Fighting for reproductive justice in Seattle

February 4, 2013

ON JANUARY 26, Seattle Clinic Defense held its first Northwest Summit on Reproductive Justice.

Seattle Clinic Defense, a grassroots organization, was founded in March of 2011 out of the Seattle Walk for Choice. In the past two years, the group has been involved not only in defending Planned Parenthood clinics in Seattle and Everett against anti-choice protesters, but in hosting a rally to support Jennie Lynn McCormack--an Idaho woman charged for terminating a pregnancy--and in challenging anti-choice speaker Abby Johnson.

The full-day event, which drew some 60 participants, was held at the University of Washington's Seattle campus. The summit was broken up into three sessions. The first session, "A Brief History of the Reproductive Justice Movement," featured founding member of Seattle Clinic Defense Liz Fawthrop, the former executive director of Aradia Women's Clinic in Seattle, and Margaret Vigilanni, a long-time reproductive justice activist and organizer for Radical Women in Seattle.

The second section, anchored by Lindsay Anne Craven, an organizer for Full Spectrum Doulas, and this writer, a nurse-midwifery student and organizer for Seattle Clinic Defense, was called "Who We Are and Where We Stand: Free Abortion on Demand!" Lastly, Kat McGhee, also of Seattle Clinic Defense, and Jixia Ao, of the University of Washington's Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, led the group in a visioning session to determine points of unity.

The day focused not only on abortion rights today, but also how they were won. "This movement didn't hatch out of an egg," Liz Fawthrop explained in reference to the fight for legal abortion. "You have to look at the broader radicalization of society at the time."

Marcy Bloom also explored the right-wing backlash to legal abortion: "States are now seeking to limit abortion, that's where the fight is--in the states." In the discussion, it was further pointed out that the right's is to leave Roe v. Wade intact. By dismantling Roe in a practical sense, the right will never have to repeal legal abortion to essentially make abortion impossible to access.

In the second section, Craven explored the full scope of the definition of reproductive justice and her personal experience with reproductive justice activism: "It speaks to the necessity of a fighting movement the fact that it took me so long to find organizations that trusted me, acknowledged me, and appreciated the need for all of us to have a voice for reproductive justice on our own terms and as allies to others."

In the second half of this section, I spoke about Planned Parenthood's recent decision to remove the label "pro-choice" from its political messaging:

When we begin to cede ground to the right and abandon our language, we don't shrink from attacks, we shrink from view....[W]hen we abandon labels like "pro-choice" for political purposes, we abandon those women who so need our support--the women who have abortions, the women who will seek abortions--and we say to them, "I will not even speak this word," and the more abortion becomes a stigmatized and shaming procedure.

In the visioning section, participants broke up into small groups and discussed what was important to them in a reproductive justice group, common points of unity, and goals for future organizing in Seattle and nationally. There were dozens of ideas up on the whiteboard by the end of the discussion that ranged from picketing crisis pregnancy centers to having a clinic defense in every major city in America to criminalizing the harassment of clinic patients and staff.

The energy at the Summit was high, the political discussions intense, and participants agreed that Seattle Clinic Defense is at the heart of building a fighting women's movement in Seattle.

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