There’s no disputing the numbers – the Women’s March on Washington and its sister events around the world broke all turnout records in recent history. The actions were not isolated to urban centers. Millions of people alarmed and prepared to resist the Trump agenda, turned out in small towns, on research vessels in Antarctica and in cities across the globe to send a powerful message of solidarity and action.
In the two weeks since he took the oath of office, Trump has made clear the priority he places in a full-on assault on abortion access and reproductive health care. He has not only resurrected the global gag rule on abortion access, he’s made it worse than it was before. An even broader group of foreign NGOs are now prohibited from so much as mentioning abortion, as a condition for continued global health funding. Also in just the past week, the House passed a resolution that would severely limit insurance coverage of abortion and Vice President Mike Pence became the highest ranking government official to ever speak at the annual March for Life.
Now, with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has solidified his desire to turn back time, endanger the health and wellbeing of millions, and give predominately male lawmakers power over women’s bodies. Forty-four years after Roe V. Wade, American women must fight not just to advance our rights, but to preserve the ground we have gained.
Our work is cut out for us.
The good news is the movement that inspired Women’s March is growing by the day. The collective outrage, resolve, and resistance on display during the largest protest in U.S. history was exactly what this country needed, and these marchers, many of whom were experiencing their first taste of activism, will play a critical role in the work to come.
We must continue to draw on that outrage and resolve to further build a powerful resistance movement, beginning with five simple steps to protect and expand abortion access:
Stay Angry. Do not lose your passion, your anger or your hope. All of these feelings will give us the tenacity for the fights that lie ahead. This administration is counting on our apathy. If we lose our fire, we lose our ground.
Think Local. Building power in your region is key. Call, write and visit your statehouse to make your voice heard for reproductive justice. Build a community with fellow marchers in your city. Become a clinic escort or join other support activities sponsored by local reproductive justice and progressive organizations.
Educate Yourself and Others. Learn about the range of issues that impact us all – racial justice, LGBTQ rights, immigration, acceptance of refugees, a free and robust press, environmental justice, healthcare, education and economic justice. We are stronger when we stand together. Connect with other activists through trainings on organizing and nonviolent action. Make sure people around you have the real facts about abortion and the attack on access.
Do Not Compromise. We need to hold our allies to a very high standard of what it means to be a champion for reproductive justice – the right to parent, the right not to parent, and the right to raise children in safe and healthy communities – and support those brave enough to take a stand. We must stick to forward progress and cannot champion those who want to go backwards and restrict access to abortion.
Engage Others. Reproductive justice and access to abortion intersect with many social justice issues that have long been under attack and will face even larger threats from the new administration. If we are to make an impact, we cannot work in silos. We must foster opportunities for collaboration with partners working to advance justice on the range of issues that impact us all.
As frightening as the early days of the Trump administration have been, the war against abortion access and reproductive health care has been going on for decades. Now is the time to draw the line in the sand that we will not stand by and let women die or face prosecution for their reproductive choices. Momentum is on our side. Now is the time to link arms and continue to march forward together as a movement.
Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt are the co-founders and co-directors of Reproaction, a direct action group forming to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice.