Blog post from IonaPearl Reid-Eaton, RRASC Intern at the Reproductive Health Access Project.
On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, before I had heard of the term “Reproductive Justice,” before I understood that “choice” is not an applicable concept if access is unavailable, I watched a livestream of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibuster for more than 10 hours to prevent a vote on House Bill 2.
I had graduated from high school just two weeks earlier, and I was ready to get out of the south. I grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and I was ready to be anywhere but there. In the fall, I would start at Hampshire College where I would meet and study under such veterans of the abortion rights movement as Marlene Gerber Fried, begin working for the Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) program, and discover the Reproductive Justice movement.
But watching Senator Davis that June, I had no idea that this work would become my life. I had volunteered with Planned Parenthood and had done general reproductive rights activism, but I never let it become personal. Even in Durham, a fairly liberal town (for North Carolina) “abortion” felt like a dirty word – something to be whispered, something to be very ashamed of – and I hid my “pro-choice” buttons among the many anti-war and Beatles buttons that adorned my backpack. No one had told me their abortion story, and I had not yet held the hand of a stranger as they underwent an abortion procedure. But as Senator Davis stood on the senate floor and relayed the stories of people who had had to fight for their right to abortion access, something clicked.
Even as I began doing Reproductive Justice work, I could have never have imagined that I would hear oral arguments in a Supreme Court case, or that three years and two days later, I would be standing right there, screaming, dancing, and boasting a pro-choice sign as the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was released.
These amazing experiences, afforded me through my work with CLPP and RHAP, have transformed my life and my being. Sometimes this work feels hopeless, no matter where I am. Yes, the majority of laws obstructing access to reproductive health care exist in the south – North Carolina has a 72-hour waiting period for obtaining an abortion – but impediments to access exist everywhere; the closest clinic to my swanky liberal arts school in liberal Massachusetts is a two-hour bus ride away, which is unfeasible for many students who have classes and jobs. But being among other POC, Queer, disabled, low income folks singing “We are the Champions,” last Monday at SCOTUS, I was reminded – this work isn’t just about abortion, and it isn’t just about women. This work is about all of us – and it’s work worth fighting for.