Merry Christmas 2015!

To those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a merry one! To those who do not, happy Friday and have a wonderful holiday season.

Equality Xmas

 

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South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center Protest 12/12/2015

We had another great Saturday turnout for our protest of SAPRC! Our favorite pro-choice greyhound, Portia, came out to support us all morning (and poop on the lawn, oops); a self-identified radical militant feminist stopped by to encourage us and discuss feminism with us; a few helpers stopped by to pick up signs for a bit after seeing us two Saturdays in a row (hi, Morgan!); a couple of very well-informed ladies who attend ACC joined us for the last hour; and there were many, many supportive honks, waves, thumbs-up, etc. from passersby!

Join us every Saturday at 9AM in front of the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center to help raise awareness and draw more public attention to CPCs.

SAPRC is located at:

4611 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78745

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What is a Crisis Pregnancy Center?

As you know, December 5 was Planned Parenthood’s designated Day of Solidarity for the victims of the shooting in Colorado. All around the nation, various organizations hosted and took part in events in their cities held in support of Planned Parenthood and all abortion providers. As the Planned Parenthood website puts it,

On Saturday, Dec. 5, people nationwide are coming together to show their support for access to safe reproductive health care, including abortion. If you believe no one should have to face violence, threats or intimidation to access basic health care — stand with us.

That very morning, Austin NOW hosted a protest in front of South Austin Pregnancy Center in order to show support for abortion providers as well as drawn attention to the quietly-growing epidemic of state-funded crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), or “fake clinics” around the country.

Not sure what a CPC is? Read on…

As Planned Parenthood and other providers of abortion services have been under increased attack, anti-abortion/anti-birth control legislators have been moving tax-payer money away from real family planning services and into “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) and “abstinence only” programs.

We call CPCs “fake clinics” because these are places where religion, not medicine, is practiced. They are run by anti-abortion groups, usually affiliated either with the Catholic church or with fundamentalist Christian organizations. Their goals are to prevent pregnant people from choosing abortion, to stigmatize abortion, to distribute false and misleading information about birth control, and, frankly, to push their religion. They advertise themselves as places where pregnant people can go for help, advice, and free pregnancy tests and often free ultrasounds – but what people actually receive there are lies about the reality of abortion.

Many of these places tell people that abortion causes cancer, depression, alcoholism, mental illness, etc. Clients at these fake clinics also receive a huge dose of religion and a lot of pressure to carry pregnancies to term. They are sometimes shown false and misleading videos and told they will be “murderers” if they choose to have an abortion. Fake clinics also spread lies about birth control, claiming that condoms just plain don’t work and that IUDs and hormonal birth control actually work by causing abortions (which is, I must point out, absolutely not true). All of this isn’t just speculation – the lies that unlicensed CPC volunteers tell have been recorded and provided as firsthand proof.

These clinics are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers often with little or no medical training or supervision but they make every effort to appear as medical professionals to deceive their clients. Even when they have a doctor or nurse associated with the clinic, those people are there primarily for their religious beliefs rather than for their medical expertise. They use ultrasounds, of course – not for diagnostic purposes, but as propaganda tools. Fake clinics often receive state and federal funding via your tax dollars, while actual family planning centers like Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are under constant attack and scrutiny. Very recently, tax dollars for real family planning clinics have begun to be reduced and redirected to fake clinics to use in their “abstinence only” education programs – despite the fact that “abstinence only” education programs have been shown to fail big-time in reducing teen pregnancy (while fact-based programs that include truthful, non-judgmental information about birth control have been objectively very successful.)

Fake clinics are not protested nearly as much as they should be because many people do not know that they exist or what they’re really doing. Our tax dollars go to these places, which lie and deceive people who often do not know any better. More people should be angry about this. The end result of cutting funding to real clinics like Planned Parenthood is that women will eventually have nowhere to turn except into the power-hungry, deceitful arms of the people who run sex-negative and medically inaccurate CPCs.

Posted in Abortion, Religion, Reproductive Justice, Sex Education | Leave a comment

South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center Protest 12/5/2015

We had a very fulfilling morning supporting abortion providers and raising awareness of the deceitfulness of fake clinics/crisis pregnancy centers on this Day of Solidarity for Planned Parenthood.

