Engaging About Social Justice with People Who Disagree with You

This is usually a losing prospect. For most of us, our brains are already filled to the brim with years of news and commentary confirming our points of view — and getting out of that vortex is a near-impossible task. With the intermingling of the personal and the political, we so often talk past each other. This list is not about winning, but about becoming wiser about how to have productive conversations around social justice. 

The first and most critical step is to center yourself in love and mission. We seek to have these conversations with those we disagree with to advance a greater ideal for what our society can be. The ideal is to bring everyone into a new and better sense of self and community. Centering yourself in love and mission has two purposes:  it allows you to take a step back from the stresses of the day to focus on this conversation , and it shows the people you are engaging with that you love them and feel they are important. 

Engaging about social justice issues are different from normal conversation in a critical way: the process requires critical attention. So part of this work pre-engagement is to ask yourself what you’re up for. Evaluate your own energy, and know your limits. An important part of this: try to get a sense of the person you’re speaking with, and their motivations. Is it worth it? Are they also going to bring love to the table? Pick your audience and your timing. Replying to comments on a slanted news site’s comments section is an easy way to quickly drain our loving and mission-oriented energy. Conversely, you may represent a view not held by the rest of your family, but feel a responsibility to bring it up. How much are you willing to risk to meaningfully engage with them on an issue important to you? When and where is the right time to engage with them? 

When you actually begin to engage in conversation, start with the shared values that bring you to this conversation. Start sentences with “We both want…” For example, if you believe strongly in the rights of seeking abortion services, find a value that that may bring them on board — liberty (Roe v. Wade is an established civil right), or family (allowing pregnant people and their partners to dictate the number of children they raise will produce healthier, happy children and families).

Use language that fits your audience. I run into this so often. When discussing an issue, sometimes you want to parrot what you learned in your feminist theory class, or an Angela Davis speech. But sometimes, this language can be overly academic, or misconstrued. Feminism, for example, can be heard as “man-hating” by people raised to believe it is. Even though you disagree, a loving approach may be to talk about “equality,” rather than feminism…at least at the beginning. 

If discussing a population you’re not a part of, take caution. I have a lot of privileges: I’m white, male, cisgender, and middle class. I don’t truly know the daily experience of being anything else and I am not going to pretend I do. When engaging in a conversation, bring in the voices of people of you’re talking about. “I know that when I’ve talked to Sarah about this topic, she has said that…” However, you can both acknowledge your limited perspective, and speak from your experience. As a case manager for the DC Abortion Fund, I can say “While I don’t have the experience of seeking an abortion, I have talked to countless people who have, and have been witness to the immense barriers they face.”

During the conversation, be an active listener. This means NOT thinking about what you’re going to say when another person is talking, but trying your best to hear them, and then form a response. You won’t get anywhere if the person feels they are being ignored. Conversely, when you feel like you’re not being heard, take a breath, and tell the person. 

Lower your expectations. If engaging online, don’t expect to go on Breitbart’s comments board and think you can change everyone’s minds. With politics so wrapped up in people’s identities, an attack on a policy or a stance can feel like an attack on the person. When you feel yourself boiling over, recenter in love and mission. Remind yourself that you don’t have to take the conversation to the bitter end. For me, I reach my limit when I start to feel hateful, when I feel the other person isn’t really listening, or when I’ve said what I need to say, and have given the other person their time, too.

Know that you are still planting a seed. You may not have convinced anyone fully, but you may have been a small part of the person’s road to eventual acceptance. Rest assured that if you centered yourself in love and mission before you started, and spoke from your experiences, the other person will feel that commitment and genuineness. Thank them for listening. 

Post-engagement, take care of yourself. You probably feel exhausted and emotional all at once. Talk to a friend, take a walk, watch TV, read a book, or eat something delicious. You may not have done everything perfectly. That’s okay. Having conversations about social justice with those who disagree is a critical part of activism, but like anything, it’s about building a set of skills, which takes practice and patience and self-love. Live to fight another day.

