4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Amie Newman

The winner of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival's highest honor takes on illegal abortion in Romania—a dangerous and often deadly decision for thousands of Romanian women for almost twenty-five years.

Swashbuckling Pirates with a romantic flair. A cartoon green ogre and his fairy-tale adventures. The last installment of the wizard-boy films of which we can't seem to get enough. These are the summer movie offerings that millions of Americans will spend their days consuming over the coming heat-drenched months. A film that tackles the subject of illegal abortion in Romania? Maybe not. But at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival it was the winner of the highest honor – the coveted Palm D'or prize — and with beauty and realism has much to say.

The film does have a bit of a fairy-tale journey itself. 4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) was written and directed by Cristian Mungiu. The film was produced with an extremely low-budget and, according to Mungiu, almost didn't get made:

"Six months ago we didn't have any money to make it," Mungiu said from the stage of the Grand Lumiere Theatre.

But what's got a lot of people talking is its portrayal of two young women's experiences when trying to access an illegal abortion in 1987 in a Romania under the Nicolae Ceausescu dictatorship. At the time, two years prior to the revolution that would ultimately overthrow Ceausescu, it was a country that had seen tens of thousands of women over the previous twenty-one years surrender their lives to illegal abortion. In 1966, Ceausescu issued Decree 770 — outlawing all contraception and abortion for women under 40 (exempting those women who had already done their state-issued duty and birthed four or more children). The decree was ordered so that Ceausescu could ensure a healthy workforce for the future.

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According to Planned Parenthood:

From 1966 onward, procreation became a civic duty for all fertile Romanian women. As encouragement, Ceausescu bestowed extraordinary titles upon "dutiful," childbearing women – "Heroine Mother" for having 10 or more children, "Maternal Glory" for having seven to nine children, and the "Maternity Medal" for having five or six children. Between 1967 and 1972, more than two million "children of the decree" were born.

Maybe Bush just needed to title his proposal — the one that encouraged women on welfare to marry in order to duck poverty — with something catchy?

But this decree eerily turned out to contribute quite directly to his downfall. Again, Planned Parenthood lays out the history:

Thousands of children of the decree were abandoned by families who could no longer care for them, as were disabled or mentally ill children. The population of orphanages and state-run institutions swelled after 1966, and as Romania's economy withered in the 1980s, so did these children's living conditions.

Twenty years later many of those "decree babies" — now grown & angry with the kind of lives Romania under Ceausescu had given them — took to the streets to fight against and ultimately overthrow Ceausescu.

The film follows a young woman and her friend as they struggle to obtain and pay for an unsafe, illegal abortion for the young woman.

Mungiu has been quoted as saying that he "wanted women to think about the moral issues of a termination rather than about ‘getting caught', as under communism." While I could not find any other quotes that speak directly to the issue of abortion attributed to the director, it is disturbing to read that, despite the atrocities committed under Ceausescu which resulted in 80% of maternal deaths attributed to illegal abortion, Mungiu still feels the need to speak to women — Romanian women — about the "consequences" of their decisions.

He did also stress that the film was intended to highlight the broader concept — the extent to which the Ceasescu dictatorship controlled even the most intimate aspects of life. However, he went on to say, "'People have a tendency of avoiding and thinking about what they don't like,"… "People have to think of their consequences." And by "people" I assume he means the women who were forced into these inhumane circumstances by a dictator who believed women's bodies should be state-run and state-controlled.

As one Romanian woman who has viewed the film wrote, "The decree took many women by surprise, and for some years, many children, either unwanted or unexpected were born. In 1989, when the Revolution happened, the children from the first wave of the decree were around 20 years old, and most of them [sic] fighted in the streets. Even the squad that executed the dictator included some young soldiers of the same generation! That is why this abortion problem in the years of the dictatorship is a significant one for so many Romanians, including Cristian Mungiu who, guess what, was born in 1968…"

4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile has been hailed as a "remarkable mixture of candor and indirection" and ultimately magnifies the plight of all Romanian women victimized under a dictatorship that sought to control every aspect of women's fertility and reproduction. The film is a powerful and visually stunning reminder of the inevitable outcome when women's reproductive rights are stripped away.

Q & A Media

Discrimination, Doxxing, and That ‘Louie’ Episode: A Q&A With the Filmmakers Behind ‘Fattitude’

Annamarya Scaccia

Rewire recently spoke to Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman, who are crowdsourcing funds for Fattitude, their documentary about fat prejudice. The filmmakers discuss the core principles of Fattitude, the harassment they've experienced while making the film, and much more.

So often in pop culture, fat is used as a symbol of immorality.

From Colin Farrell’s fat-hating boss in Horrible Bosses to “Fat Monica” on Friends to Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, fat bodies frequently are a substitute for something disturbing, something laughable, or something that’s villainous. Even if the fat-shaming is not overt, as in Lifetime’s series Drop Dead Diva, there is still an underlying message that fat equals impiety.

Yet, despite widespread acceptance that pop culture drives and defines how we feel about our bodies, there has yet to be much acknowledgement of how society is not only rife with fat discrimination, but is complacent about it.

That’s where Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman come in. Through their feature-length documentary, Fattitude, the Florida-based filmmakers and long-time friends are taking a concentrated look at the ubiquity of fat prejudice through media analyses and interviews with some well-known activists—like Marilyn Wann, author of Fat! So?, and Sony Renee Taylor, founder of global movement The Body is Not an Apology. They also plan to develop an educational activist campaign around the film, much like those related to the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and Miss Representation, that centers on raising awareness of fat discrimination.

