Em-URGE-ing Voices

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The Reproductive Justice Movement is for Everyone. But it’s Still Not Accessible to Everyone.

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December 4, 2023

As I’ve been applying to jobs and law school post-graduation, I’ve come face-to-face with the barriers that exist for many marginalized young people to get politically involved. I am a first-generation American and college graduate from a conservative immigrant family in the South, forcing me to navigate the world of political, reproductive justice work on my own. Oftentimes, I feel as if I’m walking around blindfolded trying to navigate a world that wasn’t meant for me. If you can relate, or especially if you can’t, these words are for you.

I couldn’t get politically or socially involved in the reproductive justice movement until I found a paid way to do so. Furthermore, learning about reproductive justice (RJ) in the heart of a conservative and predominantly white community was a challenge of its own. I personally wouldn’t have learned about RJ in the first place if it weren’t for my college education, which I had to work full-time to fund. Given these circumstances, along with my background as a first generation American, I didn’t know anyone who worked in progressive political spaces or who was involved in social justice work until college, when I met professors in the Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies (GWSS) department. I’m so grateful for the GWSS professor that recommended Collective Power, an RJ organization that hosts both remote and in-person internships, but I can’t help but wonder if I would be working in the RJ movement if I didn’t go to college.

As the child of two immigrant parents who never had the resources or time to attend college, I know that not having access to higher education is still a reality for many. It is my hope that more social justice jobs and other paid opportunities will prioritize the lived and work experiences over college education. Truly, what connects us all to the RJ movement is far beyond what we learn in the classroom. What connects others and myself to RJ are the histories of our communities, and these things matter just as much as any expensive degree.

Another barrier that continues to frustrate me are the geographical barriers to RJ work. As workplaces continue to demand in-office work, I grow more desperate for recognition that many of us simply cannot afford to move to the epicenter of most movements in places like New York City or Washington, D.C. Here, in my little corner of Georgia outside the Atlanta metropolitan area, my job prospects, especially within the reproductive justice movement, are slim. Yet, in these rural, Southern (or Midwestern— I see y’all) corners of the U.S., we need RJ the most. We need people who are affected on a daily basis by restrictive abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ+ laws to speak and act on behalf of our own communities. This includes the disability community, a community that has been incredibly impacted by reproductive injustice across history. Demanding in-person work can be exclusionary for people with disabilities, who might be faced with challenging commutes, inaccessible office spaces, or inflexible working hours in-office (to name a few). To the organizations that claim to care about centering the most marginalized, yet demand in-person work, I must ask: How truly inclusive can a movement be when the people whose voices we need the most are tied down by the very barriers we seek to abolish?

While yes, there are ways to contribute to the reproductive justice movement that are minimally time-consuming and non-degree required, we have to be careful so as not to encourage burnout or unpaid labor among the people whose voices we need the most. While I have had the time to table or flier or protest between the two jobs I’ve had to work for the past four years, I, like anyone else, deserve rest. Rest that is not just physical, but mental, too. Rest that involves disconnecting from the very realities that impact my communities— the Latino/a/e community, the low-income community, the Southern community— in ways that feel impossible to disconnect from. What I needed to know, and what I hope anyone in a similar position can know, is that we are not bad activists for needing rest. We are also not bad activists for not moving heaven and earth to get to a volunteer or advocacy event in the nearest city many hours away. We deserve fair compensation for our labor and plentiful rest. We are simply people enmeshed in a system that demands most of us live in survival mode.

I plan on making RJ my career moving forward, but for now, I am doing what I can. What I refuse to do, however, is feel bad for the ways that I have not been able to show up for the RJ movement this year as I’ve been frantically trying to make ends meet while applying to law school. Whatever your situation— whether you are a teen living in a home like mine where RJ work wouldn’t be accepted, or whether you’re a caretaker, college student, worker, or you live in a rural community, — your voice matters. Your lived experience matters. I hope you can find ways to get involved in the RJ movement that fit your lifestyle, but always remember, your wellbeing comes first.

Advice on how to get involved in RJ from a low-income, first-generation American & college graduate from the South:

  1. Give yourself grace for not being the “perfect” activist. Educating yourself— through books you can borrow from the library, or resources from reputable organizations you can read online.  This is an incredible and radical first step. It’s okay if you are tired, live far away, or if you’re working during a volunteer event. Spreading yourself thin doesn’t help yourself, nor the movement. 
  1. Figure out what you’re able to give right now, if at all. I started off by reviewing a few abortion clinics a month for accuracy via ineedana.com. It takes me 10-30 minutes every few weeks and I’m able to ensure that people seeking abortions have access to up-to-date, accurate information amid a swarm of abortion clinic disinformation. I also found a few Georgia-based RJ organizations that hold monthly member meetings remotely where they share information and easy steps (like signing petitions or contacting representatives) that feel doable for me. If you’re in GA, consider tuning into SisterSong, AmplifyGA or SPARK’s newsletters for reminders about monthly member meetings. I can’t always make it, but I try to when I can!
  1. Seek out organizations that recognize the barriers to entry for people like us. Remote work or non-degree required work are essential to truly creating an inclusive movement. I recommend browsing ReproJobs for potential roles— they have filters for remote work, non-degree required work, and require salary transparency.