CHEAT SHEET:

  1. Center and re-center yourself in love and mission.
  2. Ask yourself what you’re up for.
  3. Choose your audience and timing. 
  4. Start a conversation with common values you may share.
  5. Use appropriate language understandable by the other party.
  6. Listen attentively to the other person’s perspective.
  7. Acknowledge your limited viewpoint, but speak from your experience.
  8. Know that you are planting a seed.
  9. Take care of yourself. 

by volunteer Chris H.

Four Ways Trumpcare Would Be a Disaster for Reproductive Health

Many of us are concerned about how the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will impact access to sexual and reproductive health care, especially for marginalized folks. With Republican leadership drafting their bills in secret, plus attempting to rush votes on them without hearings or much floor debate, it can be difficult to understand what is going on. The numerous moving parts only add to the confusion.

I’m here to break down four ways that any effort to repeal and replace the ACA would spell disaster for full spectrum sexual and reproductive health care access:

It would gut coverage of essential health benefits, many of which include aspects of sexual and reproductive health care

The ACA includes a list of essential health benefits that all insurance plans must cover—in many cases at no cost to the insured individual. This includes FDA-approved forms of birth control and a yearly gynecological visit plus screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, mental health, intimate partner violence, and STIs, as well as the Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines. The list also includes pregnancy care, childbirth, and breastfeeding support. Under the new legislation, insurance plans would no longer be required to cover some or all of these services. That means we could be forced to go back to the pre-ACA era where only 12% of individual market plans covered pregnancy care and the cost of needed services such as long-acting reversible contraceptives or early cancer detection were out of reach for many. People would instead be at the mercy of state laws regarding whether or not these services must be covered. For instance, only twenty-eight of the U.S. states have laws which mandate contraception coverage and not all of these laws provide the comprehensive protections under the ACA. Thus, a GOP health care bill threatens contraception coverage under public and private insurance plans alike.

It would defund Planned Parenthood, putting its clinics’ ability to stay open in jeopardy.

When our foes talk about “defunding Planned Parenthood,” they are referring to revoking its clinics’ ability to receive Medicaid reimbursements for the services they provide. Never mind that federal funding for abortion care is already prohibited under the Hyde Amendment (states in which Medicaid does cover the procedure utilize their own funds to so do)and Planned Parenthood also offers other critical components of sexual and reproductive health care.  If Planned Parenthoods are unable to receive Medicaid reimbursements for these services, many would be forced to close. We’ve seen how defunding Planned Parenthood on the state level led to higher rates of unplanned pregnancies and already one unprecedented HIV outbreak. We also know that Planned Parenthood clinics are often the only full-service option for millions. This is especially the case for residents in states which did not expand Medicaid, as well as immigrants who are ineligible for coverage because of the clinics’ generous sliding fee scales. Don’t be fooled into believing other clinics would come even close to covering this gap. While the legislation would technically defund Planned Parenthood for one year at baseline, enough damage would be done by that year’s end.

It would leave even more people without abortion care coverage

Certainly, the ACA is a far cry from recognizing abortion as an important part of health care. If someone wants to purchase a plan covering the procedure, they must opt-in to tack the coverage on via a separate rider. Not only is this hardly transparent, but most people obtain abortions precisely because, well, they did not expect to become pregnant in the first place. Yet the new legislation is attempting to completely ban the use of tax credits towards purchasing plans which cover abortion beyond cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. This strongly disincentivizes insurance companies from offering plans on the individual and small business employer marketplaces that provide comprehensive abortion care coverage. Not to mention that these efforts directly conflict with New York and California laws which mandate all insurance plans to provide such coverage, begging the question as to whether any residents of these states could utilize said tax credits meant to make plans more affordable. Additionally, the new plan would dismantle the ACA’s Medicaid expansion which is terrible in and of itself, though it’s also worth keeping in mind that all fifteen states where Medicaid covers abortion also opted to expand the program.