SAPRC Protest 12.5.15 (1)
SAPRC Protest 12.5.15 (2)

SAPRC Protest 12.5.15 (3)

IMG_3073

Join us every Saturday at 9AM in front of the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center to help raise awareness and draw more public attention to CPCs.

SAPRC is located at:

4611 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78745

 

Posted in Abortion, Reproductive Justice, Sex Education | Leave a comment

Stand With Planned Parenthood, Not With Fake Clinics!

Join Austin NOW in both supporting Planned Parenthood and protesting fake clinics (“crisis pregnancy centers”) this Saturday morning on PP’s #DayOfSolidarity.
 
“Crisis pregnancy centers” – or, as we like to more accurately call them, fake clinics – are run by pro-life groups with the express purpose of preventing pregnant people from choosing abortion. They advertise themselves as places where pregnant people can go for help, advice, and free pregnancy tests – but what people actually receive there are lies about the reality of abortion (e.g., many of these places will tell you that abortion directly causes cancer, depression, alcoholism, etc.), religious preaching, and a lot of pressure to carrying pregnancies to term.
 
These clinics are run by pro-life volunteers who are almost never medical staff, but make every effort to appear as though they are medical professionals by wearing white lab coats to deceive their clients. Fake clinics receive state funding via your tax dollars while actual medically safe, informative, non-judgmental healthcare centers like Planned Parenthood are under constant attack and scrutiny.
 
Fake clinics are not protested nearly as much as they should be because many people do not know that they exist. Our tax dollars go to these places, which lie and deceive people who often do not know any better. More people should be angry about this!
 
Let’s go out and do double duty – by supporting Planned Parenthood on their #DayOfSolidarity AND protesting a fake clinic! This one is called South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center on Manchaca Rd.
 
Austin NOW will have plenty of signs to hold and pamphlets to pass out. Bring your pro-choice energy and let’s show Planned Parenthood some support!
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ATX NOW, A Note: New and Exciting Updates!

As some of you may have noticed, our chapter of the National Organization for Women has undergone some recent changes. Some of these changes may seem bigger than others, but all are very meaningful! It is therefore important for all of our members to become aware of what these changes are and understand what they mean.

With this new chapter will come new leaders. Our recently-appointed president is currently operating under the guidance of senior members of Texas NOW, but will need other officers to join the fight and help out as soon as possible. Therefore, Austin Area NOW will begin accepting applications for officer positions very soon. (An upcoming post will be made with additional information on the application process.)

More changes will come in the form of a serious upswing in output of content to our social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and (new!–>) Instagram. Our website will change in appearance and, hopefully, become more user-friendly. We hope to begin adding original content and articles to this site several times weekly and eventually be updating at least 5 days per week.

Austin NOW meetings will begin in the 2016 new year, occurring twice per month. Locations will change at first depending on attendance numbers and availability, but the goal is to have a more-or-less permanent meeting location by March 2016.

In addition to meetings, we plan to host various events, protests, counter-protests, guest speakers, etc. Right now, as many of you are probably aware, there are a multitude of opportunities for peaceful protest/counter-protest activity at the state capitol, at fake clinics (“crisis pregnancy centers,”) and around the city.

Most of these changes will be gradual, but some of them may take getting used to (and some extra help organizing). We appreciate your patience and would also appreciate your feedback, suggestions, and attendance at events and meetings even more! Because we are a volunteer-based organization and basically starting fresh, we need all the help we can get!

Stay tuned for more information on upcoming events and details on how to apply to become an officer with Austin Area NOW! The best way you can do this is by subscribing to email updates from our website and following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Please also feel free to use the contact form below to let us know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions.

