By Samantha, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Volunteer
I was approached by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia to write about why I advocate for women’s reproductive rights. That sounded like an easy enough task at the time. However, it has proven tricky for me because, to put it simply, I don’t actually have a story to tell. At least, not one that is comparable to the numerous heart-felt stories from women who have experienced pregnancy complications, sexual assault, shaming by picketers outside of Planned Parenthood clinics, issues with their insurance not covering their birth control pills, etc. I have never been pregnant, and therefore I have never been forced to “consider my options” to include abortion that come with an unwanted pregnancy. It also means that I have never experienced a miscarriage. I have never been sexually assaulted. I do not take birth control pills (I tried it once and didn’t care for it for reasons I won’t dive into here), and therefore I am not one of the thousands of women who are inconvenienced by lack of insurance coverage and/or having to refill their prescription every month. I have also never contracted a sexually transmitted disease. So, throwing that into the mix, one can see that my need to access clinics such as Planned Parenthood have been extremely minimal.
So then why do all of these issues resonate so deeply with me even though I have no personal experiences or ties to them? The answer is extremely simple though I am anything but… it’s because I am a woman. Whether you are a woman of reproductive age or a woman of post-reproductive age, it is a fundamental necessity to have access to proper reproductive care, and this includes the unequivocal need for options. A woman’s health should not be compromised, and options should always be available to her regardless of the medical reason.
In winding back the clock a bit, I’m going to fill you in on some of what has influenced me over the years. I grew up in a pro-choice household. My parents were always very open about what it means to be pro-choice, what abortion means, and were always willing to answer any reproduction questions I may have had. Needless to say, the “birds and the bees” talk was unnecessary since I had asked so many questions by the time I reached that age that I was able to fill in the gaps pretty well on my own.
I remember watching films like ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’ when I was young; films that were courageous enough to address some of the painful truths of what life was like for women in the days before Roe v. Wade. The choices the women made in those films were not what struck me as horrific. Instead, it was the reality that those choices were the only “solutions” they had to an unwanted pregnancy, and it was an illegal solution to boot. That was more terrifying to me than any boogeyman in any horror film. I recognized at a very young age the painful truth of a time in our past where many women resorted to disturbing and often life-threatening alternatives out of shear desperation to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. And the fact that there are many who would love to see our progress in women’s reproductive rights take giant decade-sized leaps backwards to that unbelievable time is something I simply will never stand for.
I moved to Northern Virginia about three years ago for a career in forensics which I absolutely love. Although I’m convinced that my impenetrable convictions for a woman’s right to choose is encoded in my DNA, I had never taken the time to really volunteer with pro-choice organizations before moving to DC. Not for any reason in particular, it just didn’t occur to me to spend my spare time that way. I had moved from Colorado where Planned Parenthoods were prevalent and abortion rights were not compromised…women’s reproductive rights were just not a hot-button topic there.
So imagine my surprise when I heard about the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, CO last November. I couldn’t believe it! Hearing about that on the news made me realize that, even when you think you are living in a place where a certain political topic seems “secure,” it can be compromised at any time. And with all the times abortion rights have been spewed forth from the mouths of politicians during this election year, I knew I had to step in and help in any way that I could.
In February of this year, approximately two months after the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, I reached out to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia to join their list of volunteers. Now I am part of the wealth of activists who have banded together to ensure that we are only ever moving forward with women’s reproductive health care, never backwards; a group of individuals who have banded together to spread awareness and education about women’s reproductive health on a global scale.
Within days of joining NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia I was off to Richmond to lobby with the other purple-shirt folks to reach out to our local legislatures about bills that could compromise women’s reproductive health rights. The following month, I joined countless others at the US Supreme Court to rally against the Zurbik v. Burwell bill to support the women’s reproductive rights movement and fight for birth control coverage in health care.
Since joining NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, I have discovered that the opportunities to help out and partake in this movement are endless. It’s the “good fight” women have been fighting for centuries: the fight for equality and autonomy over their own bodies. And it’s a fight that must never be surrendered.
I come to you with this not because I have experienced the anguish of an unwanted pregnancy. Not because I have experienced the fear of being shamed while approaching an abortion clinic or the frustration of paying for birth control pills that my insurance will not cover. I come to you because the day may come in which I will be faced with these experiences, and I, no different than any other woman, deserve the right to decide what is best for me if and when that time comes. I come to you because I haven’t had to deal with the hardships of these aforementioned situations, and I will continue to fight for what I know is right until every woman on earth can say the same.