Re-posted with permission from Choice USA.
A blog from Choice USA’s Executive Director, Kierra Johnson.
As I stood on the Mall in what seemed like 40 below weather waiting for my glimpse of our new President, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the young voters surrounding me who made this all possible and will hold our new leadership accountable amidst the excitement of our country’s future. It seems fitting that in the same week we acknowledge our diligent struggle against racism and turn a reflective eye on the decades of grassroots movements on which President Obama’s victory was built, we also remember our parallel struggles for both a youth voice and equality for women and girls. While I am so overwhelmed by all there is to celebrate this week, on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I also share Jesse Jackson’s sentiment in his article in the NYT when he said, “We should celebrate the election of our new president. And then we should get back to work to complete the unfinished business of making America a more perfect union.”
The National Right to Life is marching and lobbying in DC right now. While the choice movement definitely has more allies in the White House and in Congress than we have had in years, we still have a great deal of work to do to continue to advance and protect reproductive rights. On this anniversary of Roe, a comprehensive youth-oriented reproductive justice agenda seems the next place the choice movement must look towards in the name of change.
With a new administration, there is hope the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act will pass, alleviating a huge financial burden for students and low income women seeking affordable birth control and reproductive health care. However, reproductive justice activists must be inspired to fight for more than this victory. In the face of almost fourteen million 18 – 29 year olds who are without health insurance, we must fight to ensure access to quality affordable health care that prioritizes young people and all of their health needs.
When we look at the numbers, the need for policies that prioritize young people’s access to reproductive health information and care becomes frighteningly apparent: an estimated 9.1 million adolescents and young adults ages 15–24 were newly infected with a STI in 2000, almost 46,000 young people ages 13 to 24 were living with HIV in the US in 2006, and 1 in 10 high school students reported having experienced dating violence with nine percent of students reporting having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse.
We have much to celebrate with a new president who prioritizes a more progressive reproductive health agenda. Obama is already predicted to lead huge steps forward for our movement, repealing the Global Gag Rule and leading an administration that we hope will pass the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act. We know he will continue to build an administration of new and young leadership that listens to the resounding youth agenda. President Obama has acknowledged he is looking for guidance and support and it is up to us to answer his call, to voice our vision for the future. It is our time to celebrate but most importantly it is time to lean into the momentum of our victories. In his remarks at the Youth Inaugural Ball, Obama said, “America will get stronger and more united [and] you are going to make it happen.” Together, we can make this happen. As we celebrate Roe and pay homage to past victories of the choice movement let’s also build a vision for attaining new victories and expanding our political vision in the name of a healthy and just community.