Em-URGE-ing Voices

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It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over… And It’s Nowhere Near Over

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November 6, 2014

Like something straight out of a cliché, Wednesday dawned gray and overcast and it stayed that way for the entire day. The midterm elections were not especially kind to the reproductive justice movement this round, though North Dakota and Colorado showed what they were made of, with voters in both states rejecting anti-abortion personhood measures, giving the rest of us something to cheer for in the midst of a bloodbath of a night. The decisions made by much of the nation this November will ensure a minefield for those who support reproductive rights and work hard to ensure their preservation. My Facebook news feed was understandably depressed.

But my Facebook news feed was also duly enraged. The same reproductive justice activists nursing the hardest liquor in the face of at least two years of especially explosive battles against anti-choice legislation on local and national levels were the same activists whose immediate reaction was to prepare for the oncoming onslaught. Plan meetings for grassroots organizing, revise strategies to build a strong activist base, connect with activists in neighboring states who were facing similar challenges to reproductive freedom  – this all happened in the witching hour and even before the polls could close.  I believe that one of the most beautiful aspects of the reproductive justice movement is the persistence of its activists.

It takes a special kind of courage to lobby Congress every year to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which has been renewed every year since its inception, or to continue protesting extreme anti-choice measures even after they have been made legal. The sheer nerve that reproductive justice activists to carry on the fight despite every slash of education funding, enacting of anti-immigration policies, denial of Medicaid expansion and adoption of the Affordable Care Act, voter identification laws that disproportionately affect people of color, and gender-based employment discrimination, all of which affects the affordability, accessibility, and quality of reproductive health care, is the movement’s greatest strength.

It’s important for those of part of the reproductive justice movement realize that it’s a movement. It keeps going: the threats to reproductive freedom are never-ending. How those threats are made and by whom, and how those threats may manifest (as yet more funding for abstinence-only programs, for instance, or undermining health insurance coverage for birth control, might change, but the struggle itself is ongoing. Reproductive justice activists are stubbornly optimistic above all. We have to be, to believe in a cause so strongly that we dedicate to it an overwhelming amount of our time, energy, money, and psychological health in an environment where our work oftentimes seems futile.

And I think that it’s okay to take some time to nurse our wounds, feel sorry for ourselves, and indulge in more than a little self-care. Activism is incredibly hard work and often thankless. Nonetheless, the good thing about movements is that they keep going. A setback never has to be permanent. We can choose to look upon this this year’s midterm elections as a kind of gift: we now know exactly what we’re working with and we now know just what needs to be done to preserve and expand reproductive freedom. That rage we felt on Tuesday evening? It will shore us up, help drive us forward.

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