Nobody's Free Until Everybody is Free
My youngest son recently turned 21 years old. (Yay, one more year of tuition!) He was feeling particularly discouraging about all of the dreadful things going on in the world the other day. So I told him about an American hero, Fannie Lou Hamer, who famously said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
Fannie Lou Hamer was born in rural Mississippi in 1917, the last of 20 children in a sharecropping family. She repeatedly tried to register to vote while being denied and was beaten nearly to death for her activism. She got back up every time and continued marching and speaking out. She attended the 1964 Democratic Convention as Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which had been organized to challenge Mississippi's all-white, segregationist delegation to the convention. The white southern delegation threatened to walk out if the Mississippi Freedom Party was seated. Fannie Lou testified on live television about the violence and discrimination blacks faced when trying to register and vote. Lyndon Johnson ordered the television broadcasters to stop airing her testimony literally mid-stream.
No one is free in America today because millions of people have lost the national guarantee of the power to control if and when they have children.
But the barbaric treatment of pregnant people, and the ongoing harassment and death threats against clinicians, isn’t the end of our story, it is the beginning of a new chapter. Our job is to keep getting up, and to keep showing up, just like Fannie Lou.
Onto this week’s update! Below is an outline about the growing online ecosystem for abortion access, the legal chaos ahead, and three things you can do today to help the cause.
The New Ecosystem. The Massachusetts legislature passed a law providing protections to clinicians providing abortion consultations via telehealth to people in other states. This is HUGE news. This means that a person in, say, Mississippi can go online and receive a consultation from a qualified clinician in Boston and then order the pills online through a number of places. The Plan C Guide to Abortion Pill Access lists options for people in every state and territory.
The ability of telehealth providers to serve people in other states is an important part of the evolving ecosystem of abortion services. Women are smart and deserve the right to manage their own healthcare in the same way they manage every part of their lives, online, on demand and made for the 21st century.
Here are key components of the emerging online ecosystem developing supporting access to abortions. The orgs listed below are essential, in my opinion, but not the only ones.
Legal Help: ifwhenhow’s Repro Legal Helpline.
The online networks are interacting with and supporting local abortion funds, reproductive justice advocacy efforts like SisterSong and Yellowhammer Fund building political power in states restricting access, and, of course, in-person clinics (!). And all of us should be supporting them, too.
Legal Chaos. This week, Austin, TX passed the GRACE Act — Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone. Basically, the act says that “the policy preferences of the Council recommend that staff not use city funding, and we can recommend that they place it very low on their list of priorities.” St. Louis and Cleveland are providing travel costs for women who have to travel out of state for abortions.
I am raising this issue to emphasize that we are in a totally chaotic period legally right now. It is actually a really profound moment for our country in terms of national versus states’ rights. Can I mail abortion pills to Mississippi, a banned state, today? No one knows the answer. The State of Mississippi says no, but BioGenPro, one of the two U.S. manufacturers of mifepristone, the abortion medication, with the force of the FDA and national postal service behind it, says yes, and they brought suit against MississippI to force them to allow it. We need to watch how this suit unfolds very closely over the next few months.
Please remember that just because states are passing crazy-ass laws doesn’t mean those laws will stand. They will all be challenged in court.
3 Things to Do This Week:
1. Find a local candidate to support who puts repro rights at the top of their agenda. I don’t care what state or county you’re in, everything begins at home. Find a local candidate who is going to fight like hell for repro rights. It’s NOT enough to check off the “pro-choice” box, we need electeds who prioritize women’s health because without that we can never be free and equal.
2. Get your college-age kids ready to go to school. Share the above ecosystem with them. Make sure they know where and how they can get services. And, if they’re heading to a banned state, go to AidAccess and get the pills first.
3. Send a lawyer, or law student, you know over to ifwhenhow’s Repro Legal Helpline to be trained to provide counseling to callers.
We fight because it’s the right thing to do.
We fight because we can.
We fight because, as Fannie Lou Hamer said, “When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don't speak out ain't nobody going to speak out for you.”