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“Our media tells a lot of lies about fat bodies and about the experience of living in fat bodies,” Averill told Rewire. The film project is “close to both of our hearts because we both have lived in bodies of changing sizes throughout our lives and we both battled how fat discrimination functions, how fat hatred functions, how fat-shaming functions.”

Fattitude is still in the production phase, though, and Averill and Lieberman have turned to the community to help fund their project through a Kickstarter campaign, which ends on Sunday, May 25. Funds raised through the drive will go toward travel costs for the crew and production team to shoot additional interviews, equipment purchases, revenue for an illustrator/animator and sound editor, and costs of film festival applications.

So far, their Kickstarter campaign has more than exceeded its goal, bringing in nearly $5,000 more than the original $38,050 they set out to raise. With only a few days left, the duo is now pushing for $50,000, hoping to raise enough for additional production items such as professional color correction, original music composition, and a fair use lawyer.

But the entire process has not gone smoothly. Earlier this year, Averill and Lieberman became the victims of a horrible online attack. Shortly after launching their Kickstarter, a YouTube user by the handle “GODBLESSADOLFHITLER” posted the Fattitude trailer under the title “Cakes: The New Comedy Hit,” which Averill immediately reported for copyright infringement, and YouTube removed it. Apparently angry about being reported, the YouTube user began to harass Averill, Lieberman, and their supporters on Twitter, posting their contact information online—or “doxxing” them—and soliciting his followers to also stalk and abuse the filmmakers. In a matter of days, Averill and Lieberman were receiving rape and death threats, hate mail, and frightening phone calls. The abuse continues to this day. (The incidents were reported to local police, which subpoenaed Google, YouTube’s parent company, but the filmmakers have yet to hear back.)

While the experience has left both Averill and Lieberman shaken, they say it’s validated the importance of both the film and their work in exposing fat hatred. “I feel more aggressively determined that this is an absolutely necessary film,” Averill said.

Rewire recently spoke with the filmmakers about the core principles of Fattitude, the latest episode of Louie, the importance of featuring diverse voices, and more.

Rewire: Fattitude aims to educate about “the harsh and very real realities of fat shaming and fat hatred.”  How so?

Lindsey Averill: We felt that there wasn’t a strong documentary that really looked at how popular culture intensifies fat discrimination in everyday life. For us, we believe representation plays a huge role in how we formulate our ideas about the culture we live in. What we did is really examine popular culture and say, “How is the everyday experience of media representing the fat body?” So our film [is] really delving into that. We’re saying, “In our culture, when we talk about fat bodies, it’s in a negative context, period.”

Viridiana Lieberman: And using pop culture as a lens is very accessible in conversation because everybody can relate or has seen one or all of the forms of media we’re discussing—whether it’s a show you really like or a story that you read about in the newspaper, or just reality television that is just in your ear all the time, even if you’re not watching it.

LA: For us, we feel that [the first step in] educating the populous about fat discrimination is opening people’s eyes to the reality of the fact that they already are complacent in fat discrimination because it’s so acceptable in the media that that message is imbedded in our lives. Our film is our first action item. It’s the first space in which we put forward, “Open your eyes. Realize that this is one of the invisible cultural assumptions that you’re not paying attention to, and you’re not realizing how cruel, how frugal, and how aggressive this assumption is when it plays out in everyday life.”

Rewire: You write on Fattitude‘s Kickstarter that, through this journey, a lot of your own views about fat prejudice and how it is to live in a fat body evolved. Can you talk about that?

LA: I became really conscious of where my failures of body acceptance were. Yes, I was already an activist saying everyone should love their bodies, but [being] in front of these people who so totally have taken on the reality of that, I realized I hadn’t yet. There were moments where even if I wasn’t saying something negative about my body, I was looking in the mirror and assessing it in my own mind. There were these very subconscious whispers that I was able to figure out how to dispel.

On top of that, an academic argument makes sense, but it’s very different seeing it crystalize in real life for you. A lot of the arguments I have seen people make, I hadn’t formulated my own opinions about, per se. Even with regards to “How do we manage this airplane [seat size] issue?” Through the process of listening to all these academics and talking with them, all of a sudden I was like, “No, no this is totally serious. The corporations need to be responsible for this. This is just flat-out discrimination.” Whereas I hadn’t thought deeply about it until I was listening to others really talking [about it].

VL: The pop culture reference we used to like to say [in women’s studies] is that you got unplugged from the matrix—the whole idea that all of a sudden you can see it everywhere, and in everything. That definitely happened to me right when we started working on the project with different aspects of fat activism. But the biggest thing for me, personally speaking, is when interviewing people, I remember walking out of those interviews and thinking, “How did they unplug [from the matrix]?”

I remember I used to wait to do things. I really gauged a lot of big moments in my life on the concept that I should wait until I reach a goal weight or I’m more fit or blah blah blah. And that was such a weird concept to sit back and be like, “Wait a minute, not only is this perhaps the way my body will be no matter what I do, but on top of that, you should never wait.”

What a terrible reason to wait to do things! [laughs]

I remember sitting back and I felt so much more free. [But I] also became very conscious of what people were saying around me from what they ingested in pop culture, and how they feel about their bodies—when we eat and they feel guilty.

LA: The other thing that was amazing to see was that a lot of the people we met [who] totally embraced body positivity and fat positivity have literally unplugged from popular culture. They said, “I’m no longer going to look at these images that tell me my body is not OK because that is totally detrimental to me.” And they had no television, didn’t see movies, just totally unplugged from the popular media because they felt popular media was constantly harassing and torturing them.

VL: We’d start rattling off the list of shows that we want to hear their input on, and they’ve never seen it. “Oh I’ve heard of that one, never seen it.” “I don’t own a television.” I mean every single person [laughs] and that was a huge revelation.