It would deeply cut Medicaid by introducing disastrous funding mechanisms

The subject of Medicaid funding is complex and occurs through several different avenues, though one important aspect is that states are guaranteed at least $1 in federal funds for each $1 of state spending. Trumpcare would replace this with a combination of funding via block grants and per capita caps. To break it down, block grants consist of a fixed amount that states may choose to allocate as they wish and per capita caps would limit spending to a fixed quantity per enrollee. Of course, neither could be altered in the face of rising health care costs and or unexpected needs like, say, another Hurricane Katrina or the HIV outbreak I mentioned above. It also doesn’t take into account how millions of people with disabilities reply on expensive, extensive, and life sustaining care which would likely be one of the first Medicaid services to be cut. This could force them into institutions, which states are required to cover in their Medicaid programs (unlike home and community-based care, which is optional).  To add to the callousness, states which accept Medicaid block grants would no longer be required to cover family planning services and states could impose work requirements on enrollees, including people who have just given birth. Make no mistake, these measures would bring less flexibility to Medicaid, not more.

While efforts to stop such a cruel bill have been working so far, we are hardly out of the woods. Even if the Republicans in Congress don’t  have the votes today or tomorrow or even for this go-around, they have made it clear they are dead set on dismantling the progress we have made under the ACA. As individuals who volunteer our time to fund abortions, we have plenty of stories to share — including our own — regarding how important comprehensive, affordable health care really is. Let’s keep up the pressure and keep telling our powerful stories! Have one to share? Email media(at)dcabortionfund.org.

by volunteer Meredith N.

Why I DCAF

As a young woman, I was always pretty secure in my pro-choice and feminist values. But before becoming involved in the DC Abortion Fund as a case manager, the debate over abortion rights felt a bit abstract—despite the fact that 1 in 4 women get an abortion in her lifetime.

State legislatures are racing to make it harder to access our constitutional right to abortion, and women continue to bear the brunt of the financial and emotional aspects of abortion. I’ve found abortion is still an uncomfortable discussion topic—even with those closest to us.

Because it’s an uncomfortable discussion to bridge with friends and loved ones, DCAF case managers can really be lifelines. Some women who call in haven’t told anyone else, or very few people. There’s such a persistent sense of shame—you can’t talk about socially it in the way you talk about other procedures like getting your tonsils taken out or a root canal. Instead, it can be an incredibly scary and hard topic to broach.

What I like about being a case manager is that I’m helping with the logistics. Women come to DCAF after making the decision to get an abortion, for a wide variety of reasons. We don’t ask about that. We aren’t here to be emotional counsel. We are tasked with putting together the puzzle pieces of funding. We’re there to talk through it with patients, and to assure them we can help find a way to pay for it. We’re in it together—we’re with them.

That said, you can’t truly separate the financial case manager work from emotions. It’s really compassionate work. And it’s not always easy. While we’re super lucky to have amazing donors to so many different abortion funds, including DCAF, navigating everything is often exhausting for patients and is an added stress. Sometimes patients are sick and tired of making calls to different organizations, to the clinic—and receiving calls back when they’re at work, at a restaurant, or with family. I understand how hard it would be to keep fielding calls about your abortion and to be constantly reminded of it and the barriers involved.

Before case managing, I didn’t know that it could cost between a few hundred dollars (first trimester) to upwards of $10,000 (third trimester). Some women have to trek across their state, or across state lines to have the procedure. We want to be sure that all women can pay for their abortion.

Why I DCAF comes down to two things:

  1. Abortion is health care. Everyone has a right to health care, and when someone needs a procedure, we should do everything we can to make sure they can get it.
  2. As a case manager, we can help navigate the logistics so that our patients aren’t set back too far financially from an unexpected pregnancy—something that is no one’s fault. DCAF and other funds continue to change lives because they make sure no one is punished financially or emotionally. If getting the procedure comes down to a difference of fifty, a few hundred, a few thousand dollars, the very least I can do is help solve the puzzle.

