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How Young People Can Best Fight For Reproductive Justice

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Visit http://allaboveall.org/ for more info.

Post-Women’s March, I’ve noticed that many of my friends feel like they’re fumbling around for activist motivation. They’re trying to find a way to keep the momentum going, but are failing to find ways to feel like they’re helping to push for change. I felt the same way, and chose to respond by making it my goal to reach out to at least one elected official each day. It has felt like a tangible way to resist broader political actions that I essentially have no say in or control over.

One of the major issues I have contacted my representatives about is abortion care, since reproductive rights are currently under attack. In fact, HR7 — one of the most destructive pieces of abortion legislation that ensures no federal funding will go towards abortion care, even in life-saving circumstances — was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

Luckily, there are plenty of individuals and organizations still fighting for reproductive justice. All* Above All is one such organization: Not only are they fighting against the Hyde Amendment, but they’re doing so from an intersectional feminist standpoint. I was lucky enough to chat with one of the directors of the organization, Destiny Lopez, about the impact of this legislation and the work All* Above All is doing more generally.

Reilly Wieland: Let’s start with your organization’s name. Is there a reason why you write All* Above All with the asterisk?

Destiny Lopez: It’s actually really significant why we do that — it’s purposeful. We believe that every woman — regardless of where she lives, or how much money she makes, or how she’s insured — should have access to abortion care. Really, to the full range of reproductive care, but in this case specifically to abortion care. So the asterisk is meant to indicate that: that it’s all of us. It also helps us as we roll out campaigns in different states or in different communities. We are trying to really say, for example, “I’m from North Carolina, so all of North Carolinians, right? All trans folks, all Latinas.” It isn’t about a certain woman. We are committed to all women — regardless of where she comes from or how much money she earns — being able to access abortion care.

RW:  Completely, yes. I also know that All* Above All was based on the idea that abortion restrictions affect women of color in the same way as — and usually a multitude of additional ways compared to — white women, especially cis white women. In fact, your organization has a board that is composed almost entirely of women of color. What do you think the impact of that is?

DL: Well, we know that abortion coverage bans like the Hyde Amendment, and really all restrictions around abortion, disproportionately impact low-income women, and that low-income women are just disproportionately younger and women of color. So we’ve really made a commitment to center women of color and young women in particular as part of the leadership of this organization, but also to really center their voices and their policy concerns in terms of work that we do.

I shouldn’t speak as a young person because I’m not a young person, but I am a woman of color. We know that our communities bear the brunt of the impact when it comes to anti-woman policies, anti-reproductive rights policies, anti-abortion policies. So we really want to acknowledge that and insure that those communities are at the center of this fight.

RW: That’s so great to hear. So we know that there are so many different hurdles that women have to jump over to receive abortion services in many states, but if you could name one specific place that is really an abortion “desert,” so to speak, where would you say that was?

DL: I would say Mississippi. There is one abortion provider in Mississippi, so if you are a woman who lives in Mississippi you have virtually no options.

But moreover, 87% of counties in this country don’t have an abortion provider. What that practically means is that [to get an abortion], women are traveling far distances, they are having to miss work, to find child care. Sometimes the procedures are later in the pregnancy and take two days, so that means they have to find a hotel, they have to find someone to take care of their kid now not just at the time of the procedure but overnight, they have to miss work for one or two days. [Abortion access] isn’t just about getting to a provider but also includes all of these other factors that women have to consider when making this decision for their family.

RW: I live in Texas and have worked for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and it baffles me how limited access is here. I can now wrap my head around statistics like that in Texas, but I’ve never heard that 87% of all counties don’t have an abortion provider. That’s insane. I can’t even wrap my head around that.

DL: Yeah it’s pretty intense.

RW: Do you have a message or directive for all of the people who just marched on Washington and all over the country about how they can best support abortion care and access to that care?

DL: If you’re younger and can’t vote yet, I think that you can still influence your family. I think you have to become educated about what rights are at risk and then educate the members of your family who can vote and ensure that they’re voting for candidates who support these values, who support reproductive rights.

Whether you can vote or not, you can also go with a family member or a friend to visit your representative in Congress. Definitely you should be emailing them, but what’s even better is calling their office when when there’s a bad policy, like HR7, that’s coming up for a vote and telling them where you stand. Even better than that is when you’re off from school, go to their district office and meet with their staff or meet with them and tell them how you feel. They need to see and hear from us. It’s no longer sufficient just to do that via email or social media (although those are important, too). Getting in front of members of Congress is going to be the most powerful way we can deliver our message.

If you’re of voting age, you should make sure you are registered to vote. You should show up when there’s a presidential election, but also in other elections. Members of Congress are ultimately the ones who make the majority of our laws, and we need to make sure we’re voting in members of Congress who support our values and support our issues.

RW:  I think that makes a lot of sense right now just because so many young women are not only fearful of the future, but also don’t really understand what’s next. They’ve marched, they’re speaking out on social media, but I think a lot are confused about what the next step is.

DL: An easy way to find out about what going on is to join our email list at allaboveall.org. Also join the list of your local abortion fund or your local ACLU. Find the organizations that work on the issues you care about and add yourself to their email lists so that you know when the next important vote is coming up or when the next time you can influence a policy maker is actually happening. That is a really good way to stay engaged and to stay involved and to find out “what do I do next?”

RW: Completely. I’m a high school senior and when I was deciding where I was applying to colleges I pretty much strictly applied to colleges in swing states. I’m going to school in Ohio and have thought about how college students could have the power to turn swing states blue in the future. I’ve emailed representatives in Ohio and am ready to move there and get started.

DL: I can appreciate that since I grew up in Michigan. But I think to your point — we can no longer live in our own bubbles. We really have to be talking to folks outside of our bubble and educate them about these issues.

RW: I saw that during the election. Most everybody that I followed was in this bubble where everybody they knew hated Donald Trump, everybody believed in the right to choose. It was all these people who believe in exactly the same things as I do. And yet, especially, living in Texas, I have always had a whole lot of family members who have very different beliefs than me — I just brushed them off. It’s been interesting to see all these young people in my life, including myself, recognize this problem and try to change it by talking to their family members about issues on which they disagree.

DL: I think it can be really powerful. I also think young people are more attuned to what’s happening on a day-to-day basis because of social media and can really be a powerful influence on older family members and friends who may not have that same access to information.

RW: So you told us what we can do to support this movement going forward, but what can we specifically do to support All* Above All?

DL: You can go to allaboveall.org to sign up for our email list. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, so you can get updates from us on any of those platforms.

Right now, HR7 was passed by the House, and the Senate introduced a companion bill, so everyone needs to keep an eye on what’s happening with those bills and weigh in with their senators. It’s easy to go to the website senate.gov to find out who your Senator is, if you don’t know. Frankly, you don’t even have to wait until it comes to a vote: you can call your senator tomorrow and say, “I don’t support this bill. I believe every woman, regardless of how much money she makes, should be able to access abortion care.” That’s a really tangible thing that someone could do tonight, tomorrow night, this weekend. Continue to let your Senators know what you stand for.