Rewire: In last week’s episode of Louie, the character Vanessa, played by Sarah Baker, made a speech about dating as a fat woman, which was praised by media outlets. Critics, however, like Willa Paskin at Slate, question the scene’s intent. How does that scene challenge or propagate the perception of fatness in pop culture? 

LA: That moment on Louie is rife with both the good and the bad. For example, it is amazing to see someone on television acknowledge the fact that the way we lie about the reality of a person’s body size is insulting and demeaning. Regularly when I refer to my body as fat, people try to tell me it’s not. Obviously, they are lying to me because they believe that being fat is something to be ashamed of, something ugly, something awful. Of course, in reality being fat is just a fact. It doesn’t have to have moral or aesthetic resonance—and the attempt to “hide” me from my fat points out that they believe that if I know I’m fat then I can’t possibly like myself. So I think the fact that this character is on television pointing out the ugliness that is intrinsic in dismissing the reality of a person’s body size is amazing and also really unheard of in mainstream media.

That said, [the speech] also relies on popular cultural lies—like the idea that fat women are not desired or that men are “ashamed” to be seen with fat women—and it makes some really limited assumptions about the issues that fat women struggle with and in turn obscures the systemic reality of fat discrimination. I think the conversation about fat discrimination is more concerned with the reality that fat people make less money than their thin counter parts, that they often receive sub-par medical care, and that they are assumed to be lazy or stupid. 

Arguably, this scene gives fat men an edge over fat women—which is debatable. It’s true that historic understandings of femininity have relegated women to the role of object and therefore “beauty,” and long-term relationships are understood as defining and significant factors in a woman’s life, but not a man’s. Of course this is an archaic idea, and yet popular culture still perpetuates these stereotypical gender concepts. That said, ultimately fat men and fat women suffer. We can’t sit around comparing oppressions. Instead we need to work on eliminating the causes of discrimination.

Rewire: What I find interesting, though, is that some outlets, like Flavorwire, are hailing it as this moment that’s given a voice to fat people, which seems dismissive of fat activists. How does that response play into what you’re discussing in Fattitude?

LA: One of the things we can always say is that on some level, anytime we’re having a conversation about fat discrimination—even if it’s problematic—we’re starting a conversation. I feel that the conversations are not being had enough in general, so while the conversation might be problematic, there’s a part of me that feels joy any time the conversation exists at all.

VL: I totally agree with that point.

LA: While there are activists on the ground, and there are amazing people out there saying amazing things, at the end of the day, the way our culture works—and the way it sort of worked for decades—is when you have someone famous as your spokesperson and you have someone famous start the conversation, the conversation is heard. Versus when you have activists having the conversation, it often gets relegated to, “Oh, those are activists talking. I don’t know if that’s important or not.”

And I say that with complete sarcasm, because while the activists are doing amazing and unbelievable things, they’re often shown as the far left or the far right. I’m saying that we can bring the conversation to center and enable it to happen.

VL: Right. You don’t need to mediate that, though. At the end of the day, if that person may have opened the door, it’s still giving access for people to finally be heard.

Rewire: As seen in Fattitude’s trailer, you feature a lot of diverse voices from cultural, wellness, and academic fields. How important was it to tackle this issue from those different viewpoints?

LA: We entered the sphere of making this film with the belief that diversity and diverse voices were extensively important, and one of the current flaws with the trailer—which will not be true of this film—is that it is all women’s voices. It is our goal, by the time we complete this film, that it is a film about fat men and fat women of every race, creed, sex, color, all of the above, because we believe only in that space can you truly have a conversation about what’s being experienced.

Rewire: Were there any issues that you were surprised to learned about as you conducted these interviews?

LA: The reality is that I was so well-informed before we even got to this because I am writing a dissertation of fat activist and fat-shaming. So most of the time, it was about the nuance of the argument, not that an argument popped that [we never thought about]. You look at an argument that you’ve defined for yourself, but then you start listening to [Fat! So? author] Marilynn Wann or [author and activist] Virgie Tovar explaining why they’ve come to the reasoning about a particular argument, and you think, “Oh, that’s incredible.” Then you talk to someone like [Seeking the Straight and Narrow author] Lynne Gerber, and you go, “Oh my God, holy, that’s incredible too.” 

You knew it was wrong that someone on the airplane was being kicked off for their body size, but you didn’t take the step forward to realize that the corporation must fix that. The fact that people didn’t think [about it as], “We’re telling you you deserve to be punished. You deserve to be kicked off this plane because your body size is too big,” the fact that people aren’t recognizing that’s prejudice—that was the kind of nuance that became blatantly clear.

VL: That’s why we love that quote where [Gerber] says, “We can land a person on the moon, but we can’t figure out how to get airplane seats for a human being,” because it’s true. Even “thin” people complain about those seats being too small [laughs]. There’s no relevance, there’s no acceptance of any form of spectrum in body size in the human body. Like Lindsey said, it’s just thought to be absolutely OK, undeniably OK, to discriminate and make that assumption.

Rewire: In the process of promoting Fattitude, you’ve also experienced incredible anti-fat abuse and harassment on- and offline. Tell us about that.

LA: It definitely happened to both of us. I think my household experienced the brunt of it, but I was not alone. [“GODBLESSADOLFHITLER”] got very angry and started harassing me on Twitter, initially. My reaction to his harassment on Twitter was, “This is someone who is ridiculous,” and I blocked him. Then he proceeded to go from there to calling my house and sending things to us in the mail, calling my parents’ house, calling my husband’s business, sending Mormon missionaries, having other people send horrible letters that said frightening things, death threats, rape threats. Viri got very aggressive rape threats. We got pizzas delivered to our house. Two days ago, I got a cola. It’s ongoing. It doesn’t go away. It has an anti-Semitic [element], which I think is just part of his online persona, but most of it is “fat bitch cunt” kind of stuff. It’s really anti-woman. It’s really anti-fat. It’s anti-gay, absolutely.

