Disclaimer: I am not a blogger or deeply entrenched in the reproductive rights movement. But, I’m your typical blue-state Obama-voting young, professional female. The kind of person who should be marching on Washington right now and maybe turning over a mailbox to protest the insane rollback on abortion rights (and access to reproductive health care) happening in Kansas, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and other states.
I should be calling congress, writing e-mails, organizing friends to travel to Austin or Raleigh, and raising money. I should be doing whatever it takes to raise awareness. I should help put pressure on reasonable leaders from both sides to stop the cynical and disingenuous right-wing politicians channeling the last gasp of the Republican Party into passing anti-abortion measures and satisfying their shrinking base. If you look at the crowd in Austin from earlier in the week, thousands of people are doing these things.
But I’m not and I don’t personally know anyone who is. I have the anger. Whenever I hear Rick Perry or, in the words of Tina Fey, any “grey-faced man with a two-dollar haircut” talking about “protecting women” it makes me physically re-coil. I have the financial means to do more and I know there are things I can do that don’t require money.
What I’ve done so far: donated $50 to Planned Parenthood, shared three Planned Parenthood posts, and changed my cover photo to Wendy Davis.
So, just in case that doesn’t solve it, why am I and millions of similarly minded people like me not doing more? When I see the number of friends on Facebook with HRC profile pictures, it makes me happy but also makes me sad; why aren’t there as many friends with “I Stand With Wendy” profile pictures? The public is more mixed on abortion than on gay marriage perhaps, but I know support is strong among my peers. Why do so many young women (and men, and people of any age) not know which laws are being passed in which states? Why is this story not above the fold of the New York Times website right now (there was one line below the fold this week about Texas…under “more news”)? Only one or two of my friends mentioned it on Facebook.
Do I not get it? Is it being talked about and I’m just not plugged in enough? Here are some possible reasons for why myself and others like me aren’t doing more:
1. We aren’t getting enough information (or we aren’t making the effort to).
If you are a casual internet article reader like most people, you are more likely to hear about Wendy Davis’ rising star (and her coral sneakers!) than the details of the bill she is trying to prevent from being passed. I was going to list out the laws here and link to a bunch of sources, but then I realized that Google exists and I’m not an expert anyway. Jezebel has a handy map and a link to analysis from the Guttmacher Institute about these “TRAP” restrictions. In a nutshell, you can’t outlaw abortion but you can deceive, intimidate, inconvenience, and restrict it to the point where it might as well be.
Salon also has a good list of the 10 states with the most restrictive new laws (not including Wisconsin, where forced ultrasounds and a potpourri of TRAP restrictions were signed into law by lady-protector Scott Walker on Friday.)
2. It’s too hard to accept it, so we ignore it.
Usually I suffer from this. It seems like such an uphill battle against such strong forces that it’s better to ignore than to be depressed and disheartened.
3. We assume it’s too horrible to actually happen.
Someone will stop it. Obama? Oprah? This isn’t true, by the way. It’s happening.
4. More people are unsure about abortion rights than you think.
Maybe my peers aren’t as passionately pro-choice as I am. Keep in mind though, these laws won’t really reduce abortion to zero, but will drive more women to get unsafe abortions and will restrict access to clinics that provide other important health services like birth control that could reduce unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. Also, the collateral damage caused by reduced access to other health services like cancer screening could cause lives to be lost, and aren’t the hero men of the GOP just simply trying to save lives if we’d only shut up and get out of their way? Oh wait, it’s not really about that, is it.
5. Access to abortion and health services impacted by these laws is not as much an issue for today’s middle-class and upper-class white woman?
In my grandmother’s generation, when a nice girl from a good family got pregnant, she had to get an abortion or else face shame and ostracization. Most middle-class and upper-class girls now have access to birth control. Or, they have their baby and maybe only risk a dirty look from their elderly neighbor and not the scorn of the whole community. Maybe we don’t see ourselves in this fight anymore?
6. Organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL aren’t doing the right things to channel the latent army of angry abortion rights supporters.
I went to the Planned Parenthood Action site, clicked “get involved,” selected my county, and was asked to sign a letter in support of a California health bill, but was then told I couldn’t take action on this bill. I want to make calls! I want to cause a ruckus! But I’m not brave enough to do it on my own! Just tell me where to go and which SPF level my sunscreen should be.
7. Women who support abortion rights are afraid to be perceived as a feminist – because feminists are scary and hairy and don’t got no man.
But look at Wendy Davis! And, who cares anyway. You can be more than one thing – a feminist and a tomboy, a feminist and a dress wearer and blowout haver. Any male worth his salt wouldn’t be turned off by a woman who fights for their own rights and the rights of others.
8. We are tired and it was July 4th and we just want to drink beer and not think about Rick Perry showing up to our next pap smear with a copy of the New Testament?
As for me, I’m going to keep donating, keep posting, and I am going to find a way to volunteer and get involved directly. I know the opportunities exist, even if they aren’t falling in my lap. If every somewhat motivated but genuinely fed-up person did the same, we might beat the right-wingers and remain solidly in the 21st century.