Abortion is Health Care, Not a Criminal Act!

Reclaim and the National Institute of Reproductive Health (NIRH) launched a new campaign, highlighting what could happen in Michigan if Roe v. Wade is overturned. With social media ads and billboards across Michigan, this campaign is raising awareness of a pre-Roe abortion ban that is still on the books. This ban from 1931 could charge doctors providing abortions with felonies that have a sentence of up to two years in prison!

With the recent addition of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court of the United States has the conservative lean it needs to overturn or severely weaken Roe v. Wade. Without the federal protection of Roe, state prosecutors in Michigan could enforce this archaic statute immediately, criminalizing doctors who provide abortions as they seek to care for pregnant people in Michigan. We are one of 9 states that has a dangerous, outdated abortion law on the books, and anti-abortion zealots across the country have already started to use these laws to punish pregnant people seeking abortion care. Michigan’s old law could now put doctors at risk. This action would go against the majority of Michigan residents who support abortion rights and believe abortion should remain legal.  

We know that criminalizing abortion does not stop abortions from happening, it only forces people to carry unintended pregnancies or end their pregnancies on their own, even if it’s illegal. This law has the potential to deprive Michiganders of the abortion care they need. It is time we tell the Michigan legislature to reflect the will of the people BECAUSE ABORTION IS HEALTH CARE.

Stand with Reclaim because WE BELIEVE IN ABORTION WITHOUT PUNISHMENT!

For more information, check out www.abortionwithoutpunishment.org


We Are the Rainbow...

Borrowed from our friends at In This Together Project. 

I’ve had a love affair with Northland Family Planning since summer of 2016. The first time I had a taste of how NFP was different from other abortion care spaces, was the first day that I escorted with them. I have been involved in reproductive justice since 1998, after my own abortion experience. When I walked away from that experience it was without shame, regret, or apology.  This was a service that I NEEDED at 19 years old, after surviving sexual assault. My experience was unique. I did not encounter protestors. I was not stopped during my entrance to the clinic.  There were no barriers for me.  I had a supportive mother and the funds available.  I was definitely in a place of privilege despite the trauma of how I’d gotten pregnant. My abortion experience informed my activism. It reiterated the necessity of abortion care as part of reproductive healthcare for me and all who needed it. I read everything I could about abortion. I read about Planned Parenthood, and Roe v. Wade, and obsessively watched If These Walls Could Talk, all the while never having any doubt about how much we need to protect abortion care providers. 

The first time I would see ACTUAL protestors and clinic escorts would be some years later, in Aurora, Illinois, at the Planned Parenthood location in the Chicago suburbs. They were loud, they were mean, they were terrorists. The way they shamed the patients of this clinic for seeking any type of services, from birth control to abortion care was something I was not prepared for. Those entering the building were being informed of their immorality, of their “sins against Christ”, and of their failures as women. I remember leaving that clinic after my first shift that day and sobbing for the patients seeking services. They were being abused and traumatized for what I believe to be a normal part of reproductive healthcare. This should have been a space of peace, support, and safety to assist the patients walking through a day that no one ENJOYS being part of. This experience SUPER CHARGED my activism, and my desire to create a safe space for ALL PEOPLE involved in the abortion care experience, from patient to provider, and everyone in between.

Today, I am a WE. Myself and the rest of the crew of In This Together Project work directly with the Northland Family Planning clinics to ensure our patients have EVERYTHING they need to walk through this process. The In This Together Project clinic escorts are a group of volunteers who are dedicated and committed to working alongside Northland Family Planning in creating a space that is supportive, affirming and safe for EVERY patient that walks through our doors. When you see us in our rainbow vest’s, with our hands confidently motioning you into our parking lots through any protest action that may be present, please know that you are entering a bubble. This is a bubble we’ve created with NFP that is comprised of compassion, non-judgement, and emotional support. We are there to make sure YOU are taken care of, to make sure that YOU know, we support YOU in whatever decisions are best for YOU. 

What we do not support are acts that shame, humiliate, dehumanize, or terrorize anyone seeking reproductive healthcare and abortion services. We are there to ensure access to the clinic in a harassment and trauma free environment. It is with our sincere sadness and regret we are not able to remove protest actions from the sidewalks of our property, and we are often unsupported legally due to the current conservative administration in D.C., and local political lawmakers that remain ambivalent to choice aligned options, or subscribe to conservative values not in line with abortion care services. However, that being said, the clinic escorts found at NFP, place patient experience and the availability of ALL options of ALL people in need, in front of what we find to be abusive and reprehensible behavior found in the anti-choice movement. We may not be able to shut them down, but we ARE able empower our patients and those that support them in a variety of ways.    

