Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Baden

KB headshot smallSchool, Grad year, major

The College of New Jersey, 2001, Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies

How were you involved with URGE?

In 1999, I heard about the Gloria Steinem Leadership Institute and knew I had to apply. I was accepted and I remember it vividly – the trainings, the people I met, the way I felt. My participation in GSLI was a huge part in me seeking out an opportunity to join the URGE board in 2014.

What do you do now and how do you bring a reproductive justice frame to the work you do?

I work as the Director of State Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where I oversee an amazing team of people as we track, analyze and fight against state abortion restrictions and create new tools and resources to advance access to abortion care through law, policy, and advocacy. We work through partnerships and collaborations with organizations throughout the US working in their state capitals, and I am overjoyed by the work I am able to do in conjunction with reproductive justice groups on the ground. While our work is concerned primarily with the law – putting the “rights” in “reproductive rights” – we strive to work intersectionally. One of my favorite recent projects is our Moving in a New Direction proactive state policy compendium, which compiled dozens of proactive reproductive health, rights, and justice state policies, and was shared with hundreds of state advocates and state legislators. The case studies and policies highlighted in the compendium showcase the many reproductive justice achievements in our field.

What skills or knowledge did you learn from URGE that you use in your current work/life?

My current role as the URGE Board Secretary keeps me grounded in this work. I love meeting URGE students and hearing about their innovative and impressive accomplishments to advance reproductive justice on their campuses, in their states, and for our nation. Policy change can be slow, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Seeing the energy and commitment of young people leading this work give me hope and motivation.

What are your top priorities in politics and/or reproductive justice?

My current focus is on how to translate the amazing culture change happening with the rise in abortion storytelling into political or policy wins. How can we translate the very real steps that are being taken online and in person in busting abortion stigma to a reduction in the avalanche of state abortion restrictions? How can we also make sure that the stories being heard are representative of our communities and our needs, and not just the most sympathetic or most politically palatable? How can we connect these stories to other reproductive justice and social justice crises?

Who inspires you? 

So many people! Our movement is deep and wide and filled with inspiring people. Recently, I have to say that Stephanie Toti – my coworker who recently argued the most crucial Supreme Court abortion case in a generation – inspires me. But so does every single person who stood outside the Supreme Court on March 2 and rallied; not just the amazing speakers (including URGE representatives!) but also the students and the activists who slept on overnight buses from Cleveland and Boston and Atlanta to be there. Anytime I am feeling overwhelmed or overworked I just think of that day and I find new motivation to do my best work possible to make a more just society.