Last month, Hailey Broughton-Jones (RHAP’s Program and Communications Associate) and I attended the New Leadership Networking Initiative (NLNI), a project of Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) that works to connect “new vision, voices, and leadership for the reproductive justice movement.” We spent the day in Amherst, MA, connecting with activists across the country to talk about what the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements look like in our homes, how to listen to the voices that our movements often discourage, and how non-reproductive justice organizations can move closer to investing in reproductive justice and applying a reproductive justice framework to all aspects of their work. Reproductive justice is a theory and a practice created by black women in 1994 to address the reproductive oppression overlooked by white women leaders in the reproductive rights movement. Reproductive justice is defined by SisterSong as the human right to “maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
“What is your big dream for the movement?” is what all the participants were asked when we arrived for our daylong NLNI session with leaders in the reproductive justice movement. “If reproductive justice was actualized, what would it look like?” We heard from our fellow attendees what their big dreams are as the group went around the room, introducing ourselves – you can learn a lot from someone when they share their big dream. It’s not always connected to their current job title or the organization they work for, but all of us have a dream that we want to be realized. Some of the thoughts that came up repeatedly included: unity, solidarity, inclusion, partnership, adequate wages, valuing the people in the movement, compassion, financial independence, and accountability.
NLNI also reminded us that we have work to do. During lunch, we broke out into small groups to discuss other issues in more detail. How do we make space for the youth voices in our movement? How do we work to decriminalize sex work and recognize that sex workers’ movements should not be isolated from other reproductive rights, health, and justice movements, but should be integral to our organizing efforts?
As a reproductive health organization, the Reproductive Health Access Project seeks to learn from the reproductive justice movement, so that we can hold ourselves accountable to our values and strive towards our mission of making reproductive health care accessible to everyone.
I am so inspired by the work that everyone I met at NLNI is doing: the activists from Georgia, fighting nonstop against the abortion ban that their governor signed into law earlier this week, who got on a plane directly from a demonstration; the faith-based organizers who are connecting within their communities to work towards the world they believe in. I feel re-invigorated to continue driving toward a more just world. What am I doing each day to get to my dream? As you go about your work, paid or unpaid, in the reproductive justice movement or alongside it, think of your dream and how you are fighting for it. I invite you to join us in dreaming.
–Kallie McLoughlin, Operations Associate