How To Be A Better Reproductive Rights Advocate

by Gabrielle Weiss

Anyone who has been paying any attention knows that 2016 has been something of a dumpster fire. With the election of Donald Trump and other anti-choice politicians, we're facing a potential nightmare for feminism and reproductive rights in 2017. Luckily, the New Year means it's time to reflect on the lessons we learned in 2016 and resolve to stand up and speak out in 2017.

The first reflection we should make is this: Hillary Clinton was the most unapologetically pro-choice and pro-woman presidential candidate we've ever had — and her huge victory in the popular vote (nearly 3 million at the time of writing, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report) shows us that her values resonate with people across the United States. While it might not seem like there's a lot of hope to be had for reproductive freedom under a Donald Trump presidency, this fact makes it plain and simple that people are on the side of reproductive rights.

That's why my New Year's resolution is to fight harder than ever against every attempt anti-choice politicians make to roll back the clock on women's equality and freedom. Yes, the results of the election sucked, but there has never been a better or more important time to get involved in this fight. I still believe we have to protect and expand access to abortion to achieve equality for everyone in the United States, and I know I'm not alone. Seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, according to a NARAL Pro-Choice America commissioned survey.

I also believe that we — millennial women — are the ones who will make the biggest difference going forward. We believe in Clinton's vision for reproductive freedom and gender equality. We believe in the America she fought for, where abortion access doesn't depend on your zip code or income level and where reproductive freedom is a right all women can access.

No matter how old you are, what gender you are, where you live, or how much you make, here's how you can join me in making sure we keep our country moving forward.

Start Local

If fighting back against Donald Trump and Mike Pence seems like an overwhelming task, don't despair: The best way to get involved is to start in your own backyard. Trump's election has emboldened anti-choice politicians in state houses across the country to pursue the most brazen and deplorable restrictions on reproductive freedom — from the 20-week abortion ban recently passed in Ohio to the North Carolina state legislature's anti-democratic attempt to rob the newly elected Democratic governor of power.

So lobby your school board to keep comprehensive, medically accurate sex-education in your town's schools. Get to know the people who represent you on your city council and tell them how the local-level abortion clinic shutdown laws they're considering would affect you and your neighbors. Call your state representative and your representative in Congress, no matter what party they're in or how you think they'll vote, to make sure they know that you are their constituent and you believe in reproductive freedom for everyone.

Hit The Doors And Pick Up The Phone

Nevada is a great example of just how much impact you can have when you get involved at the local level. While Election Day was pretty bleak for most of the country, pro-choice voters in Nevada saw their hard work pay off when they flipped control of the state house from anti-choice Republicans to pro-choice Democrats. In Nevada, we saw both a presidential candidate run unapologetically in support of reproductive freedom — and win. We also see key local level wins, as well.

What made this huge victory in Nevada possible wasn't a giant rally or a multi-million dollar TV ad — it was the local Nevadans who showed up, knocked doors, and made phone calls while speaking honestly about reproductive freedom. This work isn't sexy — no West Wing-style speeches or Veep-level antics happening here — but it gets people to the polls, and in an election that's all that matters. In Nevada's 5th District, for example, State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse won by 469 votes. When you break it down like that, you realize just how huge a difference a weekend spent canvassing or phone banking for a pro-choice candidate can make at the polls.

Talk To Your Neighbors

All of this comes down to one thing that makes a huge difference: having meaningful conversations about reproductive freedom — about abortion access, about affordable birth control, about paid leave, and about making sure employers can't discriminate against pregnant women — with your neighbors. Trump's victory might have made you feel like you have nothing in common with people in your community or from your hometown, but the fact is that seven in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal and accessible.

This consensus means that some of our allies in the fight for reproductive freedom are right in your neighborhood. Not all of them are necessarily comfortable talking about abortion access at the dinner table, and many of them believe that abortion isn't the right choice for themselves and their families. But when we go out and have conversations about legislators who have taken it upon themselves to decide what kind of medical care we can or cannot access, the message is clear: People agree that those decisions should be made between us and our doctors, not by politicians.

In 2017, let's join together to protect reproductive freedom not just at the national level, but in our local communities, too. That means I will keep knocking doors across the country and telling people just how much abortion access for everyone, in every state, regardless of how much they make, matters to me. We have to carry the message of equality and freedom — including gender equality and reproductive freedom — forward with righteous anger, determination, and love for our neighbors and communities. That's what it will take to keep us moving forward.

Images: Gabrielle Weiss (1) Bustle (3); Bustle/Mary Rabun (2)