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Nancy Keenan

Nancy Keenan

Posted: November 30, 2008 12:51 PM

The Pro-Choice Future Caught on Video: What is free.will.power?


It is no secret that the 2008 election cycle demonstrated that technology is giving people, especially younger voters, more power to make a difference in ways we couldn't have even imagined just a few years ago.

Specifically, the influential group of voters under age 26 is the most diverse and engaged generation in our country's history. They are developing innovative ways to help alleviate poverty or save the environment in their communities and around the world.

And, most notably, they played a key role in President-elect Barack Obama's victory.

As a political organization that works to engage activists of all ages in protecting women's freedom and privacy, NARAL Pro-Choice America is committed to tapping into the talents of these savvy younger voters to help build the next generation of leaders of the pro-choice cause.

That's why, in the weeks following the historic presidential election, we launched free.will.power -- an interactive and innovative campaign that, at first glance, looks a bit different from other initiatives you typically see from advocacy organizations - and there is a reason.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, working with the Chicago-based firm see3 communications, enlisted the creative minds of three young spoken-word artists - Shira Erlichman , Alvin Lau , and Deja Taylor - as well as a renowned musician, DJ Spooky , to produce three online viral videos that feature compelling words, visuals, and sound.

A web site, MyFreeWillPower.com, houses these videos as well as other technology-based, interactive ways for new activists to get involved with NARAL Pro-Choice America's work, whether it's taking action on a choice-related issue, forwarding videos to friends, joining our social-networking groups, or participating in contests.

Yes, free.will.power is our newest online venture - but we're using fresh tools to engage the next generation of pro-choice activists. We also work in partnership with our state affiliates to organize pro-choice groups on college campuses.

Without a doubt, video is changing how we communicate in all areas of our work. In the 2006 midterm congressional elections, we did a handful of election-related videos. In the 2008 election cycle, we produced (in house, thanks to our talented staff) 36 election-related videos.

We must keep pace with the changes in how people - particularly the younger generation - receive and act on information.

In January 2009, we will commemorate the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade . For my generation, Roe was the impetus for our involvement in the pro-choice cause. We know what it was like for women in the days of illegal abortion and vow never to return to those days again.

However, I recognize that a Supreme Court decision handed down in the days of typewriters and four television channels may not hold the same significance for a generation whose experiences with reproductive-health issues are different.

There's the college student who learned that the cost of her birth control doubled last year due to an unintended consequence in a federal law. There's the woman who goes to the pharmacy counter and learns that it's okay for the pharmacy to refuse to fill her prescription for contraception. There's the woman who learns that her state's laws will delay for 24 hours or more her access to safe, legal abortion care (or that nearly 90 percent of counties do not have an abortion provider).

While our values are consistent, these changes in technology--and in the circumstances that shape women's experiences-- call on us to change the ways in which we engage the public.

Using technology, we are connecting with Americans of all ages, not just younger voters, who may be largely unaware of the ongoing and often under-the-radar-screen attempts to limit or undermine our freedom and privacy.

The elections that determine who takes office, whether it's the White House or the state legislature, matter since those individuals help pass legislation and enact laws that affect our everyday lives.

Take a look at Alvin's video, "Will":

As Alvin so eloquently explains, while the iPhone has replaced the typewriters of the Roe decision era of 1973, the core issues are absolutely relevant today.

Through free.will.power , we hope even more Americans, including the growing number of influential youth leaders, join the pro-choice cause and add reproductive rights to the list of issues they talk about with their friends and family.

Follow Nancy Keenan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NARAL