Protested spaces can be incredibly confusing, especially at abortion care facilities. Between the voice amplification, the signs, the manipulation tactics, and disturbing language entering the clinic spaces on days protestors are present, it is easy to misunderstand who is a friend and who is a foe. Protestors prey on people in difficult circumstances. They operate under many of the tactics in which cults recruit new members. They are seen on the sidewalks of abortion care facilities, often times utilizing voice amplification devices, and making attempts to hand out religious based, anti-abortion “tracks” to patients entering the clinic space. We CANNOT stress enough PATIENTS, DO NOT TAKE THESE HANDOUTS. They contain NOTHING that is medically accurate. These tracks are designed to emotionally intimidate people seeking abortion care. The Northland Family Planning facilities offer comprehensive resources regarding an unplanned pregnancy. The escorts with In This Together Project and the staff at NFP will be able to supply you with all the resources and information you need no matter if your journey is abortion, adoption, or parenthood, in a medically accurate context, and a supportive environment COMPLETELY free from bias, emotional manipulation, and coercion. The protestors are there to create chaos and to confuse people. Just remember IF THEY ARE OFF OUR PROPERTY, THAT IS A PROTESTOR. Keep your windows up, don’t engage, and look for the rainbow vests of In This Together Project escorts. You are NOT out here alone. 

We have spent many a day, in the presence of magical women who have allowed us to be part of their journey. We have held hands, and wiped tears and given out hugs after guiding patients inside. We have been thanked and appreciated for being kind or simply “there” during moments that can be painfully private, isolating, confusing, and exhausting. In a space where so many are judged so harshly, we have been the calm. In these moments, when patients are expressing gratitude or appreciation, in tears, and just relieved to have the support they need to manage their day, it is us that are truly grateful. We are grateful that you allowed us to be of service to you. In every possible way, “it takes a village” and we will always be part of this little NFP village.

If you are reading this prior to your appointment date, and if you have any questions about what to expect during your time at NFP, please do not hesitate to contact us at InThisTogetherProject@gmail.com. Appointments are 4-6-hour days and we understand how frustrating and upsetting unwanted engagement can be during this time. We are here to help you navigate this.

In respect, love, service and solidarity,

Lucy Fyre and the ITTP Crew

For more information on getting involved and volunteering with ITTP find us at InThisTogetherProject.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram @ITTProject.

 

Erasing History... Your Comments Are Needed!

I remember the day one of my close friends (a woman of color) said, “History is written by the ‘winners’.”  She spoke this as I was learning about the boarding schools Native Americans were sent to in the late 19th century to mid 20th century in order to make them assimilate to the new Euro-American culture. Children were taken from their parents and communities, stripped of their identities, required to speak a foreign language, and many more atrocities occurred that attempted to dismantle Native culture in America. This was not the history of Native Americans I remember learning in school. I was never the one to question a textbook in high school, but as I entered college, I was disgusted by the real history my primary school education had glossed over. White history is required in grades K-12. History surrounding the rights of minorities (civil, racial, women, LGBTQ) are electives in higher education.

These historical disparities could potentially veer further from the truth in Michigan schools in the near future. New proposed social studies standards would remove references to gay rights, Roe v. Wade, and climate change. Also, they would essentially erase any material surrounding the KKK and NAACP. They would also like to remove the word “democratic” from Core Democratic Values because they claim it is bipartisan… America is (supposed to be) a DEMOCRACY! This must be the twilight zone.

Is anyone else flashing back to when Trump took office and the White House website removed pages regarding similar topics? If we do not teach our children the true history of America, and allow discussion of these important topics, the worst of history will surely repeat itself.  We cannot stand for this white-washing and conservative revision of American History.

Public feedback hearings are being held (See this article for dates & locations). If you cannot make it to the hearings, be sure to leave your comments online here! The vote will take place on June 20, 2018, so get your comments in ASAP!

#ActForWomen Lobby Day Delegation

By Jordan Wyer, MSW

On May 10, 2018 abortion providers, doctors, activists, faith leaders, and advocates from across the country met in Washington DC to take to the Hill and lobby for the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA; S.510/H.R. 1322). The Act for Women campaign takes aim at Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws and overturning the unnecessary restrictions placed on abortion care.  This federal legislation would prohibit states from imposing restrictions on abortion that apply to NO OTHER MEDICAL CARE, interfere with patient’s personal decision making, and block access to safe, legal abortion care.

