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Jan 29, 2013
VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood
University of Central Florida
Communities of young people have always been in the forefront of social justice movements. Young folks are the face of angst, fight and the continued struggle for equality. However, there have been not-so-quiet whispers that young people have fallen off; that we have lost the drive and courage to take action. This is a fallacy that public figures in opposition to social justice, abortion rights and women’s equality have presented to silence the activities of aggravated disenfranchised communities.
Now more than ever do new generations of activists and organizers understand the intersections between social justice issues; how access to abortion is deeply rooted in economic inequalities, racism and gender discrimination. Young people are dedicated to making real change, and we understand that it has to be done by a community, not individuals or single organizations. Especially when we look at college campus organizing we see a disconnect between issue-based groups that feeds separate narratives moving toward the same end. The stagnation of each group not only results from quick leadership turn-around, but also stratified “ownership” over various causes. This is rapidly changing from the ground up, from homes and community spaces all the way up to national solidarity actions.
This January marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade. In the days leading up to the anniversary it was more obvious than ever that if we as a community were going to build solid coalitions and relationships outside of ourselves, we first needed to understand the struggles of one another. I am a part of an organization called “VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood” at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. For the last two years we have been tirelessly building relationships and organizing students around access to safe, legal abortions. Solidarity is crucial to any movement, but we as organizers have to go past that and recognize the connectedness of our issues, so it’s no longer solidarity for solidarity’s sake. We are seeing a shift in youth organizing from “that cause” to “our cause”. This is what is going to move us forward, beyond the short term victories we’ve seen in legislation, on to systemic change.
We had a party for the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision that brought together members of four organizations that do impactful work at UCF in different social justice arenas, VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, National Organization for Women, Student Labor Action Project and Dream Defenders. As we watched the Planned Parenthood videos on the changing narratives of “pro-choice” and “pro-life”, access to abortion, and women’s healthcare as an institution, it quickly became clear that we are moving away from the constricted narrative of ‘choice’. Many times when we own the word ‘choice’, we take it on as the most inclusive term to describe our attitude toward abortion access; however, we don’t often enough consider those who have the legal choice of abortion, but cannot afford it, live too far away, are subject to other restrictions and really do not have a choice in the end.
With this disparity in mind, groups broke apart for a short time and charted out how access to abortion affects the communities they organize for, how criminalizing abortion would hurt their communities and what that would look like for the material lives of women on the ground. We did this in the living room of my house, where a banner hung that said “40 years of CHOICE, Never Going Back” and decorated coat hangers surrounded us as a reminder of the tragic pre-Roe time. Each group took us through how they made these connections and what impact that has on their organizing for working class people, the incarcerated, communities of color, of women and other typically disenfranchised people. As we move forward in organizing, energizing new generations we must move toward a more cohesive movement and this starts in living rooms, union halls, community spaces and schools. We must start on the ground, not in the capitol.