It’s been almost a year since Trump’s inauguration, and the state of the resistance is strong. In the last year, we’ve seen activists from all backgrounds galvanized to fight for justice, equality and health care, and we’ve seen a massive movement arising to stop restrictions and coverage bans that push abortion out of reach.
Now, let’s look ahead: How can we help to build a future where politicians no longer use the harmful policies like the Hyde Amendment to punish low-income people who need abortions? How can we move past resistance and toward a future where all of our communities can thrive?
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We can start by changing who is in charge. To build a different future, we must center the leadership of those most harmed by restrictions on reproductive care. One way to do that is to cede power and resources to Black women. It’s worth noting that 96 percent of Black women voted for someone other than Donald Trump and it was Black women who put Senator-elect Doug Jones over the top in Alabama. While much of the country was flummoxed by the election results, Black women weren’t surprised. Living at the intersection of our country’s sexism and white supremacy, Black women know better than most people that these harmful discriminatory belief systems are alive and well.
Black women are already leading in Congress, social justice movements, business and more, and bring expert analysis and lived experience to the problems of our time. Black women showed up at the Women’s March, the March for Black Women, showing yet again that Black womens’ voices and leadership are crucial to winning on progressive issues.
Take for instance, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), the Congresswoman who led the introduction of the EACH Woman Act in two Congresses. The EACH Woman Act is a groundbreaking bill to end the Hyde Amendment and other policies that ban insurance from covering abortion. The EACH Woman Act shows what’s possible when women of color lead.
And while federal legislation continues to play a key role, we cannot forget about state and local politics. While Trump’s parade of awful in Washington, DC, keeps many eyes glued to the nation’s capital, the truth is most of the policies that affect our day-to-day lives are determined at the state and local level. The past year has seen incredibly powerful actions by local groups, even in the most hostile of political climates.
Over the summer, Texas politicians used a legislative special session to attack the rights of women. LGBT people, immigrants and local groups mobilized to fight back. Activists were not able to defeat the proposed abortion coverage ban, but it didn’t happen without a fight. Local groups persuaded supportive legislators to wear roses to the vote that symbolized Rosie Jiménez, who died after the Hyde Amendment denied her health insurance coverage for safe abortion care.
Another highlight from the Texas session is that organizations supporting abortion rights, LGBTQ equality and justice for immigrants worked together to support a broad progressive agenda. At times, it can seem as though there is just too much injustice to fight all at once, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, stay on defense, or stick to what we know. But we must rise to the occasion, and that means building and connecting our movements for social change.
Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do to build a better future is to have a conversation. Abortion stigma is the silence and shame that can make it hard to talk about abortion — but it doesn’t have to be this way. By sharing our stories, letting others know we are supportive and talking openly about the value of abortion care, each of us has the power to change the way the people around us think about abortion.
Whether it’s a conversation in your dorm room, a letter to the editor of your local paper or a holiday greeting card sent to your local clinic, there are so many ways we can show people how to talk about abortion with care and compassion, and without judgement.
Despite what you may see on the news, activism isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, many people across the country are doing more than fighting bad policy; they’re pushing for positive, proactive measures that expand opportunity and advance justice for communities.
Earlier this year, brave advocates in Illinois and Oregon blazed a trail and passed legislation to lift or expand Medicaid coverage for the full range of women’s health care, including abortion. The Reproductive Health Equity Act in Oregon and House Bill 40 in Illinois overcame tremendous odds to protect health and personal decision-making and show other states that people working together for justice can still achieve something that will change lives, no matter who occupies the White House.
Fighting for reproductive freedom has always been a marathon, not a sprint. The Hyde Amendment has been around for 41 years, denying low-income women insurance coverage for abortion. Since 2010, state legislators have passed nearly 400 new restrictions on abortion. These policies can only stick around if people don’t know that they exist — or don’t know how harmful they are. That’s where you come in. Talk to your friends and family about out the need for access to reproductive care, use art to educate your community, or write to your state and federal elected officials, and just keep writing!
We have so much to do — but change is possible.