Before the lobby day began, delegations from each state attended a training to learn about the bill and the individual needs of their state. A reception following the training gave us all a chance to meet, greet, and eat! Attendees of this reception included WHPA’s first champions, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) who originally introduced the legislation in 2013. We heard from the President and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, who is familiar with fighting TRAP laws across the country, including the landmark Supreme Court Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellersteadt case decided in 2016. The Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Jessica Gonzales-Rojas, discussed the unique and challenging circumstances faced by the Latinx community seeking reproductive health services. Each presenter expressed the dire need for federal legislation to combat restrictive state legislation and to protect the bodily autonomy of pregnant people. We were motivated by each speaker and ready to head to the Hill the next day.

The next morning, a breakfast meeting was held to pump up delegates for a day on the Hill. Key speakers Lourdes Rivera, the Senior Vice President of US Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Dr. Willie Parker, an OB/GYN and man of faith, and Beatrice Kahn, the President of the National Council of Jewish Women Board of Directors, outlined realities to share with each staffer and representative.  The Michigan Delegation was composed of providers, doctors, and student advocates. We met with the offices of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI).

We had a pretty simple docket compared to other anti-choice areas of the country. We started by visiting the offices of Sen. Stabenow, Rep. Lawrence, and Rep Kildee to thank them for their continued support of WHPA. Each staffer we spoke with was proud of their boss’ stance on protecting abortion rights. Everyone asked us how they could get more involved on the ground in their home state, and we look forward to continuing to work with our State Reps and Senators.

Our challenge for lobby day was to get Rep. Dingell, the ONLY Michigan Democrat to not sign on to this legislation, on board. The Representative is noted as a champion for women’s rights, leaving us to wonder why she has yet to sign on to this legislation. In the spirit of keeping WHPA in the foreground, we are asking everyone we know (especially if they’re in Michigan’s 12th District: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Van Buren, Taylor, or Dearborn) to contact Rep. Dingell’s office and urge her to sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act because access to abortion should not depend on your zip code!

Her office can be reached at (202) 225-4071. Ask Rep. Dingell to sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act today! All our representatives can be reached at this number! Call and thank them for their continued support!

Here are some photos of the Michigan Delegation. We can’t wait to return in 2 years and lobby for important and timely legislation!

 The Michigan Delegation outside Sen. Stabbenow's office! #ActForWomen

The Michigan Delegation outside Sen. Stabbenow's office! #ActForWomen

 Michigan takes on the Hill!

Michigan takes on the Hill!

 Sometimes you have to go with gravity! Exhausted but still smiling!

Sometimes you have to go with gravity! Exhausted but still smiling!

 Rep. Dan Kildee's office welcomed two Flint natives! 

Rep. Dan Kildee's office welcomed two Flint natives! 

Abortion Workers are People, Too.

Jordan Wyer, MSW

I worked as a door-to-door salesperson for 4 grueling days in the summer of 2015. One of the most important tricks of this profession are icebreakers. If I could make a connection and start a conversation, I could make a sale. I was instructed to inquire about topics that EVERYONE was open to talk about. I cannot remember the clever acronym they used to remember these topics, but the weather, pets, kids, hobbies, and professions were a few. We could use them to seem relatable and build connections with strangers. How often have we engaged in small talk with someone and heard the phrase, “Oh, what do you do?” After quitting that job, I longed for the next time a solicitor knocked on my door because they would be caught off guard. For an abortion provider, there is always this pause after the profession question. That’s a loaded question. It can quickly turn innocent small talk into a gauntlet of imposing morals on another person.  

When I started working for an abortion provider as a purple-haired, 22-year-old Patient Advocate, I told everyone I worked in abortion care. There was no shame in this game.  I was proud of the work I did to help women and I had no problem helping others confront their feelings on abortion. My confessions were met with smiles, gasps, high fives, dirty looks, praise, and misquoted bible references. In the first few years, I lost touch with close friends and family members who held strong opinions about the reproductive lives of women they would never meet. It was while I was grieving the deterioration of these relationships that I began (slightly) altering my behavior. I was still an avid supporter of the bodily autonomy of pregnant people, I could not see myself working anywhere but abortion care, and I still rocked my purple hair. I was, however, more cautious with who I shared my profession with because I was tired of fighting. I was burned out.