Rewire: Are both of you OK?

LA: I think we’re OK. That’s the best I can say. Our alarm went off the other night, and you feel like cowering in a corner because for the first time in your life, it’s not your instinct to be like, “Oh, that’s our sensitive alarm [that goes off] all the time.” Instead, you’re like, “Oh my God, who’s outside my house?!” There’s definitely a certain level of paranoia I could do without.

VL: The day after my information got out on the Web, I remember getting really nervous, looking over my shoulder. Any time our phone buzzes when somebody would come to our apartment building, there was always a hesitation, even if it was our friends or someone randomly calling the wrong apartment. But it’s where your mind goes first, which is bad.

LA: You feel more cautious and more anxious. But we’re making this film for a reason. It’s an absolutely necessary conversation, because I have now not only experienced the bullying that was experienced by living in a fat body in the world, but I have also experienced this intense level of fat hatred in the culture that I haven’t felt. The reality is, activists like Amanda Levitt [of] Fat Body Politics get this kind of trolling on a regular basis. They get this kind of brutal ugliness coming at them as they try to fight this. I contacted all the people in our film right away when this started, and activist Substantia Jones was like, “Hey, this is my life. This happens to me all the time. We are human, we are strong, and we won’t be quieted.” There’s a huge part for me where I have to remind myself that the activists now, and who came before us, experienced this, and that’s a part of it. That’s what happens, because you’re striking a nerve and you’re having a conversation that is obviously compelling, but also important.

I think at the end of the day, are we OK? Yeah, we’re OK. Is it great? Not always, but we’re OK.

Rewire: What has this experience showed you about the work you’re doing with Fattitude?

LA: We’ve seen the ugliest version of fat discrimination. Fat discrimination is that someone thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to come up to me, and go, “Oh, I’m on this great new diet, I should tell you about it,” because that person is assuming that I want to know about a diet, that I’m interested, that I’m unhappy with my body as it is now. That’s a version of fat discrimination. And, obviously, so is someone sending me hate mail and threatening my life, and calling my documentary cancerous because I am trying to tell people it’s OK to live your life even if you’re fat.

That’s what it showed us: It’s not just something subtle. We know it’s systematic. But we just looked at the brutal version of the hatred.

VL: And the hatred that happens at a time of change.

LA: Absolutely.

Rewire: In the end, what is the number one thing we should know about Fattitude?

LA: That each person’s body belongs to them. One of the things we like to do in this world is to think we have the right to judge other’s choices, and that’s one of the ways we quickly justify body prejudice. Everyone’s body is their own, and everyone’s body deserves the right to live free, equally, and with love and acceptance in this world.

VL: I couldn’t have said it better.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Fighting for Justice in 2010: Heroines and Heroes We Admire

Jodi Jacobson

This year, we asked members of the community of Rewire to share with us--and you--their heroines and heroes for 2010... those people who have worked to promote sexual and reproductive justice, environmental justice, women's human rights and the rights of LGBT persons. Just to be clear: This was not a contest and we did not intend to "choose" among these amazing people; rather we intended to recognize them all, as they were submitted by their colleagues. Below are brief profiles of the people recognized by our colleagues, and the names of those who submitted them. The names appear in alphabetical order.  We give a special thanks to all the heroines and heroes working for rights and justice everywhere, and thank each of them, whether named here or not.

This year, we asked members of the community of Rewire to share with us–and you–their heroines and heroes for 2010… those people who have worked to promote sexual and reproductive justice, environmental justice, women’s human rights and the rights of LGBT persons. Just to be clear: This was not a contest and we did not intend to “choose” among these amazing people; rather we intended to recognize them all, as they were submitted, by their colleagues.

Below are brief profiles of the people recognized by our colleagues, and the names of those who submitted them. The names appear in alphabetical order. 

We give a special thanks to all the heroines and heroes working for rights and justice everywhere, and thank each of them, whether named here or not.

HEROINES AND HEROES OF 2010

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Dr Marijke Alblas

Dr Marijke Alblas is an abortion provider in South Africa who travels around the country in particular rural areas providing second trimester care. She often travels alone and has to take her own instruments working over 18 hour days. She is described as a saint in a context where surgical abortion designated facilities have decreased from 70 percent to 43 percent in terms of accessibility.

Submitted by Marion Stevens, who currently directs the Women and HIV/AIDS Gauge at the Health Systems Trust (South Africa) to engage with the continuum of HIV/AIDS care through a sexual and reproductive health and rights lens.

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Wyndi Anderson

My heroine is Wyndi Anderson, who has spent her entire career advocating for the needs of women who constantly slip through the cracks of mainstream education, service, and advocacy programs

Wyndi Anderson

Wyndi Anderson

—usually because they’re some combination of poor, of color, homeless, working in the sex industry, pregnant, and/or addicted to drugs or alcohol. This year she’s begun working on behalf of rural women as the Senior Director of Programs at the Abortion Access Project (read her terrific blog post here about the reproductive health care her own working class, rural grandmothers did and didn’t get). Previously, Wyndi traveled all over Russia, the Ukraine, and Indonesia as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, meeting with staff at harm reduction programs, including reproductive health staff, and teaching them how to work with all women, including pregnant, drug using women, effectively and respectfully. She also met with the women themselves, helping them learn self advocacy skills and reproductive health issues. In her spare time, Wyndi’s working with a DV shelter in DC, helping to make it accessible to all women, including women who are actively addicted. She is truly a heroine of reproductive and sexual justice/rights/health/dignity.

