My one-year anniversary as executive director of Pro-Choice Washington is coming up, and what a year it has been!
My first day was Amy Coney-Barrett’s hearing as a potential Supreme Court judge; a few weeks ago, Texas passed the worst abortion ban in recent history that deputized individual vigilante action; then last week, the Supreme Court scheduled its hearing of Dobbs v. Jackson, the first case to materially challenge Roe v. Wade.
In between, we all grappled with the impact of a global pandemic, which has changed almost everything about how I live, work, and engage with people around me. During all of this, our organization — including our members, partners, and co-activists — still achieved incredible policy shifts and electoral results supporting reproductive freedom in Washington state, and we expanded our activist model into new communities.
So, this has been a year of change; and now another change has come our way.
Today, our organization is undergoing a significant transition. We are moving from being a 45-year-old state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America to being a fully independent organization. While this is a big change for our small organization, it is also a gift that fills me with hope and excitement for our future.
I pay homage to the decades of work that came before us and recognize that our organization still has a lot of work to do to ensure that our core values of inclusion, representation, and anti-racism are centered in our institution.
As a young woman of color, I believe it is not only possible but essential that, even in this urgent moment for abortion rights, we work within the context of our core values and in service of social justice. I am confident that we can both navigate the firestorm caused by the Supreme Court’s actions and build a stronger and more representative movement for the future of abortion access.
Inclusion and Representation
We will ensure everyone has the resources and the opportunity to participate in this movement, and everyone benefits from this movement
Our team recognizes that reproductive rights, health, and freedom are all deeply ingrained throughout our society. It’s also true that the movement for reproductive rights has insufficiently represented historically excluded folks, including genderqueer and non-binary people, trans men and women, BIPOC community members, immigrants, rural communities, and young people, in its priorities and its actions. All these communities, as well as cis-gender men, are impacted by and can impact reproduction. We also know that today’s abortion rights do not equate to abortion access for all people.
The community that has had the most comfortable and secure access to reproductive healthcare — namely white, higher-income, urban, cis-gender women — now faces the hard reality that so many others have faced for decades: the potential loss of abortion access. I recognize, having some of those privileges myself, that we have taken Roe v. Wade for granted and are not prepared that June 2022 is likely the end of that baseline protection.
We have the power to change some of this in Washington state. So, in our new venture, we will define our own language and values. We will ensure that our actions reflect the joy of this work and welcome a broader range of people by being safe and inviting. This movement has relied too heavily on militaristic language, which does not represent the love and the community of reproductive freedom. Most people support abortion access, so we want to make sure that the majority sees themselves in the work that we do.
An example of how our values of inclusion and representation are already taking shape is with our new logo. Our logo imagery represents Washington state, the community we listen to and represent, and the power of speaking up. Reproductive freedom is fundamentally feminist, and every person who believes in equity across genders is a feminist. As such, the imagery, color palate, and fonts are intentionally gender-neutral to represent the fully inclusive movement we hope to become.
We will center and implement anti-racist values and systems into our new structure
Having grown up and found my voice in the third and fourth waves of feminism, I recognize the generations of women of color and allies who laid the foundation of this work. Now that we are in the fifth wave — rising from the realities of social and racial injustice, laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic and the preceding years — it is time to bring our work and our organization in line with the ideals of this wave, including authenticity, accountability, and sustainability. This wave of feminism recognizes that people who can become pregnant, particularly those from historically excluded communities, have power; they are not in need of saving.
I know this moment of reckoning is essential for the future of reproductive rights and access in Washington state and across the country. Our organization has unlearning to do, and this is hard. We are using past lessons as starting points to help us become the anti-racist institution we strive to be. We are committed to creating safe spaces and shared solutions, as we establish our new venture and identify how we can atone for mistakes and solve challenges together going forward.
One step we have taken towards living out our anti-racist value is shaping our organizational decision-making and actions around the principles of Impacted Leadership and Privileged Support, as articulated by the amazing adrienne maree brown. We are working to center the voices of communities who are directly impacted by entrenched barriers to reproductive health through more collaborative coalitions and internal principles of transparency and collective success, with support from people in positions of privilege.
Also, our work is focused on protecting reproductive health access through laws, policies, and elections, and authentically challenging the assumption that policies are sufficient to ensure equitable access to abortion, since we know this is not the case. Finally, we are translating our values into action through our organizational policies: how we show up with and for our partners, where we prioritize our time and resources, and the ways we utilize our platforms.
I look ahead to the next year with an open heart and mind. Even as we face some of the most significant challenges to abortion access in modern history, I am hopeful for the direction this movement is going and the possibilities ahead, as we lay a new foundation and build a positive legacy for this work.
In the words of Rupi Kaur:
Our work should equip
The next generation of women
To outdo us in every field This is the legacy we’ll leave behind