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Guest post: How the shutdown affects my family, by Amanda Hernandez

[Ed. note: I met Amanda during this summer’s protests against HB2. Amanda is a Democratic activist. She’s also a struggling mother of two, newly married, whose family is endangered by the shutdown. Austin NOW is nonpartisan. But we share Amanda’s outrage at all the members of Congress who made this happen. – Carrie]

The government shut down affects my family: My husband and I work in health care, and thanks to no unions, right to work, and whatever other greed protection power in place, even with both of us working we could not break the living wage mark ($23/and hour – that’s BOTH of our pay combined). Before 2008 I could make a living wage; the cost of child care and healthcare was too expensive, I was losing money with both of us working, so I have opted to stay home. EVEN with staying home, we still don’t break even enough to make all the bills barely, we live pay-check-to-pay-check.

My WIC is supposed to no longer be available, it is said that the cuts mean WIC will no longer be making payments as of today. I rely on those few food, milk, fruit, and other items to feed my 4 and 2 year old. I’m going to see if I can get it today. It really is going to hurt if we don’t have the WIC.

After I pay rent today I don’t know what were going to do. And I’m tired of asking family who are already hurting themselves, and don’t know how they will retire because they keep stretching themselves out all over to help also.

I was going to apply for help with food (SNAP/food stamps) because I checked the numbers, and we qualify. I was going to apply for help with power bill, ect., bills, welfare. But I find out that the power assistance program and TANF (the welfare checks to assist families in need) were part of the shut down. I don’t even know if I can apply for assistance because no one is answering at the office, and I could drive to the office, but I have to save gas for my husband to get to work and back-work where he is NOT paid enough for the hard sweating, running, caring for critical patients.

I think we qualify for health coverage, but that doesn’t kick in till January. We’ve been without healthcare for almost a year now because it costs one paycheck a month to cover all of us.

We make it, we survive, we scrape by. We manage to go without and keep the bare minimum, living in cheap apartments where we are at times scared for our safety. We wonder if we’ll have enough to make rent or leftover for all the things we need for 2 small children and ourselves.

I can’t help thinking of the many, many people who don’t have just enough to get by like we do: the people who need their pension, their TANF (welfare check), their WIC, Disability checks, and their kids in Head Start, students trying to make it through college… all these things mean their very lives. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They don’t know how they are going to make it without these programs. And my heart breaks for them. I wish I had more money,  ability, and power to help them, so they wouldn’t be hurting or in need as they are now thanks to these cuts.

I’m stressed out for me, and my family. But I also think of those doing far worse than I am. And I want to know, what can we do to stop this madness?

I know I’m organizing and working hard to turn out the vote to get rid of republicans, as a Democratic precinct chair. But I want to know what can we do RIGHT NOW, that will help turn this over. I want to know what we are doing to help those affected the most. I know I’m talking about it, and signing petitions, and contacting representatives. But I want to riot, I want to open shelters, and food kitchens, and homes. And since I can’t do any of those things, what with no money, and 2 small children to tend to, will someone please tell me WHAT CAN WE DO RIGHT NOW?

Posted in Calls to Action, Economic security, Everything is a feminist issue, National issues | Leave a comment

10 things I’ve learned on my journey as an anti-racist ally

Monday there was a really great panel here in Austin about the impacts of HB2. Along with the folks usually represented at such events – Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and Lilith Fund – I was especially glad to see my colleagues Christian from the YWCA of Greater Austin and Paula Rojas from Mama Sana included. They addressed race and racism in ways that we as a feminist community have not talked about enough this summer.

I understand that Paula in particular experienced pushback from some white folks who weren’t used to hearing about racism or being asked hard questions like the ones she asked – for example, why there’s less public outrage about Latinas being four times less likely to have access to health care and Black babies being three times as likely to die as there is about abortion access in Texas.

My intention here is not to speak for Paula or Christian. I’m white, and it is not my job to speak for women of color. As Christian and Paula quite conclusively showed on Monday, they are more than capable of speaking powerfully and beautifully for themselves.

My intention here is to stand with them. What I can do as an ally is to offer to white folks who had trouble dealing with what was said about race on Monday some of things I’ve learned as I’ve worked and continue to work to be an intersectional feminist.

Many things I say here may sound harsh. I say them with love – the muscular, difficult love described by M. Scott Peck and bell hooks: the commitment to another’s spiritual growth. Being an anti-racist ally is hard work. But if I’m going to go around calling myself a feminist, it’s work I have to do. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Here are 10 things I have learned on my ally journey, things I remind myself of all the time. When I say, “you,” keep in mind that it’s a general case you addressed to white folks – and that I’m also talking to myself here. Because I’m not perfect, I’m still learning, and I’m still trying to do better.