Submitted by Nancy Goldstein. Nancy Goldstein is a communications consultant and journalist whose work has appeared in venues including Rewire, NPR, Salon, Slate, The American Prospect, and The Washington Post, where she was an Editor’s Pick and the winner of the blogging round during their Next Great Pundit Contest. Follow her on Twitter.

*  *  *

Malya Villard Appolon

In 2004, Malya Villard Appolon, who had been raped during the 1991-94 military dictatorship, came together with other rape survivors to create KOFAVIV. They formed solidarity groups, providing social and psychological support for rape survivors, and encouraged members to take collective action to fight gender-based violence.  When the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, KOFAVIV’s 3,000 members were at the epicenter of the disaster. Many lost their lives and many were displaced to dangerous, sprawling tent cities, where women and girls have faced epidemic levels of rape and sexual violence. Since the earthquake, KOFAVIV’s work has become more urgent than ever before.

Malya has refused to give in to despair. Instead, she organized and created a space for other women to overcome the shame and isolation of rape, heal their bodies and their lives, and advance a vision of social justice and gender equity in Haiti.  She had done so in the face of violent threats from people who would seek to stop her from holding rapists accountable.  Malya testified before the Human Rights Council, a groundbreaking victory in the context of limited access that Haitian women’s grassroots voices have historically had in the international arena.  She and the other women of KOFAVIV are forging ahead: distributing flashlights and whistles to women in the camps, accompanying rape survivors to access medical and legal services, and rebuilding the KOFAVIV women’s center that was destroyed in the earthquake.  The courage and determination that enabled Malya to become a founding member of KOFAVIV continues to fuel the organization today.

Submitted by Yifat Susskind, MADRE Policy and Communications Director, worked for several years as part of a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights organization in Jerusalem before joining MADRE. She has written extensively on international development and women’s human rights.

*   *   *

Jennifer Boulanger

Jennifer Boulanger, Executive Director, Allentown Women’s Center (Allentown, PA), works steadfastly and with immense compassion to destigmatize abortion through local outreach about reproductive rights to young girls, teens, and to religious, legal and social justice forums. Her passion for reproductive rights is evident when she renders the story of her life as a clinic director on Rachel Maddow and on PBS POV. Despite frivolous lawsuits, stalking at her residence, threatening mail and phone calls from anti abortion advocates, Jennifer’s resolve to forward women’s reproductive rights is like a beacon in a troubled sea.

Submitted by Dr. Kate Raneiri, who teaches documentary research in the Department of Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. She is currently working on a documentary about bullying at a local reproductive health care clinic. Kate is also a board member with the Abortion Care Network.

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Raven Bowen
She has mentored most of us in the Vancouver sex work advocacy movement.  Many of us credit her with bringing us together, giving us the skills necessary to do the work, supporting us whenever we’ve needed, leading trail-blazing projects, founding numerous programs and writing numerous publications – all with the intent to improve the lives of sex industry workers.  There is no one like her.  The BCCEC Ho of the Year Award is named after her and was created in her honour.  She deserves recognition and love for all her hard work, devotion, and compassion.

Submitted by Trina Rose

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Chicago Abortion Fund’s My Voice, My Choice Leadership Group

In 2007, the Chicago Abortion Fund launched the My Voice, My Choice leadership group to engage young women who have received funding and provide them with leadership development, public speaking training, and community organizing skills. The leadership group, currently composed of 14 members, is made up primarily of young women of color.  After training, the women join the Chicago Abortion Fund’s reproductive justice team and engage in organizing, community education in marginalized communities, and advocacy with elected officials. The participants of the My Voice, My Choice leadership group are new telling their abortion and life stories to their communities, their local lawmakers, and even Congress.  The Leadership Group also engages in clinic defense and public education about the need for Medicaid coverage of abortion. 

With support from the National Network of Abortion Funds, the group continues to grow and mobilize locally and nationally for greater access to abortion for low-income women and women of color. By empowering and supporting the leadership of the women most affected by barriers to access, the Chicago Abortion Fund is helping to build a stronger movement for change. The Leadership Group deserves national recognition for its critical work in supporting young women as emerging leaders in the reproductive justice movement. 

Submitted by the National Network of Abortion Funds

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Dr. Idon Chivi

Dr. Idon Chivi is a Bolivian lawyer of indigenous descent.  He is currently vice-minister for the newly formed Ministry of Decolonization. He had dedicated his professional career to defending human rights.  In 2008 Chivi began focusing on sexual and reproductive rights as Bolivia underwent a reform of its constitution and opportunities for broadening restrictive laws on abortion and other reproductive rights emerged.  Chivi is committed to indigenous rights, decolonization, and to an emerging issue that can’t be translated into English but loosely means—de-patriarchialization.  In a country where very few speak out publicly in favor of abortion and sexual and reproductive rights, especially from an indigenous perspective, Dr. Idon Chivi stands out for his candor and willingness to defend women’s rights, despite opposition from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and from conservatives within the Bolivian government.

Submitted by Gillian Kane, Senior Advisor, Policy IPAS

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Susan Davis

She works tirelessly to advocate for members of the sex industry, sitting on numerous committees, making frequent appearances before city officials and police boards.  She is always available to talk to if an industry member needs support or advice.  Her commitment to improving working conditions for sex industry workers is unparalleled.  She takes a lot of flack from mainstream people and industry people alike, but she does it for a purpose – to improve health and safety in the sex industry. She believes that if we just educate people and invite them into our discussions, we can help them see the truth. She is a compassionate, driven, authentic member of the sex industry and a strong voice for our movement.

