Amid Pandemic, Young People Call for Sweeping Reform

COVID-19 exposes systemic faults and young people issue a bold legislative agenda

March 27, 2020

Rachel Waters


(Washington, DC) — As COVID-19 exposes the failures of US institutions to meet the needs of working people, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, a reproductive justice organization led by young people in the South, Midwest, and California, is calling on elected officials, media, and thought leaders to stop belittling and blaming young people and to refocus the conversation squarely where it belongs: bolstering our health care, economic, and social infrastructure to meet basic living standards. 

Today, URGE is releasing the Young People’s Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda (the Policy Agenda), a new blueprint of what young people envision for their futures. Developed in conversation with young people across the country, the Policy Agenda calls on local, state, and federal policymakers to address the urgent needs of young people and marginalized communities and includes recommendations to ensure they aren’t left behind once the pandemic passes its peak.

“It’s time to stop blaming and shaming young people and focus accountability where it belongs: on failed institutions and policymakers who refuse to meet the needs of our communities,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, URGE’s Executive Director. “Young people across the country are being impacted by this virus even as we work to support ourselves and care for family members. We don’t want to watch our grandparents die because there weren’t enough ventilators, nor do we want them to sacrifice themselves for an economy that doesn’t serve us as it is. We don’t want to fear indefinite unemployment, wonder if we can access essential health care like abortion, or be forced to give birth alone. In this time of crisis, our elected officials need to provide immediate relief to those most impacted, and lay the foundation for better systems that serve all of us. As a nation, we’re only as healthy as those of us with the least money, power, and privilege. We are now paying the deadly cost of government’s failure to aknowledge the humanity of hourly and low-wage workers, sex workers, young people of color, women, LGBTQIA+ folks, and people with disabilities. If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to choose between their health, their ability to pay the rent, and the well-being of our broader community. Now is the time to push for policies that enable us to survive this pandemic and thrive once it ends.”

The Policy Agenda highlights the long-standing flaws in America’s healthcare, economic, and social systems and uses a reproductive justice framework to lay out a holistic vision for how they can be reformed. Within the agenda are several core demands, including economic justice, health care for all — including comprehensive reproductive care — freedom from detention and criminalization, and enhanced protections for civil liberties. 

According to URGE’s partners and allies, the Policy Agenda has been a long time coming. 

“These unprecedented times demand unprecedented activist leadership.” said Ayanna Pressley, U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’ 7th congressional district. “Across the country and around the globe, young people are at the forefront of movements for social justice and equity. The Young People’s Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda is a critical addition to our ongoing collective work for reproductive justice, gender justice, and economic justice. I applaud URGE for centering youth voices in the policy making process and working to create a just and equitable world now and for future generations.” 

“Trump and his anti-choice administration are continuously trying to strip away our reproductive rights and the ability for young people to get complete knowledge about their sexual health,” said Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district. “I commend URGE for standing up for the millions of young people who deserve the right to decide what happens to their bodies. This report is critical in our continued fight to give young people complete knowledge to make informed decisions. We must continue to do all we can to ensure everyone has the full picture when it comes to reproductive care and reproductive health.”

“Now more than ever, we need to see our young people as the community leaders they are,” said Jennifer Driver, Vice President of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. “SIECUS stands ready to co-conspire with URGE in uplifting youth across this country who are unapologetically pushing us toward a more just society. They are successfully fighting to ensure access to shame-free abortion, comprehensive sex education, immigration and economic justice, and the security of our democracy. This Young People’s Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda is different. These youth leaders have boldly acknowledged the many systems that continue to fail queer people, the Black community, and immigrants among others. They have also laid out a robust policy strategy to address these failures head on. We are proud to support these young people as they work to make the changes we so desperately need in this country.” 

“In a political landscape filled with uncertainty, the Young People’s Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda offers exactly the kind of strategic and visionary thinking needed to meet the moment,” said Eesha Pandit and Veronica Bayetti Flores, co-founders of The Center for Advancing Innovative Policy (CAIP). “We believe that everyone knows their needs and can organize to tell our governments how to meet them. In developing this agenda alongside URGE’s network of brilliant, thoughtful, and well-informed young leaders, we saw first-hand their clarity of purpose. The Policy Agenda is a visionary document, and we are honored to have played a part in developing it.”

“The Young People’s Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda is different from other agendas because it focuses on the rights of young people and our ability to make decisions about our own lives” said Leslie Lopez (she/her) an URGE member from Texas. “Instead of calling for temporary solutions to abortion restrictions, the Policy Agenda demands medication abortion access on college campuses as well as an end to all abortion bans. An additional call for lowering the voting age and for a national holiday on election day would help minimize the barriers to voting for young people whose lives are at stake with every election. Lastly, this calls for a dismantling of the police state which is incredibly important as it would mean the decriminalization of sex work, self-managed abortion, and migration. The Policy Agenda is doing what others haven’t by placing young people at the forefront of vital decisions and actively working to create a just and liberated world for all of us.”




About URGE:

URGE envisions a liberated world where we can live with justice, love freely, express our gender and sexuality, and define and create families of our choosing. To achieve our vision of liberation, URGE builds power and sustains a young people’s movement for reproductive justice by centering the leadership of young people of color who are women, queer, trans, nonbinary, and people of low-income. As a state-driven national organization, URGE organizes our communities, provides a political home for young people, advocates for meaningful policy change, and shifts culture, working in states where the challenges and opportunities are greatest.