1. De-center yourself. This is often really hard for people with privilege. We are so used to that one-up position. We spend our whole lives in it. The world is set up for us, to make us comfortable, to make things easier for us. Well, y’all, if we want to make a different world, one where everyone’s human rights are respected and difference is valued, we are going to have to change that. Stop placing yourself at the center of the world, at the center of any discussion. Most things in the world are, in fact, not about you. So check your ego along with your privilege. Learn to step out of the spotlight and focus on others.

2. Be quiet and listen. If you want to understand racism, you need to listen to the voices of people of color. Read their books, articles, blogs, Tumblrs, Twitter feeds. Listen to their music, their podcasts, their panel discussions. As Mikki Kendall (@karnythia) writes in her fantastic recent XOJane piece, “Not to rebut, or chime in, or do anything else but hear and understand what is being said, blogged, tweeted, etc. Just listen.” Practice listening without responding. Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone who has faced the pain of oppression is witness it with compassion.

3. Assume that people of color are telling the truth. I hate that I have to write this, but I do. I’ve seen it happen over and over again that white people, confronted with the ugly realities of racism, react with denial – even when what’s happening is that a person of color is standing in front of them saying, this is my life, this is what my family, friends, colleagues, and I face every single day of our lives. I have learned in many feminist trainings and discussions that it’s vital to acknowledge that everyone is the expert on their experience. Many of us have no trouble accepting this when it comes to sexual assault survivors or women who’ve been harassed at work, but lots of us white folks have serious trouble with this when it comes to racism. Just because you have never seen something happen or don’t know about it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

4. Take in what you hear and allow it to change you. What you will hear will be painful. It will be hard to hear that people you know and love commit large and small acts of racism that hurt people of color. It will be hard to hear about how much pain and injustice white people inflict on people of color. It will be hard to hear the truth about the United States’ bloody history that was whitewashed or ignored in your history classes: draft riots, race riots, white women blaming and punishing Black women slaves for ‘tempting’ white male slave owners into raping them, white people blowing up Black homes and churches, white women sexually scapegoating Black men who are beaten or killed because of it, white people treating lynchings like social occasions, the horrible injustice of the US government simultaneously interning Japanese American families and drafting their men, the brutal murders of civil rights workers, people of color spat on for daring to go to predominantly white schools…

And then there are all the racist abuses that continue today, like redlining, the school-to-prison pipeline, discrimination in employment, police violence against people of color, companies that knowingly expose Latin@/Chican@ workers to dangerous chemicals and refuse to improve working conditions…

The litany of horrors never seems to end. It will change the way you think about this country, yourself, and everyone you know. It will change you. And it should. Learning the truth is the only way you begin to glimpse the scope of the problem and thus understand what we need to do to create healing and social change.

5. Do not make your feelings people of color’s problem. I have had some big, overwhelming, awful feelings as I have learned about racism. I’ve felt rage, sorrow, guilt, grief, astonishment, disgust, horror. Those are all tough to deal with and they deserve attention. They deserve my attention, and I’m glad to have trusted friends who will listen and talk through them with me. You know what neither I nor these feelings deserve? The attention of people of color. If someone shares their experience of racism with me, what they deserve from me is my full attention, my compassion, and my gratitude for their trust and the opportunity to learn. But it is not even a little bit their job to help me with my feelings. They’re the ones who have been oppressed and discriminated against, not me! They’ve got enough to deal with.

6. Take care of yourself. The truth about racism is overwhelming, and the feelings can be, too. It’s okay to acknowledge your limits. It’s okay to put in the bookmark or close the tab, say you’re done for the day, and go hug your partner. It’s okay to talk to other allies and ask how they handle their feelings. But do also take a moment to remember that you can put aside thinking about racism for a few hours. People of color can’t.

