Young Feminists Tune In, Turn Out for Reproductive Freedom
by Erin Hanna, Field Organizer
May 16, 2006
Young feminists from NOW chapters in Albany, N.Y., at a women's center in Albany with NOW New York State President Marcia Pappas (far left, back row), Erin Hanna (far left, front row) and Emily Reynolds (far right, front row).
As a young feminist, the news of the abortion ban in South Dakota was a huge wake-up call for me. After all, I was born in a generation that only knew life post Roe v. Wade. Like many of the rights my mama's generation worked so hard for, I took my reproductive freedom for granted. However, South Dakota was a horrific blow for all of us, another notch on the Bush administration's belt, and the final anti-woman attack I could personally handle. Enough was enough. It was time to take some serious action. Like many of my friends, I couldn't tolerate the possibility of being the first generation to see more losses than gains when it comes to reproductive rights. We owe our mamas more than that.
That's why I drove 1,600 miles with Emily Reynolds, NOW's Coordinator of Young Feminist Programs, stopping at 17 colleges and universities across four states. Our tour was called Access Denied: Fighting for Our Rights and we spoke to hundreds of young women and men about the threats to our bodies, our rights and our lives.
The first stop on the tour was in Rochester, N.Y., where strong, intelligent and dynamic young women from SUNY Brockport and SUNY Geneseo gathered for an open dialogue about just how our rights are under fire. The women inspired and energized us with their tales of anger and activism. But what really excited us was that this was only the beginning of our tour. As we continued on to other schools, we met young feminists everywhere who were equally dedicated to fighting for social justice. Many of the young activists we met were already NOW Campus Action Network or NOW Chapter leaders. Others were learning about NOW for the first time. Regardless, everyone left our gatherings energized and ready to fight back.
In Albany, dozens of local high school and university students, along with the NOW New York State president Marcia Pappas, gathered to discuss the importance of young feminist activism. Gathering in Albany was particularly timely, as the Young Feminist Summit and NOW 40th Anniversary Conference will be held in Albany this July 21-23. After visiting 17 colleges in four states, Emily and I ended our incredible tour in Amherst, Massachusetts at the Hampshire College Reproductive Rights Conference: "From Abortion Rights…To Social Justice." Young feminists with diverse backgrounds and geographies came to the conference to share their experiences and energy. (And these women are not only tuned-in politically, they're fashionable too. NOW's "Feminism-That's Hot" t-shirts sold out!)
The last night of the conference we drove to my mama's house to rest before our return trip to Washington, D.C. I was relieved to tell her, "No worries, the young women we met have got it covered."
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