Submitted by Trina Rose

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Donors to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated on May 31, 2009, pro-choice activists responded in a wonderfully constructive and noble way: by donating over $100,000 to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.  The Fund was formed by the National Network of Abortion Funds in order to honor Dr. Tiller’s legacy. The Fund serves many of the same women to whom Dr. Tiller dedicated his life:  women seeking later abortion care, women traveling far from home for abortions, and other women facing particularly high obstacles to making the decision that is right for them.  The donors to the Dr. Tiller Fund would not be silenced or scared away, nor would they retaliate with violence or threats.  Instead, they transformed their outrage into goodness, justice, and compassion.

In January, when the anti-abortion Tim Tebow ad aired during the Super Bowl, donors responded with a celebration of Dr. Tiller’s life by donating to help women without resources.  After health care reform passed with severe restrictions on abortion, our community once more responded by celebrating the life of a man who was determined to ensure that all women could control their own reproductive futures.  Throughout 2010, as we have experienced political setbacks, the pro-choice community has rallied around the memory and cause of Dr. George Tiller.  In celebrating this hero of abortion access, the donors to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund have become heroes themselves.  They have done what he did:  invested in women, their dreams, their families, their futures, and their lives.

Submitted by the National Network of Abortion Funds

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Eastern Massachusettes Abortion Fund

My hero/ines of reproductive and sexual justice, rights, health, and dignity for 2010 are the volunteers of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund. In the face of an economic slump that has been devastating to many people seeking to pay for their abortions, a political climate that has encouraged progressives and radicals to move to the middle as a “compromise,” the assassination of Dr. Tiller, and the continued devaluation of women, girls, trans people, and our reproductive rights during the attempt to pass a universal health care bill; the EMA Fund has grown, transformed, and continued to reinvent itself with passion and dignity. EMA has greatly multiplied the number of engaged volunteers in the last three years transitioning from service provision to movement building, and in March 2010 trained other abortion funds how to activate their volunteers at GO FARTHER, a mini-conference in Massachusetts. EMA has doubled its fundraising in two years, and gave out twice as much money to people unable to afford their abortions as was planned in 2010. EMA has proven that grassroots fundraising works, that young people and low-income people can fund their own causes without having to dilute their cause with the priorities and reporting of big foundations. When bowling alleys throughout the Boston area rejected EMA’s fundraiser as “too controversial” – EMA volunteers persevered and threw a party that became the country’s only abortion access “billiards-a-thon” – and raised more than any bowl-a-thon in the country except New York’s (NY, look out in 2011!!) In 2010 EMA’s volunteers developed a brand new statement of purpose, vision, and set of core values this year.

The vision speaks for itself. As with everything The EMA Fund’s amazing volunteers have done in the last year, the sky is the limit: “The EMA Fund envisions a world where every person has the right to bodily self determination including the means to access an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term without social or economic barriers.  We envision a world where every person has the right to determine their own future.”

Submitted by Sarah Morton, Board Member at the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund

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Chrisse France

My heroine of reproductive justice is Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm in Cleveland, OH. As the head of the largest independent abortion clinic in Ohio, Chrisse operates as though it were common knowledge that abortion providers are community leaders and socially conscious good neighbors.

Chrisse France

Chrisse France

Chrisse is committed to keeping excellent abortion care financially accessible to all women, to supporting women’s full range of pregnancy options, and to training the next generation of abortion providers. But her vision goes even further, connecting women’s health, environmental health, and reproductive justice. Preterm is the first healthcare facility in the country with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for its existing building and strives to be a model of sustainability for patients, the local community, and other clinics and nonprofits.

I am lucky enough to work with Chrisse and to learn from her example of quiet, principled persistence, but she would be my heroine even if I didn’t.

Submitted by Toni Thayer, communications and development associate at Preterm, a freelance writer, an adjunct faculty member at Cleveland State University, an instructor for The LIT: Cleveland’s Literary Center, and a mom.

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Dr. Marlene Fried

In her tenure at Hampshire College as philosophy professor and the Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, Dr. Marlene Fried has taken an untold number of young people under her wing, training them in the often-forgotten skill of critical thinking, helping them define (and then redefine) reproductive justice for themselves and their own communities, and supporting them through the difficult task of determining what their role could be in realizing an expansive vision of justice. This mentor, activist, scholar, and indefatigable force of a woman, became acting president of Hampshire College in 2010, and stands firm as an advocate for abortion rights and reproductive freedom, while maintaining a very public and political position. ;She has been my hero since I was her student in 2002, and I can think of no other who deserves this honor more than Dr. Marlene Fried.

Submitted by Amanda Dennis, Project Manager at Ibis Reproductive Health. Among her current projects, Ms. Dennis is conducting in-depth interviews with abortion providers to document their experiences with obtaining funding for abortions under the Federal Hyde Amendment. She is also conducting focus group discussions with low-income women to gauge their interest in obtaining hormonal contraception over-the-counter and to assess the impact that health care reform in Massachusetts has had on contraceptive use patterns. Prior to joining Ibis, she worked as a counselor at an ambulatory surgery center specializing in second trimester abortion care and as a counselor at a domestic violence shelter. Ms. Dennis holds a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College and a Masters of Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is presently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health, specializing in social and behavioral aspects of health care, at Boston University.

