By Gina Desiderio
June 27, 2022
Like many of you, here at Healthy Teen Network, we’re feeling the weight of the Supreme Court decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade, despite the overwhelming apolitical support for abortion across the United States.
Where you live shouldn’t determine your right to bodily autonomy—the right to make decisions about your own body, including decisions about if, when, and how to parent. None of us are free to live our authentic sexuality without bodily autonomy. We feared it with the leaked draft decision, but now we know we are facing a crisis of access.
We already know that this decision will disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and people of color; LGBTQ+ people; youth; and those living at or below the poverty line because of the systemic racism and oppression that result in limited access to sexual and reproductive health services. And of course, we know that limiting legal access to abortion is not an effective means of reducing abortion numbers—universal health care, comprehensive sex ed, access to contraception, and funding for education and social support services are what really make a difference and demonstrate that we as a society value human life.
But that’s not where we are…and it feels like we just keep moving backward. Beyond access to abortion, there’s been an unprecedented amount of legislation passed to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Access to comprehensive sex ed varies by ZIP code, and too many young people fail to receive the sexual health information, education, and access to the care they need to live healthy lives.
Young people have a right to quality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and care. Access to both sex education and health care is essential for them to make decisions about their bodies and relationships, and about pregnancy and parenting. Yes, that means abortion, too.
The fear I hear repeated—both in my head and in that of my peers—is what’s next? We are not overreacting: our freedom, our rights, are being restricted by a radical minority that does not represent the majority of Americans. For many of us, it feels like we’ve been ringing the alarm since at least November 2016.
We are not overreacting: our freedom, our rights, are being restricted by a radical minority that does not represent the majority of Americans.
It does feel disheartening. This is a loss, on top of so many other attacks. But we aren’t giving up. In this moment, you can still…
- Call on your elected officials to protect the right to safe, legal abortion at state and federal levels. (In February, the Women’s Health Protection Act failed to receive the 60 Senate votes needed to overcome a filibuster.)
- Go to Bans Off Our Bodies, organized by Planned Parenthood, to learn more about the history of access to safe, legal abortion, how our rights are under attack, what’s legal in your state, as well as to find protests and ways to get involved locally.
- Find and donate to your local abortion fund to support independent, grassroots organizations that provide funding for procedures, abortion pills, transportation, lodging, childcare, doulas, emotional support, or whatever else might be needed in their community.
- Do your research and donate to organizations actively involved in protecting our right to bodily autonomy, such as In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, NARAL, National Abortion Federation, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood, SisterSong, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, and the many, many others.
But more than that, look beyond abortion, too. Do all of the above for the other human rights and environmental issues most important to you, too. To that end, if you aren’t already, I also encourage you to get involved in your local politics.
Do you know who’s serving on or running for your school board? For your local town, city, or county government? What are their platforms? Which of them are parroting “parental rights” and looking to further restrict access to sex education or inclusive and affirming education and care for all young people? Who are their major donors, and what are their motivations?
(And if you think you’re safe because you live in a more progressive area, you might be surprised. Extreme groups have a massive organized effort to mobilize a vocal minority.) What local legislation is up next? What school curriculum policies are currently being reviewed? Submit letters and stand up to give testimony for your local government and school boards.
That vocal minority is doing this, across the country, and they are hurting all of us. My bet is that for most of our readers, you are likely doing all of this and more (AND it’s part of your professional life, too.). So, we ask also that you share these action items with your friends and family who might need a little encouragement to join us. We need our silent majority to not be so silent and join the voices and resistance work many of us have been doing already.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
Gina Desiderio, MA, is Director of Communications for Healthy Teen Network and oversees all of our communications and dissemination. Working here has only sometimes prepared Gina for spontaneous sex-positive conversations with her two young sons. Read more about Gina.