I am a person who values my relationships with my friends, my family and my community. I am patient with those who support others in their life choices, and I no longer wanted to waste my energy with people who do not trust or value my experience in this work. This past week, I was discussing the unglamorous trials, tribulations, and excitement about a coworker’s pregnancy with someone I consider a key member of my chosen family. He is pro-choice. He has supported the choices of women he has loved and understands the reality of abortion. Even with all his experience and understanding of abortion, he said, “I don't know why, but it’s weird that someone who works in a clinic would have a baby.”

“What’s so weird about it? Abortion workers are people, too,” I responded.

This concept seemed so simple to me. Abortions workers, just like anyone else, have dreams, plans, and aspirations for their futures.  Abortion workers are contributing members of society. We go to work. We LOVE our pets (a lot). Some of us spend too much time on social media. We have mortgage payments and road rage. We get married. Some of us WANT to have children and start families. We have tattoos. We are educated. Some of us are pregnant. We work hard. We can be pregnant AND support ALL the choices patients make before coming to our clinics. We sing and dance. Some of us are sports fans. We binge watch shows on Netflix. Some of us travel. Others enjoy the privacy of our own homes. None of us drink enough water. We laugh when we’re happy and cry when we are sad. We are attempting to live our best lives, and we are people, just like you.

It is important that I humanize abortion workers because there is a well-funded and ever-present effort by anti-abortion advocates and supporters to dehumanize us. These efforts have leaked into the fabric of our society, even with pro-choice advocates and abortion patients, clouding the humanity of those who provide abortions. We face real and growing threats of harassment and violence due to the nature of our work. Providers are harassed daily at work by protesters standing outside, at home by the postcards and letters mailed to their personal addresses, and online by cyber bullies who only speak up from behind a keyboard. Clinics have been bombed and doctors have been murdered. All of this committed by individuals who consider themselves, “pro-life.”

I will not stand for this hypocrisy anymore. I will continue to demystify abortion. Abortion is a human right and I will stand up for humankind because abortion workers are people, too.

A Tale of Two Cities

By Jordan Wyer, MSW

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…  and I’m not just referring to the famous opening line of the Charles Dickens novel with the same title as this post. This February, anti-abortion zealots calling themselves “Red Rose Rescuers” had their day(s) in court after orchestrating clinic invasions across the country including Sterling Heights and West Bloomfield, Michigan. In both cases, the defendants were charged with trespassing in the private waiting rooms of two separate women’s health facilities. The verdicts from these cases would set a precedent for anti-abortion violence in the future and I had the opportunity to observe each trial.

Both cases requested a trial, chose jury members, called witnesses to testify, and delivered guilty verdicts to each defendant. However, the evidence presented to the jury was vastly different. Sterling Heights was a circus. West Bloomfield was justice. When the Sterling Heights Court sentenced the invaders to two years non-reporting probation, celebrations of the success of our justice system were overshadowed by the circus the defense created during the trial. In West Bloomfield, the defendants were placed on trial for the crimes they had committed. They were not given the same opportunity to diverge from the facts.

The Worst of Times in the Age of Foolishness

As the opening statements made by the Prosecutor in Sterling Heights indicated, this case was straightforward. None of the defendants would deny entering the center, nor would they deny refusing to leave when asked by staff and police officers.  Though the evidence showed they were obviously guilty of the crimes they committed, the defendants were permitted to preach their objections to the healthcare provided by the clinic from the witness stand. The courtroom was filled with anti-abortion supporters applauding their testimonies. It seemed that abortion, not their actions, was on trial. They made false claims about the safety of abortion. They spread lies about our offices, the care we provide, and the pregnant people we serve. Less than two hours after they were sentenced, the defendants returned to the scene of their crime. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

Abortion is the safest and most common outpatient procedure performed in the country and has been legal for almost 50 years! There are laws in Michigan that prevent family members, partners, and providers from coercing women into abortions and my clinic screens for this type of coercion. We support the dignity of our patients and want to insure they are making the best choice for them. Our facility is licensed with the state of Michigan and has jumped through every hoop placed before us to make sure our doors stay open. We are not national organizers that participated in a national effort to infiltrate clinics and break the law. We are a small, law-abiding business that contributes to our community. We are PROUD to be abortion providers and provide life saving care to our patients.

