Thank you, and thank you National NOW for allowing me to speak this evening. My name is Allison Stouffer, and I am the Vice President of the Washington, DC NOW Chapter. While preparing for this event I asked myself several times, “So what does this pro-choice movement mean to you?” What propels you to volunteer countless hours to this cause? I’d have to say firstly it’s my belief in access to all reproductive choices - whatever they may be. I believe in that world.
So, it’s legislation like Roe v. Wade that I am eternally thankful for - thankful for clinics like the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia that provided myself and countless other women with care and access to reproductive resources. It’s clinics like these, hundreds across our nation, that offer refuge and a broad range of reproductive resources that require our fervent protection.
It’s my belief that every woman should have access to a variety of reproductive resources, whichever she may need, despite her income, religion, or race. I see the expediency of this issue. I’m tired of abortion, birth control and sex education being dirty words. We no longer can afford for this movement to based solely on the questions of, “are you pro-choice? or pro-life?”
Therefore, I fiercely believe in a movement toward reproductive justice - calling for a movement from simply being able to seek abortion care, to all people having comprehensive access to education and knowledge on a full range of reproductive options including contraception, birth plans, medical care before, during, and after pregnancy, adoption, and education, food, and housing for the children that women do have.
With that being said, tonight, I ask you, “What does this movement mean to you? How can you better serve this movement?”
As a woman, the issue of choice is extremely personal to me and often evokes countless thoughts and feelings: from outrage and frustration over pernicious legislative attempts to reduce our reproductive choices, to empathy for those enduring the desperation and torment of the inaccessibility to abortion care. It goes without being said that as I stand here, I see a variety of faces staring up at me from different backgrounds and families. We know this is not just an issue that concerns people like me but an issue that affects families of all sizes, men, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Christians, atheists… the list goes on.
It’s painfully evident how the Pro-Life movement portrays our fight for reproductive resources. Their attacks are insular, shallow, offensive… their movement resorts to intimidation and at times terrorism. You don’t need me to remind you, but I will. We saw that after politicians were elected under the guise of resolving the debt, legislators were fixated and determined to erode away women’s access to healthcare.
So, let’s set aside their inflammatory diatribes, that we have come to associate with the Anti-Choice movements, for just a moment. Let us memorialize this day of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, not only as a piece of legislation but law which sprouted an awareness and conversation about women’s health, safety, work, and family - an issue that is affected by numerous intersections. What does the reproductive justice movement mean to you?
To me, the movement means:
- having the economic choice to make the best decision for my livelihood and future
- it means freedom and access to birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies while, most importantly, keeping abortion care safe and legal
- it means having the assurance that I can make health decisions without the threat of violence or even death
- it means supporting family planning measures relentlessly that do not discriminate on religion or sexual orientation, or risking judgment on when a person is ready to be a parent
- it means fiercely proclaiming that the personal is political - that we cannot take this legislation for granted, and that we will not.
- it means that we must continue to hold our elected officials accountable for the policies that they endorse and the misogynistic statements that they make.
- and most importantly, it means having control over my reproductive life which is central to my autonomy.
I’m sure you all have other reasons as to why you are unwavering in your support for Pro-Choice and reproductive justice legislation and policies, but my hope is that one point is painstakingly clear - having the right to reproductive choice is critical to our survival…a right that we must defend with urgency.
Some argue that the our movement has lost intensity and may be ephemeral to the generations to come, yet I have seen something different. Elections clearly matter, and it cannot be denied that the pro-life movement met stark resistance due to their barrage of insidious claims of “illegitimate rape” and “what God intended.” And it was us who held them accountable for their words - young and old alike in the pro-choice movement.
I want to leave you with a quote by one of my favorite writers and activists, Adrienne Rich. “If you are trying to transform a brutalized society into one where people can live in dignity and hope, you begin with the empowering of the most powerless.”
How will you better serve this movement? The fact that you are here this evening speaks volumes and the resources are at your fingertips. The 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade set us on a marathon to both defend reproductive justice in all its forms and ensure that all women - those powerless and privileged - have equal access and full autonomy of their bodies.
The struggle continues everyone - let’s not give up. Thank you.