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Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes

Maria Luisa is a prominent Mexican feminist and the executive director of the Mexico-City based GIRE . This amazing organization, Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida/The Information Group on Reproductive Choice, has been advocating for reproductive justice and the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico since 1992. GIRE’s mission is to contribute to the recognition, respect, and defense of reproductive rights, in particular abortion rights, which upholds women’s free choice. Marcy Bloom has written on Rewire extensively about Maria Luisa and GIRE. Here is Maria Luisa in her own words,

“As is true in the U.S. in the tragic days before Roe vs. Wade, it is the young, the poor, the indigenous, and the marginalized women who suffer and die from the ravages of clandestine abortion. In both Mexico and the U.S., we see ignorance, prejudice, sexist public policies, backward thinking, increasing activism of the right-wing, and the power of corruption and theocracy, including the Catholic Church, attempting to rip away our rights. The Global Gag Rule reinstituted by President Bush on his first day in office has deprived Mexican and Latin American women of millions of dollars of funding that would typically help women with access to PAP smears, sexually transmitted disease testing, prenatal care, safe childbirth, and contraception. This destructive attitude and policy towards the lives of women in both the US and in other countries, including my own, has caused countless women to suffer and die from unsafe, unsanitary abortions. The relentless backlash in the U.S. on Roe vs. Wade has also been reflected in the violation of international agreements and national laws regarding women’s rights.”

Submitted by Marcy Bloom. Marcy is recipient of the 2006 William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU of Washington’s highest honor. The award is given for outstanding, consistent, and sustained contributions to civil liberties. A courageous advocate for civil liberties, Marcy Bloom has long been a leader in safeguarding the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Bloom served for 18 years as the executive director and guiding force of the Aradia Women’s Health Center, Seattle’s first nonprofit abortion and gynecological health center, and a model for clinics nationwide.

She is now doing U.S. advocacy and capacity building for GIRE/El Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida.

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Jennifer Gatsi

I would like to nominate Jennifer Gatsi from Namibia as a heroine for 2010 for speaking out about HIV-positive women’s reproductive rights. Jennifer is open about her status and presented an incredibly moving presentation at the International AIDS Conference 2010 in Vienna on positive women’s rights to safe abortion. This was the first time a panel on abortion was held at an HIV/AIDS Conference. Her personal story is inspirational and she consistently works tirelessly for the rights of women living with HIV.

Submitted by Susan Paxton, Advisor, Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV

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Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a brilliant poet, organizer and activist based in Durham, NC. This year she started the Mobile Homecoming Project, where she has been traveling the US documenting the stories of women of color organizing, and also, through a project she launched called Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind she has been preserving and popularizing the history of feminist women of color. See more about her at her online press, BrokenBeautiful Press.

Submitted by Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, and a staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and audiences around the world have seen the television reports he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now. Haymarket Press will release his new book, FLOODLINES: Stories of Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, in 2010.

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Nicole Haberland and Deborah Rogow

Nicole Haberland and Deborah Rogow of the Population Council for creating the “It’s all ONE Curriculum,” which provides schools with guidelines and activities for a unified approach to sexuality, gender and human rights education. Recognizing a need for a new perspective in sexuality education, the curriculum is unique in its ability to focus attention on the real world in which young people live their lives. According to the authors, “the ultimate goal of It’s All One Curriculum is to enable young people to enjoy—and advocate for their rights to—dignity, equality, and healthy, responsible and satisfying sexual lives.”

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans.

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Deon Haywood

One of the main takeaways from Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation was that there is amazing work being led by women, yet so many of these women go unrecognized. Deon Haywood is one of those women. Haywood runs Women With a Vision, Inc., (WWAV) in New Orleans, La. WWAV was co-founded by Haywood’s mother and several other black women in 1991 as a social service organization “to promote wellness and disease prevention for women and their families living at or below the poverty line.” It was created as a response to the non-existence of HIV prevention resources for women who were the most at risk: poor women, sex workers, women with substance abuse issues and transgender women.

Over the years, WWAV has helped hundreds of women — mostly women of color — by doing outreach, distributing condoms and referring women to other services they may need, such as legal assistance and housing. This type of work is crucial, especially given that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that New Orleans and Baton Rouge are among the three cities with the highest HIV rates in the country (only Miami, Fla., ranked higher). Also, in New Orleans, women make up 39 percent of new infections, and 79 percent of new infections are among African Americans.  While WWAV will turn 20 years old next year, it just started garnering national attention in the past few years. This is in part due to the increased organizing and advocacy needs in a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.  In 2006, Haywood found that sex workers in particular were in tremendous need. In order to appear as though New Orleans had its “criminals” under control, the city resurrected a 203-year-old crimes against humanity law that had originally been created to prohibit gay sex. This law now requires women who have ever been arrested for prostitution to register as sex offenders for a maximum of 10 years, to have the words “sex offender” printed on their photo identification cards and endure a number of other penalties.

“There are even some women who had been charged 10 or 20 years ago, who have lost their jobs and homes because they were now registered sex offenders,” noted Haywood.

How is this related to HIV? Those charged with and sentenced under this law are disproportionately poor women of color who are at elevated risk of HIV or who are already HIV positive. Economic instability and homelessness affect these women’s ability to adhere to their medications or afford their basic needs, and it places them right back into the cycle of sex work and drug use.

To address this unfair law, WWAV created the NO Justice Coalition, which is comprised of several local organizations. The coalition has lobbied city officials and garnered media attention to try to get the law overturned. This December, it had its first success: Lawmakers decided to change the first arrest for prostitution from being prosecuted as a felony to a misdemeanor, which is a lesser charge and does not carry the sex offender status. This win is small and a long time coming. The NO Justice Coalition is currently working to have prostitution cases moved out of criminal court to municipal court. Haywood is hopeful. She told us, “Though it’s been a hard road and we’ve got a long way to go, things are looking up.”

Submitted by Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, and a staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and audiences around the world have seen the television reports he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now. Haymarket Press will release his new book, FLOODLINES: Stories of Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, in 2010.

