Building a Repro Freedom Movement
No Time for Timidity
Phew! Never has losing by a hair ever felt so good. There is no question that reproductive rights played a major role in voting in the midterms. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation nearly half (47%) of all voters say the Court’s decision had a major impact on which candidates they supported in this election, including almost two-thirds (64%) of those who voted for Democratic House candidates. However, the end of this election cycle (other than in Georgia, of course) is just the beginning. I know you may feel like this woman:
However, we’re closer to the beginning than the end in our struggle. The main reason is because for decades we have been confusing popularity with political power. It doesn’t matter that 70% of people want safe, legal access to abortion if we don’t have the political power to enact the laws to make that possible.
For fifty years, we have been wildly outspent and out organized by the antis. However, we have also been building short-term campaigns rather than a movement. Campaigns end, like these midterms, with a very tangible outcome. Movements are ongoing social and political efforts in search of justice. Here are just a few differences between them:
The good news is that there is a new generation of reproductive justice organizations has emerged over the last several years with the potential to engage supporters as participants -- not just ATM machines. Groups like Obstetricians for Reproductive Justice, In Our Own Voice, Plan C, All Above All, and Choix, that can help create an ongoing movement for reproductive justice and freedom.
My advice to organizations interested in movement building is to is focus on activities like these over the next two years:
Host education events and ask participants to bring a friend. DO NOT use these events as fundraisers.
Organize local meet and greets for supporters to get to know one another. Part of movement building is creating social connections. People are desperate for a sense of belonging and connection right now. Some of that can be done online, but we need to get to know one another in person to increase our commitment to the cause.
For the love of everything that is holy, stop sending out so many damn emails!!! Just because you can raise some money off of your mailings doesn’t make them smart or effective. When your response rates average 3-6%, it means that the vast majority of recipients have tuned you out or turned you off. Ask people how they want to be involved. Ask why your cause matters to them. Ask what makes them feel good about being a participant. Talk to them and stop broadcasting at them.
Now, onto our current work. The Biden Administration wasn’t prepared for Roe being overturned. Once it happened, they quickly saw the political advantage of expressing their concerns, encouraging voting, signing executive orders asking federal departments to draw up lists of ideas that never materialized, and listening earnestly at many, many town halls. But, they didn’t actually do anything new. Overall, they have been remarkably timid and legalistic in the face of the rights being taken away from people. I was told by people inside and outside of the administration to wait until after the election for bolder action. Well, here we are. It will be incredibly easy now that the election is over for the administration to continue this pattern.
This is no time for timidity!
Remember all of those emails and mailers you got from the person running for Congress in your district. All of those promises to be “pro choice”? Well, now is the time for them to pay up. Here are things you can need to tell the White House and your Congress people to do today:
Advocate for the FDA to remove the restrictions on prescribing abortion medication. As a loyal reader, you know I have been advocating for this for a while. And I’ve been told by the DC-based legacy organizations that it isn’t smart to rock the boat (how’s that going for them?) In order for abortion to become a regular part of health care practices, clinicians needs to be able to prescribe abortion medication more easily. In addition, we need the FDA to make it easier, not harder, for people to access abortion medication before they’re pregnant.
Abortion medication is safe and effective. Period. Full stop. Having the pills on hand and not having to worry about how to get them in a hurry is the safest and smartest way to give people the autonomy to manage their own lives. Recently, an anonymous source at the FDA signed their disapproval of this approach. This kind of DC chicanery doesn’t happen by accident. It is a signal by the FDA that they want to stop this. I have an idea – how about packaging abortion medication as condoms and then there won’t be any problem distributing them! Finally, expand the use of abortion medication from 10-12 weeks, which all of the research has shown is perfectly safe.
Count the number of abortions more accurately. The number of abortions in banned states dropped dramatically post-Roe. However, the number of requests to AidAccess, based in the Netherlands, for abortion medication mailed directly to pregnant people in banned states soared. The CDC counts are based on clinic-based procedures or prescriptions. It is missing the growing number of online clinicians prescribing abortion medication. This is a really big deal because it gives the antis a lift on their goal of reducing the number of abortions while ignoring the real story that people who want to terminate their pregnancies will find ways to access abortion medication.
Close the college medical disclosure loopholes. College students’ health records are covered by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA.) This law allows colleges and universities health personnel share personal health information with their administration without the patients consent. They could share information about an abortion with a student’s parents or law enforcement officials. The law needs to reflect the privacy provisions of HIPAA.
For the next two years, the administration should be trying to do EVERYTHING it can to make abortion care accessible, affordable, and private. And if they’re not willing to do this, especially now, I’m not sure why we voted for them. Keep on fighting!
This is a great, and I couldn't agree more about the importance of focusing on a movement rather than a campaign. I've been hosting monthly dinners in the SF Bay Area to help connect people who want to do more together to advance reproductive justice. These monthly pot-lucks are fairly easy to organize, and give a consistent space for connection and relationship building.
And yes - If anyone works in campaign fundraising - PLEASE Stop the insane deluge of emails and texts, they are not effective and have caused me to tune out completely from most of the democratic campaigns.