Thursday, October 30, 2008

Connecting the Dots

I had the opportunity earlier this month to co-present a workshop on sexual and reproductive rights at the Choice USA ( Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill.

Connect The Dots

Choice USA celebrates its 16th anniversary this year, and exists to mobilize, support and train young pro-choice leaders. They do a fantastic job of it, too! (That’s my obligatory shout-out as an Institute alumnus.)

Beyond the training aspect, what really stands out about Choice USA to me is their interest in “connect the dots” between sexual and reproductive rights issues. Some organizations, like Choice USA, are now using the term “reproductive justice” rather than “reproductive rights” to encompass a wider range of issues—including LGBT rights.

I worked with the super Lonna Hays from Ipas on the workshop, using a nifty mapping tool that Ipas, SisterSong, and the Task Force collaboratively created that tracks the status of reproductive justice across the US.

The joint project is called Mapping our Rights and can be found here: (It’s in the process of being updated, but still provides hours of click-and-learn fun.)

As they put it, “Mapping Our Rights illustrates how different state policies affect who we can marry, when or whether we can have children, and if we have access to health care or social security benefits.”

Obviously, there is a great deal of issue overlap between LGBT and the pro-choice movement — and the map shows that beautifully. Advocating for comprehensive sexuality education is typically on the agenda of groups from both camps, as is legislation that protects sexual autonomy and that which increases access to non-judgmental health care.

We have similar roots in the eyes of judges, too, as the decisions of Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas both boil down to a right to privacy. And perhaps because of these roots, we’re also hated by all the same people! Check out the agenda of any anti-LGBT group and you’ll find a heaping portion of woman-hate and anti-choice rhetoric mixed in there, as well.

In addition to sharing issues, we also share humans! Just follow the trail of people who have worked for LGBT rights and reproductive rights to see the overlap. Joe Solmonese of HRC used to head up EMILY’s List, which works to elect pro-choice Democratic women. NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina recently gained Sean Kosofsky — formerly of the Triangle Foundation in Michigan — as its executive director. Our own Ian serves on the NARAL board of directors, and I come from a background reproductive rights work.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the reproductive rights movement grow toward an overarching goal of reproductive justice. And it’s great to know that wherever I happen to be — at a rally with Planned Parenthood, at a PRIDE meeting or at the Choice USA training — I’m in great company.

-- Rebecca Mann, Community Organizer

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