank you at the end because to have the chance to talk deeply with your family is a beautiful and special thing.

Emily: Since I’m on my way to medical school, I get the ‘which specialty’ question very often. My immediate biological family is very small and very close to me, but my partner’s family is huge, and many of them I don’t know very well. I feel better about myself in these interactions when I am open and honest about my interests in abortion provision and family planning, and that response usually starts the conversation. If folks want to know more, I try to highlight how incredibly varied people’s experiences with reproductive self-determination are. Every person’s choice to have or not have an abortion is as complex and individual as that person and their circumstances are. When I’m able to communicate that, it seems to break down some barriers.

What advice would you give? What are your experiences sharing your work/views with your family?

Young Lakota

6 Jan

In 2006, South Dakota passed a bill making it a felony to perform an abortion for any reason in the state. In reaction, the public petitioned for a veto referendum to nullify what was to be the nation’s harshest abortion measure in a state that already had only two clinics performing pregnancy terminations. But on the Pine Ridge reservation on the Nebraska border, six hours from the closest provider, tribal president Cecelia Fire Thunder got proactive. She announced that because Pine Ridge was a sovereign territory, if the referendum was passed, she would open an abortion clinic on reservation land. As a nurse, she had opened community-based health clinics in the past and had the expertise to get it done.

Filmmakers Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, who are also the creators of The Education of Shelby  Young LakotaKnox (featuring our very own Abortion Gang author of the same name), were there to document the chaos that ensued, and the result is Young Lakota, which aired on PBS beginning on November 25, 2013, and throughout December. I’ll give you a few spoilers: the referendum was defeated, but Fire Thunder, the first female tribal president for the Oglala Lakota, was impeached just short of completing her two-year term. The publicly voiced reason for this was because she did not seek council approval before announcing her efforts, but others believed it was a political intimidation maneuver, and some background supports the latter claim, as she had been briefly suspended and cleared previously in an unrelated matter. The clinic never got off the ground, but the proposed site did function as a 36-bed domestic violence shelter for several years; it is no longer open. Pine Ridge has outlawed abortion on the reservation.

While the underlying story of Fire Thunder’s impeachment, the abortion ban, and the clinic are all integral pieces of the tale, the story that emerges is that of Sunny Clifford, a young Lakota woman who just recently returned home from college and finds herself in the midst of the political storm, as she transforms herself from a grocery clerk trying to find direction into a community organizer and feminist activist. Also woven into the story are Sunny’s twin sister Serena’s struggles as a single parent, and friend Brandon’s efforts to support his growing family and establish a career for himself, all within the context of maintaining their Lakota heritage. Each character is connected to the others but their paths begin to diverge and meet again as their choices and circumstances become more complicated. All three, and Fire Thunder as well, have found their way back home with the hope of making life there better, but lacked the direction to do so until the abortion ban debate began rocking the reservation.

Sunny Clifford with twin sister Serena, at Pine Ridge

Sunny Clifford with twin sister Serena, at Pine Ridge

Sunny’s development, her efforts in the campaign for the clinic, for Fire Thunder, and against the ban, feel to the viewer like watching her effort to campaign for her own autonomy and that of her people. In the film, she hypothesizes that Native American culture does not condemn abortion and that anti-choice beliefs held by some of her neighbors are the influence of white Christian colonists. In private conversation, she elaborated: “I do strongly feel that anti-choice beliefs are influenced by Christianity. Prior to contact, and even some time after but before all the policies [of the government], the woman had bodily autonomy…[at an event] someone asked the question about what and if any Lakota men had to say about this issue. Cecelia said an elder gentleman said, ‘It is the woman’s business’. And that was that.”

Cecelia Fire Thunder

Cecelia Fire Thunder

This disconnect is clear in the film – while a few residents appear unsupportive of the clinic, the public outcry is clearly manipulated by outsiders, all of whom appear to be white, most male, and all using some form of Biblical scripture to defend their position. In fact at one point, Fire Thunder directly addresses some of these protestors by saying, “Keep your white hands off of my brown body”, and she has a point. At present, one in three Native American women report being victims of sexual assault, and are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence than other races, but prior to colonization they were viewed as equal and autonomous in society. More than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indian men, so they can’t be prosecuted by tribal courts. It is also worth mentioning that prior to the Pine Ridge domestic violence shelter’s closing, its beds were full and it is alleged rape reports had plummeted because police weren’t investigating. Yes, the lack of autonomy and the influence of outsiders is glaring.

Another particular poignant moment in the film, as Sunny shows the courage to speak up to a person of some celebrity in her community, is when the rapper Litefoot comes to town on his Reach the Rez tour, billed to be an effort to promote self-reliance and sustainability amongst Native Americans. Sunny asks him what he thinks of the controversy, and he offers a repetitive and condescending lecture on women as God’s miracle and suggests that women are too sacred (his word, but his definition of “sacred” appears to be “delicate”, or perhaps even “simple”) to debase themselves with the topic. She leaves angry, and in tears, realizing that his message of solidarity doesn’t apply to women.

Sunny Clifford in 2012

Sunny Clifford in 2012

 

Sunny Clifford is a feminist activist voice our movement needs. While every struggle for abortion access does not involve the complexities of her first foray, many of us found ourselves going through the same transformations; we may begin with one particular vague goal in search of a piece of ourselves, to learn that it’s about so much more – and we are so much more. Both Sunny and the journey she finds herself on are approachable and relatable in a way that will inspire others to keep fighting, and even to take up the fight. It’s exciting to see her growth, and to imagine what Sunny Clifford, Cecelia Fire Thunder, and other activists will achieve with Young Lakota as a platform.

Find out more about the film from PBS’ Independent Lens.

How to write an apology after saying something racist

30 Dec

There have been many instances recently in the news where white folks have been called out for saying or doing something racist. Many people have also issued apologies that have attracted additional criticism, most recently Ani DiFranco. I was upset by the tone of her apology, so I thought I would detail a few guidelines that have been helpful for me in thinking about getting called out for racist behavior. I hope this will be helpful for others too.

1. Listen to what people are saying and practice self-reflection

This seems self-explanatory, but it’s easy to get caught up in the online whirlwind and feel overwhelmed. That’s normal. Read other’s responses thoughtfully, make sure you grasp people’s views, and take breaks when you need to.

Try to understand the disappointment, frustration, anger, and outrage. Take a moment to sit with the criticism and use it to think deeply about yourself, your position, your power, and your words.

If you feel yourself getting defensive, that’s normal. It’s tough to think about yourself perpetuating something hurtful. We are all human and we make mistakes, but it is up to us as people in positions of power to use our power to change oppressive systems. When you find yourself getting defensive, think about why you are getting defensive. Does it have to do with yourself, your values, what other people believe in, and their perceptions of you? Does it have to do with you not wanting to admit that you were wrong? Does it have to do with feeling like people aren’t seeing you for who you really are? Identifying the root of your defensiveness will help to unpack what you’re feeling and respond genuinely.

Remember that it’s not your fault that you have grown up in a society that taught you that saying what you said was OK. It’s OK to feel embarrassed; you should feel embarrassed. Use that embarrassment to educate others, and to remind yourself that you will not make the same mistake twice.

2. Use your embarrassment to be a role model

Admitting that you’re embarrassed, you made a mistake, and that you were wrong sets a powerful example to others that you are a thoughtful person who respects others and is working to better our racist society. This is a much better message than something that comes from a defensive place where you are trying to justify your words. Self-reflection before apology is critical.

It’s hard to apologize, especially when your remarks were unintentional. But remember that it’s not the intent of your words that people are attacking. It’s the meaning and the effect.

3. Respect and elevate people of color’s voices.

As white people, we cannot say that what we said was not racist if others say that it is. That is called perpetuating racism, and it means we are using our power to erase and ignore the damaging effects of our words.

We are not experts on racism, no matter how much antiracist work we do. We live in a racist society, but we do not live with the daily effects. That is not our experience and we will never fully understand it. Our job is to use our power to give voice to others, not to shut them down.

4. Apologize

Hopefully, after taking the time to listen and reflect, your apology will be honest. Do not apologize because you feel as if you are being forced to. That is not helpful. Apologize sincerely. Admit that you are wrong, and do not apologize unless you feel like you’re ready and that it’s from the heart.

Also, the words “I’m sorry” are generally appropriate.

Top Posts of 2013

26 Dec

The most read Abortion Gang posts of 2013:

1. How having an abortion made me a better parent by Sophia

“To have another child would be to fail at giving all that I can to my existing son.”

2. Supporting abortion as birth control by Deva

“Why are we so afraid of liberating the use of abortion for whatever means an individual may choose?”

3. Why I am not pro-voice by Renee Bracey Sherman

“The act of telling someone how, when, where, and why they should, or should not, share their personal experience is one deeply rooted in privilege.”

4. Dr. Tiller was my abortion provider and he changed my life by an anonymous writer

“As we left the clinic one of the women behind the counter handed me a card with a name and a phone number written on it: Dr. George Tiller, 316-684-5108. Little did I know, this card would change my life.”