7. Honor the anger of people of color. People of color are often angry when talking about racism. They sometimes talk shit about white people. This should not be a surprise. They’ve got a lot to be angry about! Unless they’re angry at you, personally, for something you did, don’t take it personally. Don’t get defensive. Just witness it. Sit with it. Resist the urge to say you’re not like that. I tell myself that their baseline suspicion of white people is kind of like my baseline suspicion of men as a multiple sexual assault survivor: it is a completely understandable learned response that helps them stay safe.

8. Accept that you will make mistakes. Take responsibility and commit to learning from them. I think one of the barriers that keeps white people from doing anti-racist work is fear: fear of screwing up, being called out, being embarrassed. Well, y’all, let me save you the suspense: you will screw up. You’re human, you’re not perfect, and sometimes you will just fall flat on your face. Sometimes it will be embarrassing. I have screwed up. I have been embarrassed. But you know what? It’s not the end of the world. Feelings aren’t fatal. Keep in mind that we are trying to do something incredibly hard! We grew up in a racist culture. We have been soaking up racism and white supremacy in overt and subtle ways our whole lives. We are trying to name it, find it, rip it out by the root, and change the way we think, speak, and act. That’s a lifetime journey. It won’t ever end. You’ll get up tomorrow and keep going.

The key thing here: when you mess up as an ally, you’ve probably hurt someone. Take responsibility and apologize. And unless the person you hurt is a friend or colleague that you have a personal relationship with and that person is willing to talk through with you what you did wrong, do NOT ask them to educate you. That’s not their job.

9. Take the responsibility to educate yourself. Do you dislike being asked to be the Official Lady or Queer or Person With Disabilities in your office, college class, book group? Me, too. It’s dehumanizing. It’s asking people to talk calmly and somewhat theoretically about all the ways the world kicks them in the teeth. That’s not okay. So don’t ask people of color in your life to be your go-to on race and racism. There are books, blogs, podcasts, pamphlets, trainings, nonprofit organizations…. a million resources are available to help you. Take advantage of those, not of other people. A few places to start: the NOW Combating Racism Committee’s anti-racist feminist resource list, Frances Kendall’s piece on how to be an ally for people of privilege, this Southern Poverty Law Center roundtable discussion on how white people can be allies.

10. Learn to count higher than two. When we talk about race in the US, we often only talk about Black people and white people. That’s wrong. It erases so much difference, so much complexity, and the experiences of so many people.

Here in Texas, we really need to talk about how Latin@/Chican@ folks who live on the Texas border suffer unbelievable violence as the result of the US government’s racist so-called “war on drugs,” how hundreds of women have been sexually assaulted and killed in Juarez with no justice in sight, how Latin@s are disproportionately impacted by cuts to state family planning funding and restrictions on abortion, and a whole host of other things.

We need to talk about Native American folks and how the legacy of westward expansion, genocide both literal and cultural, and the theft of their ancestral lands is still damaging those folks and their communities today. We need to talk about how Native American women face the highest rates of sexual violence of any ethnic group – and that the vast majority of that violence is committed by white people.

We need to talk about how Asian Americans on the west coast were subjected to racist segregation and violence as well as immigration quotas that broke up their families. We need to talk about how the “model minority” stereotypes erase the racism that Asian Americans still experience today. We need to talk about how the category of “Asian American” is not monolithic; it encompasses people of a wide range of ethnicities and national origins, and each of those groups has unique challenges.

We need to talk about how native Hawai’an people watch their sacred sites desecrated by tourists and often can’t afford to live in their home islands because rich white people seeking pretty scenery have driven up the cost of living.

We need to talk about multiracial folks, such as Afro-Latin@s, Black Native Americans, creole folks, and many more, and their unique experiences.

We need to talk about a whole bunch of different kinds of folks and how racism impacts them.

 

So that’s my list. Other allies, what is your process and practice like? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Posted in Being an ally, Everything is a feminist issue, Race | Leave a comment

Recommended reading for 50th anniversary of March on Washington

50 years ago today, thousands of people made history as they filled the national Mall for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The date was chosen because it marked the anniversary of the abduction and brutal murder of Emmett Till, who was targeted because he was a young Black man who whistled at a white woman.

They marched for racial and economic justice. They marched for basic human rights. And they changed this country.

