Fighting Back for Abortion Rights
As more states enact punitive laws restricting abortions, reproductive justice organizations look for new ways to regain ground and expand their movements.
As the right to safe, legal abortion faces attacks from legislative, judicial, and right-wing activists nationwide, grassroots organizations that have long ensured those who need to terminate a pregnancy can do so safely are prepared to continue providing those essential services. Meet three people committed to protecting this constitutional right for all who need it.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice is an organization whose work over the past few years has been dedicated to shifting the culture around reproductive justice and abortion access in Latinx communities. The group builds community movements by training activists to advocate for policies, and by exposing fake abortion clinics.
Fake clinics, sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers,” are storefronts that pose as reproductive health providers, but instead spread misinformation and lie to pregnant people to convince them to not have an abortion.
“There are more fake clinics than there are legitimate clinics in New York and all over the country,” says Elizabeth Estrada, the New York field and advocacy manager for the Latina Institute. “You’ll often see pictures of pregnant bellies in the window and that is a dead giveaway of a fake clinic, because historically abortion clinics or reproductive health clinics have been targeted for violence.”
These clinics usually have a religious affiliation that often impinges on people’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy.
“The education around that never stops,” Estrada adds. “Once we think we’re having a grasp on people knowing about it, there’s so much more education to do.”
Advocates for Youth
Advocates for Youth, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., centers youth in conversations around reproductive justice. The nonprofit organizes people between the ages of 14 and 24, and its multiple initiatives include the Youth Testify program, which trains young people to share their abortion stories with the media. There is also the Youth Abortion Support Collective, through which 280 young people provide practical support for their peers.
“We focus very specifically on the belief that everyone should have the right to bodily autonomy and the right to make their own decisions about their bodies regardless of their age,” says Tamara Marzouk, the group’s director of abortion access.
Youth are often underrepresented in the reproductive justice movement. In 38 states, people under 18 have to involve parents or guardians in a decision to have an abortion, even when some don’t feel safe doing so. Marzouk says Advocates for Youth provides a safer setting for youth to engage in discussions about comprehensive sex education and bodily autonomy.
“We’re really engaging in young people’s stories as well to highlight that young people know what they’re doing. They can make their own reproductive decisions and that bodily autonomy is just as important for young people,” Marzouk says.
In 2013, Texas passed a law which placed many new restrictions on abortion-seekers and providers, including cost-prohibitive mandates that forced many clinics to close. But out of those closures emerged the Cicada Collective, a volunteer-run North Texas organization that centers transgender people in accessing reproductive health resources.
“Reproductive justice is not just about the ability to get pregnant or choose to be pregnant, it’s about bodily autonomy in a lot of different forms,” says Noor Z.K., a co-founder who uses an activist pseudonym. “I would say that reproductive justice extends to anything that affects the human ability to move through the world freely and without being controlled by an oppressive force.”
In the United States, nearly half of transgender individuals, and 68% of transgender people of color, have reported discrimination or mistreatment from a medical provider, according to the Center for American Progress.
Part of Cicada Collective’s work is decentralizing the idea of binary gender and creating more inclusivity in providing services to pregnant people. The group also helps people obtain information about their reproductive choices and access abortions, and provides transportation and other advocacy for patients.
Noor Z.K. says they have seen small but positive shifts. “I’ve really seen that change over the last 10 years where now it’s actually very commonplace for any organization that does abortion advocacy work to be sharing messaging actively about how any gender can have an abortion and to use gender-neutral terms.”