By volunteer Annie W.

DCAF at Pride 2017

Our LGBTQ outreach team leads, Jane S. and Tekla T., with the help of DC Abortion Fund veteran Andrea G., led an amazing team of volunteers to staff our table at Capital Pride 2017! Tekla and Jane made poster boards encouraging Pride attendees to write the reasons why abortion access was important to them. This really got folks engaged and led to some great conversations.

Some of the reasons that participants shared with us:

“Because self-determination is a human right!”

“It is MY body. So it is MY choice (amen!)”

“I’m sick of old white men making decisions about MY body.”

“Reproductive choice is beautiful. Reproductive coercion is an atrocity.”  

One of our poster boards, midway through getting filled up with reasons to support abortion access!

Louisa S., one of our volunteers, holds up a sign encouraging Pride attendees to tell us their reasons for supporting abortion access.

We spoke with so many people who support the right to choose in different ways: abortion providers, people who have had abortions, and people who have seen how crucial access to abortion was for a loved one. Many people told us about how accessing abortion care enabled them to pursue their life goals.

Dozens of folks signed up as interested volunteers and proudly wore our buttons, beads, and other swag. Seeing so much enthusiasm for abortion access in the LGBTQ community was amazing, and we’re really looking forward to building more connections.

Jane S., one of our LGBTQ outreach team leads, with Sarah M., one of our fantastic volunteers.

We want to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, our dedicated and phenomenal volunteers! Thank you so much to Emily C., Caitlin G., Kristina T., Alyse C., Erin C., Sarah M., Maureen D., Erik K., Georgia M., and Grace M., who held up signs, got folks interested in working with DCAF, braved the summer heat, and had both inspiring and difficult conversations with the many people who stopped by.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the LGBTQ Outreach Team, or any other aspect of DCAF, let us know! Send an email to volunteer@dcabortionfund.org, and we’ll put you in touch with our leads.

by volunteer Tekla T.

Join DCAF for the premiere of Sioux Falls!

The DC Abortion Fund is excited to be part of the world premiere of Sioux Falls by Megan Dominy, a local playwright and actress. The play examines abortion access in a controversial culture war with humor and humanity.

A hopeful mother-to-be, a disaffected student, and an abused wife are all seeking an unusual destination: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The reason? Sioux Falls is the only clinic in the state which offers abortion services. Connected by a common need but little else, the three women’s paths unexpectedly cross and collide, as they battle personal demons, prophetic mermaids, and bureaucratic red tape. Sioux Falls destroys the simple narrative of who we expect women seeking abortion to be. Instead, it explores the complexity behind this difficult choice and how well government policies can adapt to human intricacy.

The play runs from May 19 through June 11. On Sunday, May 28, a DCAF representative will speak during the discussion after the play—and on June 4, a percentage of proceeds from the play will go directly to DCAF!

Click here to learn more about the play and purchase tickets.

We Came, We Gamed, We Conquered

You may remember our annual Game-a-Thon, our biggest fundraiser of the year. This year, we went in with the goal of raising $70,000.

How did we do? We rocked it.

Thanks to YOU, our DC Abortion Fund supporters, we raised $105,000 and counting — a record for our Game-a-Thon efforts! This includes a generous match of $10,000 from an awesome supporter.

We now have the funding to run our helpline for SIX MONTHS. This is amazing news for patients living or traveling to the DC area, the number of which continues to grow each year. With this funding, we are able to ensure that abortion access is a meaningful reality for those who call us.

We could not have done it without our amazing team of co-chairs, volunteers, fundraisers, and donors. 