50 years later, we have unquestionably made vital progress. President Barack Obama, the first Black person to hold that title, gave a wonderful and moving speech today (well, mostly – see this smart criticism) commemorating the March and asking us to find our empathy, listen to each other, and continue the fight for justice for all.

As the President said, there is so much more to do. So many folks have been doing some great writing in the last several days about the march and the fight for justice and human rights. Here are some of my favorites, plus a classic piece by Dr. King:

 

 

 

 

That’s what I’ve been reading. How about y’all?

Posted in Awe-inspiring, Being an ally, Everything is a feminist issue, Hope, Poverty, Race | Leave a comment

ACTION ITEM: urge DSHS to put Texans’ health first in implementing HB2

Time to dig out the orange t-shirts! There are two opportunities to speak out for reproductive justice in Texas this week.

HB2 is law now. We can’t change that. However! The Department of State Health Services is responsible for implementing a lot of the details of HB2 and they have some flexibility in how stringent they’re going to be. And they are taking public comment! So that’s a chance for us to stick our activist crowbar in and move them a liiiiiittle bit in the right direction.

WHEN:

  • Wednesday, August 28 at 1PM – State Heath Services Council Work Session
  • Thursday, August 29 at 9AM – State Health Services Council Meeting

WHERE: Department of State Health Services, 4900 N Lamar Blvd – Brown-Heatly Building, Public Hearing Room. It’s a big complex and kind of confusing, so do get there early if you can. Expect parking to be kind of a pain.

Jessica Luther has a great post with the details of what to expect, how to sign up to comment, etc, on her blog.

“But,” you might be asking, “I’ve only got two minutes to talk, and DSHS is in charge of the very detailed, inside-baseball minutiae of medical regulation. I’m not a doctor. What can an average person say that will make a difference?”

Excellent question! What I offer here is:

1) general tips on how to be effective and

2) the text of the testimony I plan to give, based on my conversations with other advocates about what will be most useful. Please feel free to use my testimony as a jumping-off point.

TIPS ON HOW TO GIVE EFFECTIVE TESTIMONY

  • Write it down. If you are not an amazing, genius impromptu public speaker like @VictorianPrude – and I’m darn sure not – I highly recommend writing out what you want to say in advance. Even if you remember most of what you want to say, it’s always nice to have backup.
  • Decide on a few key points you want to make and stick to those. Remember, you only have two minutes to speak. What do you most want to say? Consider brainstorming a list of the points you want to make, and choosing two or three to prioritize. Then write out your testimony based on those.
  • Be concise. Two minutes goes by quickly! The rule of thumb is that a page of typed, double-spaced text takes about two minutes to read. You can fit more in if you read faster, but then you run the risk of not being understood or losing impact. When I was writing mine, I set a goal of no more than 1.25 pages of text.
  • Make it personal. DSHS folks hear from a lot of experts. One important thing we as grassroots activists can bring to the table is our personal stories about the real-life impact of policies on us and our communities. Did your local clinic cut its hours or close? Did your sister, niece, or bestie have to miss work and travel 300 miles to get an abortion or a well-woman exam? Tell DSHS about it! Remember, though, that it’s always a good idea to get permission before sharing someone else’s story.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Meetings like this can feel really stressful! A packed room, the opposition out in force, a bunch of white people in suits staring down at you from the dais… It can feel overwhelming. So if you want to sound clear, calm, and convincing, it’s a good idea to practice reading your testimony out loud a few times. It can feel a little silly, but it really helps. My cats have heard a lot about reproductive justice this summer, y’all.
  • Ask for feedback. If you’ve got a partner or roommate, ask them if they’ll listen to you read your testimony and then let you know what they think. Or call a protest buddy and see if they’ll do so!
  • Time yourself. As we all saw at the Capitol, especially when meetings are crowded and they expect a lot of speakers, the staff tends to enforce the time limits pretty strictly. Time your comments to make sure you get to say everything you want.

Got some tips from your experience at the Capitol this summer? Please feel free to share in the comments.

WHAT I PLAN TO SAY: Continue reading

Posted in Abortion, Body politics, Calls to Action, Politics, Reproductive Justice | Leave a comment