And though the defendants were provided a soapbox to run our name through the mud, we were shamed into silence and not given an opportunity to defend ourselves because this case was not about abortion.

The Best of Times in the Age of Wisdom

The differences of the trial in West Bloomfield were night and day. The defendants were charged with trespassing & interfering with the police. All evidence presented and testimonies heard were relevant to these charges. The defendants were not be given the opportunity to preach their beliefs. Abortion was rarely mentioned. In the closing statements, the defense attempted to compare the actions of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi to the passive resistance displayed by clinic invaders.  They compared a woman’s right to medical privacy to the holocaust. And the Prosecutor did not stand for it. He drove home the real point: The rights of providers and their patients were violated that day. Per the United States Constitution, women have the right to abortion and an individual’s beliefs cannot infringe on this right. There was no circus or soapbox, only facts in the case, and the jury made their decision based on those facts as our justice system intended.

As providers, we know this is only the beginning and we will celebrate this win! Even though anti-choice activists are exploring new and old methods of disruption and violence, the courts are upholding the laws put in place to protect providers. This case set a precedent. An individual cannot enter a business, be asked to leave, and remain without being arrested even if that business provides abortions. Pro-choice cases have a great record of setting precedents and changing laws; however, trials can be long fights and our abortion providers do not always have the resources and time to follow the path our justice system creates. The next battle may be right around the corner. Support your local providers as they continue to fight on the frontlines and support our right to choose.

Reclaim Commits to a new #vision4abortion!

During this historic week of #roe45, the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion in the US, we have exciting news: more than 140 organizations and leaders committed to a new vision for abortion -- including Reclaim!

It started last year when reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations convened 28 creative leaders committed to creating culture change around abortion. These leaders became the Culture Change Strategy Group (CCSG). They are advocates, researchers, media makers, artists, health professionals, pastors, communicators, policy experts, activists and more. The group produced a vision for changing the culture around abortion. And as of now, more than 140 (and counting!) organizations and leaders have signed on to this vision.

The vision is audacious, because they asked an audacious, unbridled question:

What if our wildest dreams about abortion culture became reality? What are those dreams?

Here is what the group came up with, and what we and many other organizations decided to align around:

We Are Working For A Future Where:

  1. Abortion is understood as a basic human right, an essential part of healthcare, and a normal part of life.

  2. Everyone can access safe and affordable abortion regardless of age, class, race, gender identity, ability, geography, immigration status, and insurance status.

  3. Providers and people who have abortions are supported and respected and do not fear or experience judgment, stigma, discrimination, violence, or criminalization.

  4. All people can talk openly about abortion with sensitivity to the complexity and nuances of individual experiences.

  5. Every person is able to make personal decisions about abortion based upon their own beliefs and values.

  6. Media supports the dignity and diversity of individual reproductive decisions and decision makers. Media truthfully and authentically represents abortion and refrains from sensationalizing the experience.

If this vision resonates with you, join us on social media with #vision4abortion

You can find, follow, and share posts this week on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Together, we are starting 2018 with a clear vision for culture shift.

And together, we are showing the world what is possible.

My Internship with Abortion Providers

When I started my internship at Northland Family Planning, I was not familiar with the many components of abortion care, and I had little understanding of what providers faced on a day-to-day basis. During my first week interning, I was entering through the clinic doors while a protestor shouted, “Don’t do this, mom. Come talk to us, we can help you! Don’t kill your baby!” This action was shocking. I can only imagine what this harassment must feel like for those seeking our services. Protestors operate under the assumption that pregnant people frivolously make the decision to have an abortion; however, from my internship I know the opposite to be true. Pregnant people need abortions for a variety of reasons and none of these reasons make the decision simple. Within the first month of my internship, Northland Family Planning’s Sterling Heights office was invaded by an anti-choice group. The brazen action of these five individuals and their disregard for city ordinances and law enforcement was stunning. This incident (and threats of more to come in the future) further solidified my awareness of the need for increased activism and awareness of these issues within pro-choice communities.

It is often assumed that since the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal and easily accessible for all. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Anti-choice groups have spent the past 40 years slowly chipping away at the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Today, many pregnant people must travel across state lines to access abortion care. This is expensive and can require childcare, hotel fees and travel expensive. Waiting periods create another obstacle, like the 24-hour waiting period in Michigan, because it can elongate that process and make it even more difficult for women to seek and afford abortion care. My experience at Northland Family Planning brought to the forefront the truth that most people are not aware of these difficulties faced by individuals seeking abortion care. The ever-present shame and stigma surrounding abortion prevents most individuals from sharing their story and coming forward; therefore, most people do not know the hoops women are required to jump through until they or someone they love seeks an abortion.

