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This is the first of several blogs that I plan on writing, inspired by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference this past weekend at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. There is so much to say about what I did and heard and felt, and I will get more into the specifics in future posts, but I wanted to start with a reflection of the weekend as a whole. This was my first CLPP conference. When I first heard that there was a conference that would bring together reproductive justice activists from across the country to talk about ways to advance the movement, my reaction was, “I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!” People kept telling me that it would be an amazing experience, and they were right.

Being a pro-choice activist for reproductive justice often times means that you are fighting for things that you understand to be so basic and so necessary and so essential to who you are and what you need and/or what your community needs, yet your opponents see these things as radical and dangerous. These things include (though aren’t limited to) choices about abortion, access to birth control, and laws about (and definitions of) rape.

Over the past few months, it’s been difficult to watch the governments of various states declare their shamefully ignorant disrespect of women’s bodies and minds. Each one feels like a personal insult, and I fear that my state (Illinois) could be next. There are several bills are in committee or have already been introduced. People call Illinois a “blue state,” but that’s because so many people live in Chicago, which is more liberal, but central and southern Illinois- not so much. I mean, come on, I have a tea party Congressman! (Guess I should have made a few more phone calls.)

Anyway (I’m getting distracted) my point is there are a lot of people against us and they’re very enthusiastic and they’re way beyond the “agree to disagree” stage. It can get abusive and violent and dangerous, and it does. But it shouldn’t. Because people should trust women. The amazing energy of the women and men during the conference last weekend showed me that I have so many wonderful allies in this fight. Despite all the stigma and abuse that has been shoveled upon us, the strength and resilience I witnessed at CLPP was truly inspiring.

These women are my heroes. They show me what it means to trust in my own strength, even when I don’t feel it. They show me that it’s possible to shine so bright, even after feeling so dark. And they give me hope that the issues that I struggle with maybe one day won’t seem so bad. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend this year’s CLPP conference. It made me think about several issues more deeply than I had before and made me want to learn more.

I also want to thank AFY’s Sarah, Julia, and Abby for being such amazing travel buddies! Also, a shout out to my new friends Sam and Mari, and to the always awesome student activists from Harvard and Boston College- it was great seeing you guys again!

More to come soon!

~ Samantha
Community Editor