Respect and access are key

By Autumn

I promised my husband a date at the movies this past Tuesday night. What he didn’t know was that I was taking him to see 12th and Delaware which was being screened in a lecture room at Virginia Commonwealth University, courtesy of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation and the VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. It was hardly the kind of place where a guy can do the fake yawn move, but I think that in the end he enjoyed the show. We grabbed some bottles of water and a handful of Starburst candy, gratis, and squeezed into our plastic lecture hall chairs to await the dimming of the lights.

The movie, which features a women’s health clinic and a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that share the corner of 12th and Delaware in a Florida town, was extremely well done and completely free of narration, leaving the viewer to simply observe the operations of both organizations as they interact with patients and each other. Observation was all that it took to make me want to scream. The CPC used all their usual harassing and deceptive tactics, including misinforming of the gestational age of the fetus and providing medically-inaccurate information about contraception. My personal *headdesk* moment occurred toward the end of the movie. The film crew visits with 15 year-old Widline whom we met at the CPC in the beginning of the film. In a voiceover, Widline tells us that she decided to keep her baby because the CPC told her she’d be infertile if she aborted. Widline tells us that rather than get a safe abortion, she drinks vinegar and tries to miscarry. Of course, the audience knows that Widline will most likely give birth to a child which she is unable, physically or psychologically to care for.

The panel discussion afterward featured Senator Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, Shelley Abrams, an owner of several women’s health centers in the southern U.S., Vanessa Wellbery from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Joey Richards from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. The discussion was very lively from the start and took on a life of its own. In fact, the main topic of the evening was something not even covered in the documentary – the race-based attacks that the anti-choice movement is now disseminating to African-American communities. Senator McEachin noted the entire community must be involved in combating these tactics, and called for greater involvement by pro-choice proponents in refuting these attacks. (For example, see some of the great work by Trust Black Women.)

I would go a step farther. In addition to fighting racist tactics from anti-choice groups, we need to do a better job of explaining the need for choice to the next generation. One way to do this is to ensure that we have comprehensive sex education in our schools, so our young people can learn to make lifelong, healthy choices. Get involved, find out what your school or your child’s school is teaching and make it clear that you want medically-accurate and age-appropriate facts taught.

Everyone deserves respect. And everyone deserves access.

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