My internship taught me there is a need for active participation in the pro-choice fight. Our legislators are continuously targeting the right to safe, legal, and accessible abortions and we must stay involved to combat these attacks. If access to abortion is important to you, now is the time to speak up! Call you Representatives and tell them to stop these attacks on reproductive health care. We need to be aware of the legislation and actions of anti-choice groups in order to combat restrictive legislation that is constantly up for vote. 

Reclaim will keep you up-to-date on this fight! If you would like to be added to Reclaim’s email list and be informed of events and activism opportunities click here! If you are interested in donating your time to become a clinic escort, click here!

Reclaiming Our Time with Reclaim

The Detroit Women's Convention: The Future is Female.

Jordan Wyer, MSW

The Women’s March

Around this time last year, I was devastated to learn the results of the election, and as an employee of an abortion provider, I could not fathom the road to hell the results of this election would pave. The next day, I attended my social work lessons and cried with my classmates as we discussed what it would be like to advocate for the oppressed under the next administration. It felt as though the early mornings I spent registering voters, the coffee consumed to keep on the campaign trail, and the outreach I had done for the previous 3 months had been a waste. Like many of us, I woke up on November 9 feeling empty and alone; however, social media presented a glimmer of hope when they announced someone (or groups of some ones) were organizing a Women’s March on Washington DC for January 21, the day after inauguration.

Initially, my colleagues and I planned on attending the March in DC; however, life got in the way and our last minute planning made it impossible. As I succumbed to my depressive state, I decided not to attend any local marches. On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I went to my favorite bagel place in Ferndale, Michigan to drown my sorrows in cream cheese and carbs where I met a woman and her partner in line. We discussed the resistance and they were on their way to the March at Wayne State University. Something about this encounter motivated me to attend the march so I went home, grabbed my dog and a friend, and headed to Detroit. Over 400 people had gathered for our own local march, and this was the first time in over 2 months that I felt the unity and power of the progressive movement. We were chanting as we marched and gathered for a dance party in the Wayne State commons. It was beautiful.  

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The Convention

Gathering with other folks resistant to the Trump administration fueled my activist fire. However, like many others, I did not know what the next steps entailed and did not know how to engage everyone I met in a cohesive movement. I had never attended a national convention and could not imagine an event that could coordinate the dreams and actions of so many diverse individuals. All of this changed after attending the Detroit Women’s Convention October 27-29. A few weeks before the convention, I was blessed to meet with a member of the local host committee who was in search of representation from local organizations. Reclaim, my supervisor, and I received a scholarship to attend the conference and join their list of Social Justice City organizations.

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Though I outlined every session I wanted to attend each day, I lost track of time at the Reclaim table as I was engrossed in introducing local residents to our work, networking with other local organizations about future collaborations, and asking out-of-state attendees to fill out a postcard to their Senators about the 20-week abortion ban and calling their local Crisis Pregnancy Centers to assist in the #ExposeFakeClinics action. During this convention, I was able to share the stories of domestic terrorism experienced by independent abortion providers, foster support for future events, and gain over 160 new Reclaim followers. 

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I did not pull myself away from the table until the fourth breakout session where I attended The Role of Cities in Protecting Reproductive Freedom. This session outlined the importance of locals demanding comprehensive sex education and reproductive access in their communities. Panelists from the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH), & Northland Family Planning (NFP) began the conversation with a background on their respective organizations as well as the success and struggles they have faced protecting reproductive freedoms at the local level. NIRH developed a Local Reproductive Freedom Index star rating, ranking cities across the United States on their current capacity to meet the reproductive needs of their communities. MOASH created a sexual health board of youth members to give voice to the needs of adolescents when it comes to reproductive health. NFP discussed the effects of protestors on local law enforcement ability to protect clinics. Though the information presented by the panelists was invaluable, the audience discussion that followed was remarkable. Women from all over the country applauded the successes of the NIRH study and sought guidance on how to replicate it in their hometowns. The group brainstormed ideas and made connections with fellow activists in their communities. The final question explored how to move forward and the answer was clear: 1) more women need to run for local office to increase their representation and 2) more effort must be placed on eliminating the shame and stigma surrounding abortion!