5. Why it’s totally cool for Farrah Abraham to go to Pace University and why her haters need to get a life by an anonymous writer

“Being in a porn isn’t a reason to deny someone their education. Because, and this may be news, porn stars are people too.”

6. The permanence of children and tattoos by Peggy

“I am the expert on my own life. My body is part of that. Trust my decisions, because I’m the one who has to live with them; but more importantly, because it’s none of your damn business.”

7. What does self-care even mean? by Shelby Knox

“I have to admit that I’ve often thought of self care as something other people need and deserve but not something that applies to me… I’ve been looking for tips to teach me how to internalize that I, individually, deserve to embrace and practice self care.”

8. Goodbye Dr. Morgentaler by Peggy

“Because of him, abortion is legal in this country and even though there’s a long way still to go, if I get pregnant that’s a pretty significant hurdle I don’t have to jump.”

9. Pregnant and I do not want to be by an anonymous writer

“Really, that’s how my mind works: You’re pregnant, for sure, you’re pissing on a stick in the morning, could you please pass the salt.”

10. Radical self-care by Dena

“All too often we, as activists, say ‘yes’ when we truly need a break and walk daily with the emotional stressors of activist work bearing on our shoulders.”

Why social workers should care about reproductive justice

12 Dec

After mulling over future career options, I decided to take a break from the reproductive health world and go back to school. This fall I began a Masters of Social Work program in Boston and am working with elders in public housing. Each day I am reminded about the resilience and humanity inherent in each of us. To me, social work means that I have the luxury of not forgetting that we are all capable of extraordinary things. I am loving it.

I chose clinical social work for varied reasons: I wanted do work organized through a justice-oriented lens, assist people to navigate complicated systems, and shift power. I also (more selfishly) wanted a job not in an office where I could talk to people all day. But I worried that I would miss reproductive health. When I made the change, I was concerned about leaving my community, identity as an activist, and work I was passionate about.

Luckily, that hasn’t happened.

One of the first things a budding social worker learns is that, like many professions, we have our ownCode of Ethics. It’s fairly detailed and encompasses a lot, from being a competent and professional practitioner to an obligation to engage in relevant social and political action. Reading through the Code, I was struck by how relevant and similar the principles were to my values as a reproductive justice activist. There is an emphasis on social justice, yes, but also on human dignity, respect, and client self-determination.

In the reproductive justice and abortion access world, I advocate over and over again for people to be able to make their own decisions. Reproductive justice means fighting for people to be able to parent or not to parent and being able to make that decision with dignity and respect; it also includes pushing for logistical, financial, and legal availability of services in order for people to be able to make those decisions. It means acknowledging systems of oppression that disproportionately impact people on the ground, policymakers, myself, and the organizations and communities I work in and for. It is also a commitment to fight to overturn those systems.

Social work follows those same principles. It mandates understanding individuals within the context of their environment and working for multi-level change. I think that this is why I have felt at home in the profession, at least so far. Social work values are reproductive justice values.

The problem is that not all social workers are familiar with reproductive justice issues and how they affect clients. For example, a social worker working with a low-income mom who is putting off paying her rent to pay for her abortion might not understand why the mom is taking that course of action. Similarly, a well-meaning social worker might be the person who reports a client’s abortion self-induction attempt as child endangerment, or who questions a mom’s decision to have another child when she is struggling to feed her existing children.

Each of these situations are difficult to navigate, and it’s up to social workers to avoid getting bogged down with personal or political feelings. No matter how we feel about abortion, welfare, or parenting, we can’t make that decision for someone else. It’s of critical importance to reflect on the Code of Ethics when thinking about clients’ reproductive health decision-making. We need to meet people where they are and understand and support their decisions. If we don’t, we are working within an oppressive system and not against it.

This being said, I am optimistic that social workers will tackle reproductive justice issues in the context of the Code of Ethics. Social workers are in unique positions to advocate for clients, so I also hope that other reproductive health/justice advocates will invite us to the table. We have a lot to say and an obligation to say it. Don’t be afraid to call on us or call us out.

I am looking forward to seeing more social workers included in conversations about reproductive justice and health care access, and I’m excited about navigating my dual roles as an activist and a brand new professional. I am thankful that I have learned so much working in abortion access that I can carry over to my new career. I know my activism will make me a better social worker, and my social work will make me a better activist. I am looking forward to where this journey takes me and what I will learn next.

To learn more about social work/reproductive justice issues, you should check out Social Workers for Reproductive Justice.