What’s Next for Reproductive Rights Activism?
A few days shy of the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a panel discussion that focused on ideas concerning the future of women’s health rights. Panelists highlighted the huge strides made by reproductive rights activists, but also recalled the major setbacks the movement for reproductive freedoms have faced in the last four decades.
“The erosion of Roe started almost immediately,” Jessica Arons, director of Women’s Health and Rights Program at CAP said. “Almost since the inception of Roe we’ve actually been fighting to obtain the promise of Roe for all women, and that’s something we’re going to need to continue to do.”
Experts proposed strategies for the continued fight for comprehensive reproductive rights, building around an integrated approach of traditional and modern ways of organizing. Collecting personal stories, amplifying movement voices, expanding the conversation to include men as well as women, and utilizing social media to engage younger generations were some of the strategies suggested.
Several of the panel members nodded to the changing conversation surrounding reproductive rights and were excited by the prospect of mobilizing more people. Heather Holdridge, Director of Digital Strategy at Planned Parenthood, noted the importance of moving beyond binary labels, referencing the commonly-used terms, "pro-choice" and "pro-life." Instead, she, along with the other panelists, hoped to widen the conversation, using terms such as “reproductive justice.”
The speakers emphasized that decisions about reproductive rights affect all aspects of a woman’s life, including economic prospects and other life choices.
Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, asserted, “It’s a question about whether women will continue to be full persons, full members of the United States Constitution.” The panel members agreed that women’s reproductive rights encompass more than abortions: they include issues of justice, dignity and equality.
Despite setbacks over the past 40 years, the panelists remained optimistic about the future of women’s health rights. Kimberly Inez McGuire, Senior Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, spoke of the 40th anniversary as an “opportunity … to ask ourselves tough questions.”
When asked about what changes might occur over the next 40 years, panelists responded with hopes of new legal decisions that build on the promise of Roe and a desire to see new generations of healthier and happier individuals. Yet, Paltrow, acknowledging the time required for significant change, cautioned, “Fights for justice are marathons: they are not sprints.”
Christine Dickason is a Communications Intern with Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @cdickason11.