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The Lesson

It is impossible to pick the best session of the convention; however, I would be doing all readers a disservice if I did not discuss the Sojourner Truth Lunch with keynote speaker, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Thousands attended this luncheon, held in the main hall of the convention. A panel of local Detroit activists discussed the importance of intersectionality in their activism. Emily’s List President, Stephanie Schriok, brought tears to my eyes as she first asked every woman currently holding a position in office to rise followed by every woman planning on running for office in the next election. The room erupted with applause as we focused on the 2018 elections.  Congresswoman Waters brought down the house as she asked us to get involved in changing our democracy while leading a chant, “Impeach 45!”

 "We are waging our own war against rape and sexual assault!" -- Congresswoman Maxine Waters 

"We are waging our own war against rape and sexual assault!" -- Congresswoman Maxine Waters 

 

The most emotional and moving part of this luncheon was when a young girl performed Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” poem. While she started strong, the emotion of the moment caught up with her and she forgot the next line. While awaiting the saving grace of the script, the entire room stood, applauded and cheered for her. She finished with the same enthusiasm she began with and the room erupted. This was the defining moment of the Women’s Convention for me. It did not matter that she forgot the words. It did not matter that she panicked as she tried to remember. It did not matter what race, religion, or cause she represented. All that mattered was the support she received from the crowd as she regained her footing and crossed the finish line.  As we move forward, we must remember to stand up for one another. We will not be successful if we keep ourselves in silos and if we do not show up! This movement will fizzle without all of us. Raise and center the voices of people of color! Elect progressive women! The future is female, and we are a force.

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The Hypocrisy of the "Pro-Life" Movement

The anti-choice movements love to emphasize their “pro-life” ideals but are they really for life?

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An article from Cosmopolitan this week, focuses on the silence of the anti-choice movement on the fetal deaths caused by the lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. She states that the average number of births per woman is down significantly in comparison to other Michigan cities. This is most likely due to the spike in miscarriages and fetal deaths in relation to contaminated water.

            So, this begs the question, where are the “pro-life” advocates in Flint? If so called “pro-lifers” really want to preserve the sanctity of life, why haven’t they directed their efforts toward Flint politicians?

            An article from Huffington Post points out that most anti-choice groups also want to cut government funding to programs that can help mothers and their children, such as, WIC and food stamps. Their interest lies in “protection” of the fetus until it is born while newborns and their mothers are met with a complete lack of compassion from “pro-life” groups. They have little to no interest in helping impoverished children and would prefer to utilize their time outside of clinics shaming women. They show no interest in increasing minimum wage to increase quality of life for young working mothers and their children, who still cannot afford life’s necessities.

According to a study done by the Guttmacher Institute, banning abortion does not cut abortion rate, but instead promotes unsafe abortions, putting women’s lives in danger. How can someone be “pro-life” and not allow women access to this procedure? If abortion is not accessible, pregnant people will go to extreme measures to end their pregnancies.

            Healthcare is another glaring issue with the anti-choice movement. In an article by Vice, they discuss how the “pro-life” movement’s vendetta with Planned Parenthood demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of the innerworkings of the organization and all the other services it provides for both men and women. Vice put it best when they said if anti-choice people actually cared about people who can get pregnant and their healthcare they would, “join hands with us to expand access to healthcare so women could get the birth control they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the healthcare we need to carry healthy pregnancies to term.”          

Another key issue is activism for gun control, or lack thereof within the anti-choice community. An article from Upworthy, talks about the coverage Trevor Noah did on “pro-lifers” who hold relaxed views on gun control. He asks the question “if pro-lifers are so concerned about the preservation of all lives, then why don’t they support common-sense gun control measures?” This article was focused around the time of the Republican primary and the mass shooting that happened in Oregon. Noah compared statements from the Republican primary candidates. On the shooting, Jeb Bush said “Look, stuff happens. There is always a crisis” and on abortion he said, “I’m completely pro-life, and I believe that we should have a culture of life.” This is blatant hypocrisy of choosing what parts of life he wants to support.

            Which leads into the hypocrisy of support for the death penalty. In an article for CNN, they quote Mike Christian, a pro-life Oklahoma state representative speaking about the death penalty saying “I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to lions.” These extreme views in favor of the death penalty do not align with the rhetoric of the “pro-life” movement. Another instance of hypocrisy.  

            Next time someone says they are “pro-life” take a moment to consider how standing outside of clinics shaming women saves lives.

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