We would like to especially thank our sponsors and the awesome businesses that donated prizes:
Maggie Germano
Bossed Up
Breadsoda
DC Brau
I Heart Guts
Meg Levine & Dogstar Printing
Mentor Method
National Organization for Women
Republic Restoratives
Secret Pleasures Boutique
Sixth & I
The Diner
Upshur Street Books
Yoga Heights

Photos by volunteer Maria S.

Happy Tax Day!

Did you know that DC residents are taxed just like everyone else, but are not allowed to spend our local tax dollars without first getting the approval of Congress? Or that ALL federal tax dollars are barred from covering abortions*? Because Congress controls DC’s budget, the District does not have the same autonomy as states, which can decide whether or not they want to use their own locally raised Medicaid funds to help pay for abortions.

That’s ridiculous, right?

This Tax Day, you have an opportunity to help right this wrong.

If you got a refund, donate a portion of it to the DC Abortion Fund! We’re in the midst of our Game-a-Thon fundraiser and your donation has a direct impact. For example, your gift of $36 helps us field a month of calls from patients. $172 funds an average DCAF pledge. And $400 funds a first-trimester abortion in the DC area.

Want to do even more? Consider becoming a Game-a-Thon fundraiser and help us raise money for people in our community. Just gather a few friends to create your team, sign up, and start fundraising. We’ll provide you with tips and tools!

Barring taxpayer-funded abortion coverage puts undue pressure on our patients — and many are already dealing with financial insecurity and limited access to health care.

Do you believe that abortion care should be covered by health insurance? Do you believe that DC should get the same autonomy as states? Then take action today.

Access to abortion care shouldn’t depend on your zip code.

Repro Rights Book Club

Even in 2017, it can be hard to find positive depictions and arguments for abortion in popular culture. Honest stories of abortion, and its social and economic implications, are important to ending the stigma people face when deciding to terminate a pregnancy. After all, one in three women will have an abortion in their life.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite fiction and nonfiction books that portray abortion, the people who have them, and the people who perform them in an honest, unbiased way. Beyond being important to spreading the message of reproductive rights, they are also great reads.

Credit: Amazon

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
This book, published in 2014, is the book that first got me interested in abortion rights. Katha Pollitt lays out the arguments for why abortion is necessary, and how it affects gender, health, and economic inequalities in the United States and throughout the world. You will finish the book and think “What can I do?”

 

 

 

Credit: Amazon

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West’s memoir is about a lot of things: body positivity, feminism, trolls, women in comedy, weight discrimination. It also tells the story of her abortion. West gives a straightforward account of her decision and her barriers —and the fact that she did not have any regrets. It’s a refreshing take on a storyline that is usually fraught with emotions and indecision. It is also hilarious.

 

 

 

Credit: Amazon

The Cider House Rules by John Irving
The Cider House Rules, as you may remember from the 1999 movie, is the story of Homer Wells, apprentice of Dr. Wilbur Larch. Wells helps raise unwanted babies in Dr. Larch’s orphanage but steers clear of his other practice—performing illegal abortions. This changes when a young couple seeks out Dr. Larch and brings Wells into a world outside the orphanage. Most people argue that the book is better than the movie, which is all the more reason to check out both and decide for yourself.

 

 

Credit: Amazon

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
Axie Muldoon goes from rags to riches in her quest to bring reproductive rights to the people of New York City. My Notorious Life tells the tale of her crusade, inspired by the real life, and infamous, female physician known as the “Wickedest Woman in New York” in the 1860s. This great historical fiction will make you realize how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.

 

 

 

Credit: Amazon

Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker
Dr. Parker is known to reproductive justice advocates for being one of the few doctors who performs abortions in Mississippi and Alabama. His memoir is both his personal account of going from Christian fundamentalist to outspoken abortion provider and his case for championing abortion access from a Christian standpoint. He will be at Politics and Prose to discuss his book with Pro author Katha Pollitt on Wednesday, April 19.

 

 


Have you read any good, abortion-positive books? Tweet us
@DCAbortionFund and let us know!