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Let’s Move On, People.

April 26, 2010

There has been so much written about the recent Newsweek article that revealed exclusive NARAL polling data about young people’s passion or lack of passion and involvement or lack of involvement on pro-choice issues, including Newsweek’s and Nancy Keenan’s responses to the blogosphere.

I didn’t think I would contribute to the ongoing conversation, since I already agree passionately with much of what’s been said.  While I know I haven’t had the time to read everything that’s out there, Trista’s post here last week did inspire me to respond.  [Note: if you’re following all these links, don’t miss the comments – good stuff in there.]

I’d been planning to write about my involvement with a Suffolk County Teen Pregnancy Task Force, or with my involvement with the Think Tank for African American Progress – Long Island (TTAP-LI) and the totally awesome convening they held this past weekend.  Both groups are concerned with younger women – young women without a lot of privilege, not young professionals like myself and Trista.  The Teen Pregnancy Task Force is, obviously, concerned with teens; TTAP-LI asked the question “What is the future for Black girls?” and has gotten a leadership program started for Black girls on Long Island as young as 11. 

Both groups are also highly concerned with race and ethnicity and disparities in health care, education, and economic opportunities.  Sexual health and rights are intimately related to these areas.  These connections may be obvious to some, but are new to others – so use your imagination.  Think of yourself as a young woman or girl (say, between 12 and 15) who’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from a war-torn country.  Think of yourself as a young woman or girl who’s grown up in an isolated Black community where there’s no public transportation after 6pm, no grocery stores, and where your peers routinely drop out of high school because they don’t see the point of graduating.  Now, think about suddenly learning you or your best friend may be pregnant or have a sexually transmitted infection.  You’re in a community where the only health care is a county clinic you’re scared to go to because everyone will know you’re there.  What do you do?  Forget about making the personal, moral decision to have an abortion or have a baby, to have unprotected sex or safer sex or to postpone sex.  Think about what it takes to get to the clinic where people can help you make any decision you think is best and access contraception, or treatment, or prenatal care, or abortion care.

This is all about reproductive justice.  It’s not just is abortion legal, or what are the legal restrictions and regulations on this vital and common medical practice.  It’s a question of who can access what and how easily or not.  It’s a question of what will your mom, dad, partner, pastor, grandparent, friend, cousin, neighbor, think.  It’s a question of how do you get the $500 or more needed to pay for a safe and legal surgical procedure that it’s in danger of not being covered by insurance, if you have insurance that you want to use – oh wait, now your parents will definitely know even though here in NY you have the right to access abortion (and other sexual health care) without their knowledge, if you choose. 

I’m not trying to reinforce stereotypes here.  I’m trying to suggest that we in the established movement need to think outside of ourselves – young or old, ignored or not, we are knowledgeable about these things – and get down to the real work of making a just society for all.  It’s about sex, it’s about politics, it’s about power.  It’s also about health care in general, economics, the environment, xenophobia, racism, ableism, and all of the other things that make up the culture we are soaked in.  It’s time to think outside of ourselves and get down to work.

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