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The Ripple Effect

April 23, 2010

I am going to state three things that I’m sure are fairly obvious; I am young, I am a woman, and I am pro-choice. I learned yesterday in a training that the average age of a Planned Parenthood supporter is a white woman in her 50’s. This isn’t a bad thing, and it’s not surprising. 

There’s been lots of talk about young women’s involvement in the pro-choice movement lately. They say that we’re not seen, we’re not heard, and in general we just don’t care. I don’t hold water in any of these things, but I do however have my own theory as to why it may appear this way.

Being passionate about the reproductive justice movement is a lot different for women of my generation than the generations before us.  We never once had to think that the option of abortion would never be available to us. Sure Roe has slowly been chipped away at over the last 37 years, but for us it’s always been there.

I can remember my freshman year of college, sitting in the back row of PoliSci 101 trying to decide if this subject matter was in fact my soul mate, when my professor, a young, strong, amazing woman, said something along the lines of, “Roe wasn’t found on strong policy. It’s not safe.”  My head snapped up and I thought, “What’s Roe?!” Before immediately thinking, “Oh right, abortion. This woman has got to be insane.”

Up to that point in my life, I’d never come to terms with the fact that this choice could be taken away from me. Roe seemed so far removed from my life, from my choices, that I never stopped to appreciate all the work that had been done to get us to that point. I had always thought of myself as pro-choice, because I couldn’t fathom the idea of anyone else telling me what to do with my body. It was personal, and it wasn’t something I was willing to advocate for because it wasn’t something I felt was under attack.

 Slowly, as I decided that, yes in fact I was in love with Political Science, my views on the reproductive justice movement began to change. If I didn’t serve as an advocate for women who would? If I couldn’t stand up, be counted, vote, march, hold signs, sign petitions, and protest anti-choice Supreme Court Justice nominations then no one would. This realization was a learning process, and its weight wasn’t lost on me. I saw that it wasn’t only about the right to terminate an unintended pregnancy, but it was about equality. It was about trusting women and giving them autonomy.

I see Roe as a ripple effect, the further away you get from the point of impact the less shock you feel. It’s highly unlikely that women my age have heard the stories of women putting 50 dollars and a prayer into the guy in the ally. We took our friends and ourselves to clean, safe, legal health centers on Saturday mornings without much fanfare, and never thought twice about how lucky we were to have that freedom.

Women my age were raised thinking that we could and did have it all. So are we coming out in droves to protect something we don’t feel is threatened? Of course not. Trust me, it’s not that young women don’t see the protesters, hear the news, or get the controversy. But it’s old. How long have they been out there? How long have they been threatening it’ll all get taken away? For women born in the 80’s they are the protesters that cried wolf.

So, for young women like myself who are deeply in drenched in this fight, and understand it’s depth, stop asking why no one thinks we’re involved, and start proving it. If the women of previous generations refuse to see or hear us, then we need to stand up and speak louder. If they don’t provide us with leadership opportunities, create them. Eventually they’ll hear us, and I promise we’ll get everyone’s attention. Isn’t that what being an advocate is all about?

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