Sunday, January 27, 2013

What's next for the the pro-choice movement?

We are winning the battle for hearts and minds. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, the highest level of support since polls began tracking it in 1989. The increased support comes primarily from Democrats—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—with a slight increase in support from Republicans.

However, although the polling data are encouraging to supporters of abortion rights, the Republicans do not seem to have gotten the message. According to John Boehner, Ending Abortion Is 'One Of Our Most Fundamental Goals This Year' and those states governed by Republican majorities continue to chip away at abortion rights.

In 1973 after the Roe decision, I thought the battle had been won. How wrong I was. When I went to a pro-choice demonstration in DC in the early 90’s, I couldn’t quite believe that we were still fighting this battle. But I was heartened to see so many young women there and thought that soon this would be settled and we wouldn't be wasting our energy fighting for this basic right. Wrong again.

When I dragged myself to DC for the 2004 March for Women’s Lives I began to worry that I might be fighting this battle until my dying day. The Republican War on Women which dominated debate in the 2012 election was further evidence that the battle is far from over. The backlash grows more vicious each year—perhaps the virulence of the opposition is related to their growing realization that they are losing.

Fortunately, there is a generation of young feminists out there ready to fight for reproductive rights. I don’t think young women are going to meekly stand by and accept the loss of hard fought rights. But women in my generation thought at one time that we had spared them the necessity of that fight.

Many young feminists are growing impatient with establishment feminist organizations, and what they see as second wave feminists’ reluctance to pass the torch, According to a recent Time Magazine article, 32 year old Erin Matson, 32, was elected vice president of NOW in 2009 but recently resigned:

"When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory," she says. Matson says she is considering starting a new organization to specifically target young people. "A number of young women are just saying, 'To hell with it, I'm just going to lead,'" she says. "It's easier for young women to exercise leadership right now than before we had this[internet] technology."

The time has come for a younger generation to assume leadership of the pro-choice movement. NARAL’s Nancy Keenan realizes this and announced she will step down in 2013. According to Time, “she said she hoped a younger person could replace her. ‘They're chomping at the bit to have their opportunity,’ she says.” It’s time.

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