Don’t Just Talk the (Pro-Choice) Talk

24 Jul

One common critique, factual or not, of the current pro-choice movement is that it is comprised of young people who would rather talk amongst themselves online than take to the streets to protest all of the ills perpetrated against reproductive rights of late. Abortion Gang and many other young feminists and activists have rebutted such thinking with well written and well documented pieces before , so I’m not going to rehash any of it, except to reassert that this generation of feminists are not less engaged and less inclined to be activists, we just have different ways of going about things now.

It is my hope that this post will eventually work as a beginning list of ways you and I can get more involved, both online and offline, in the pro-choice movement.

You may be reading and wondering, “I don’t KNOW what I can do personally to be an activist beside join in the chorus of outrage and dissent on twitter and the blogosphere.” Or maybe you’re wondering what you can do but you think, “I just don’t really have TIME to do anything.” And it’s possible that you consider yourself too disengaged, not well educated enough, without support from family, and/or stuck in a situation that makes becoming engaged in pro-choice activism impossible.

Let me be clear, to be an activist, to walk the walk as the title suggests, is a form of privilege. Not every person will be able to do activism in the same way- nor should anyone have to. Each one of us has unique and important experiences that will work to help the movement, even if mainstream feminist messaging or the lack of widespread outreach and information suggests otherwise. I do not mean to imply by writing this post that those without the ability to blog, tweet, and/or take -to-the-streets are any less important, nor am I suggesting that they are any less feminist or pro-choice. I do not want this to be exclusionary because feminism, pro-choice activism, and social justice movements must be inclusive.

With that all being said, let me begin.

In Portland, Oregon where I live, there are a number of organizations that rely solely upon volunteer support and donations of food, clothing, and toiletries to exist. One such organization is called SMYRC and takes in, supports, and helps young sexual minority youth get back on their feet. In Portland, there is an ever increasing amount of homeless LGBTQQ youth that literally have no where to go, and SMYRC is there to help. While you may not be able to spare any time to volunteer or money to donate, when you clean out your closet each winter and spring, don’t donate to the Goodwill, donate to SMYRC or another place like it in your community. I remember distinctly that SMYRC asked my group of volunteers for women’s size 10 shoes and razors as they have a number of women who need clothing and toiletries.

If you have a few extra cans of food in your pantry, drop them off at a resource center like SMYRC, and during the cold winter months, get rid of any extra scarves and hats you may not need and donate them. While these donations seem very small, one coat will keep another person warm, which could mean saving their life. It is really that simple.

And donating clothing, toiletries and other necessities that day-to-day many of us take for granted to places like local women’s shelters and women’s resource centers are essential to keeping places like that going.

You can do a lot of good by just simply calling your local State representative, House of Representatives Congressperson, or your Senator. Emailing and leaving messages art both their local office and capitol office can help convince representatives to think differently, and maybe even vote in favor of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and pro-choice legislation. For many, including myself, cynicism abounds in this area because for so many issues, it seems like our Representatives on the local and national level do not listen to us, even though we are who they represent and should be looking out for. But calling, emailing, and making your voice heard is necessary and very helpful. Not to mention a small and fairly simple task that contributes to the greater good.

If you have a lot of time on your hands and you need to feel the pavement hit the soles of your shoes as you march, you need to feel your shoulders ache with the weight of a hand-crafted pro-choice sign, and you crave the endorphin high that hits as you bump shoulder to shoulder in collective action, get on any major pro-choice organizations email list. Whenever a protest is scheduled, when sign-holders and marchers are necessary, an email will go out and you will probably be one of the first to know. If you join a mailing list for one of the big pro-choice organizations like NARAL or Planned Parenthood, make sure you’re signed up for local emails and events ! You can also Follow the #fem2 , #p2 , and #occupy hash tags on twitter, keep that feed open and you’ll see that protests and group action meetings are organized daily on twitter.

If you live in a place that may not have large scale protests on the regular like Portland , Oregon or New York City, reach out to folks in your community via twitter and have a community action meeting at a local coffee shop or library. Can’t get out of the house or community members want to maintain relative anonymity? Try to start a google group or tinychat conversation . Anyway to reach out , twitter, facebook, email, or in person are great ways to start conversations.

In your office or work place, is there a designated private breastfeeding area? If not, ask HR or a manager to help coordinate the creation of one to accommodate breast feeding moms. In that same train of thought, is the office Trans-friendly? As if bathrooms need to be labeled all-inclusive if they are not already.

Abortion clinics are constantly under attack from anti-choice protesters and demonstrators and many need clinic escorts. Contact your local abortion clinic and check out what the process for volunteering for clinic escorting is, and many clinics appreciate volunteers who can only commit to one day a month. Generally, this volunteer work requires training, so be prepared for that part of the time commitment. But just think what it feels like to have someone shame you relentlessly and hurl insults to you, now imagine how much safer you would feel having someone by your side. That’s the comfort clinic escorts provide patients as they walk past anti-choice demonstrators.

If you’re able to commit to the time and training, abortion doulas are becoming more in demand for additional support and non-judgmental reinforcement. Reach out to abortion clinics in your area and inquire if training resources are available and volunteer opportunities are open for doulas.

For many, information is not accessible and simply starting a conversation about what is lacking for women in the workplace, how insurance reform impacts and helps women, Trans rights, LGBTQQ righrts, and racial- equality issues, can make a big difference. If you see injustice or inequality, speak out! This is overlooked so often, but the impact is incredible. Speaking out is a brave but simple act, and can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Of course, all of these ideas do not run the gamut of things you can do you to expand abortion, women’s, and LGBTQQ rights through activism. If not listed here, what type of service do you do? Please share in the comments


2 Responses to “Don’t Just Talk the (Pro-Choice) Talk”

  1. meadowgirl July 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    i never knew there were abortion funds before last year. that was my privilege. i got my feet “wet” so to speak by doing an online twitter based “fundraiser” for my birthday. the outpouring of support (not just of money!) changed my entire view of what could be accomplished by one person by sheer force of will. it encouraged me to reach further out to local feminists and we sort of became our own activists!

    now i volunteer on the hotline for Lilith Fund after feeling confident enough that i could handle it. it has been extremely rewarding. it’s 1 afternoon a month but i know i am making a specific impact for women who are in need.

    if you had asked me over a year ago- i never thought that an abortion fund is where i’d make my voice known and heard. so thankful i had the chance! i never felt like i was a part of the bigger “movement” until i found my little niche. activism is for everyone in our own ways!!!!

  2. GSW August 3, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    If you’re in England, look up an organisation called Abortion Support Network. They offer funding and accommodation to women coming from the Republic of Ireland to the UK for an abortion, and they’re looking for people with spare rooms in London & Birmingham in particular, to (voluntarily) host Irish women. (They don’t operate in Scotland, as in Scotland abortions are performed by the NHS – which doesn’t treat non-British nationals – whereas in England, abortions are performed by BPAS & Marie Stopes etc, which will take Irish women.)

    In London, I know that when anti-abortion protesters were staking out a clinic, some activists took flowers + cupcakes etc to the clinic staff, on the grounds they were having their days made harder & deserved something nice. They did that for every day that the protest continued. Obviously flowers & cupcakes aren’t free, but that is a thing you can do with relatively little money or need for a complex activist set up – all you really need is a few pals to chip in a few quid each. Plus that’s a nice response because a noisy counter-demo might make women accessing those services feel even more exposed – and happy clinic staff are friendly & reassuring clinic staff! (Not that they’re ever not, but y’know.)

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