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Silvia Henriquez

Silvia Henriquez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who has led the only national organization dedicated to Latina reproductive health for the past eight years (she just announced she is stepping down in mid-2011). During her tenure she took NLIRH from a small office in Brooklyn to an organization that is routinely called upon to provide the Latina perspective on reproductive health and justice. On the impact of NLIRH, Silvia writes,

“When we walk the halls of Congress, attend meetings in the White House, speak to an audience of donors or host a briefing for colleagues we not only speak for NLIRH but we bring with us the hundreds of women and families that have written letters to elected officials, organized marches, community forums, cafecitos and become spokes people in their communities. Knowing that NLIRH has played a role in building a Latina movement for reproductive justice is rewarding. We have changed the conversation. I can feel proud that this organization has been relentless in fighting for the needs of our communities and despite a difficult political climate we have not compromised our values. We have developed strength both as a Washington DC inside voice and a voice of protest.” You can read her full letter here.

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans

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Professor Eddie Mhlanga

Professor Eddie Mhlanga is the Chief Director of Maternal Child and Women’s Health within the National Department of Health in South Africa. He has a background as an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (O&G) and has worked in both rural and urban areas for numbers of years. In the eighties and nineties he was based in Tintswalo Hospital in the former areas of the Northern and Eastern Transvaal.

His reputation proceeded him as a man who listens to clients – and in particular women clients who would consult him and it was usual for clients to queue outside the clinic to see him from 2am in the morning. He has also been the Head of O and G at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He has worked tirelessly in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights and for people’s access to quality health services, and has been loyal to supporting abortion rights which are currently under threat in South Africa with numerous legal challenges. He is also a deeply spiritual person who is also a Baptist Minister. He is currently leading the development of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Implementation Framework for the National Department of Health. This is possibly the first African and South African government document which includes abortion rights and LGBTI persons rights.

Submitted by Marion Stevens. Marion has a background as a midwife, in medical anthropology and in public development. She has worked in the area of sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS for some 20 years. Her work has included conducting participatory research, policy analysis and development and advocacy. She has worked with a range of stakeholders both locally and internationally. Currently she is directing the Women and HIV/AIDS Gauge at the Health Systems Trust (South Africa) to engage with the continuum of HIV/AIDS care through a sexual and reproductive health and rights lens.

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Thoraya Obaid

The world’s women and girls have had no better advocate than Thoraya Obaid – the outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  In her 10 years at the helm of UNFPA, she has served as an outspoken global leader and advocate on human rights, reproductive health and the empowerment of women.

Thoraya has had great success in the midst of politically challenging times.  She has raised the profile of maternal health, elevated adolescent girls on the global agenda, demanded action and accountability for the commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, and mobilized resources for rights-based population activities. When the US government cut off UNFPA’s funding, she raised that money and more.  These successes can be attributed to her sustained commitment, thoughtful engagement, effective advocacy, and innovative approach over the past decade. 

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described Thoraya as “a leader who rushes to the frontlines of battle.” We are proud that we have been able to work alongside this gentle warrior to advance the rights of women and girls from around the globe, and look forward to continuing to move her incredible legacy forward. 

Submitted by Tamara Kreinin, executive director of women and population at the United Nations Foundation. Her experience in health and human services spans more than 25 years, and she has traveled the globe as an advocate and public policy advisor on sexual and reproductive health and rights. For several years, Ms. Kreinin served as president/CEO of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, where she was a leader in the national dialogue on sexual health and rights. Ms. Kreinin is also the co-author of Girls’ Night Out, a book about women’s groups across America, published in August 2002 by Crown, Random House.

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Cheryl Overs

I would like to nominate Cheryl Overs of the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University as my heroine. What to highlight in such a busy career? She co-founded the

Cheryl Overs

Cheryl Overs

Global Network of Sex Work Projects with the wonderful and sadly missed Paulo Longo in 1992 and has supported many networks and nascent organisations in a whole host of developing countries. Throughout her career Cheryl has been at the forefront of critical analysis in health, HIV and human rights. She is a passionate activist and academic who is able to cut through woolly and contradictory thinking with wit and charm. Her analysis of sexuality, gender and power issues is always enlightening and fresh – often in the face of intense and vitriolic opposition. So many people credit her with revolutionizing for the better the way that they think about HIV – I am one of them.

Submitted by Kate Hawkins.

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Samita Pradhan

Samita Pradhan is the Executive Director of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Program (WRRP) and has been working for 10 years to publicize the scourge of uterine prolapse which condemns over 600,000 women tin Nepal to a life of pain, stigma, and ostracization. The problem occurs when a woman’s uterus falls out of her body, and often it is caused by poverty and discrimination. Poor women are denied access to health services. In some parts of Nepal, particularly in the west, women are considered unclean after they give birth and forced to return to work in the fields while their muscles are still soft. Women with the condition are ostracized and often divorced – some even end up working as servants for their former husband. Many live with a fallen uterus for the rest of their lives.

Samita has been a visionary and articulate advocate who has put this often ignored reproductive issue on the international agenda.   She is a true heroine and an agent of change.   Under her leadership, WRRP  has worked for years to curb prolapse, and developed an innovative model for treating and preventing the condition. WRRP is seeking to expand its model to the far West, and lobby the Nepali government for more resources.

Submitted by Sarah Craven. Sarah Craven is a policy advocate and attorney with expertise in women’s reproductive health and rights. She currently serves as the Chief of the Washington Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ms. Craven’s work advocating for rights-based population policies has included positions at the U.S. Department of State and the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA). Prior to her work at CEDPA, Ms. Craven was a staff attorney at the National Women’s Law Center and served on the legislative staff to Senator Timothy E. Wirth (D-CO) and Senator Spark Matsunaga (D-HI).

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Tiffany Reed and Alexia Zepeda

place holder

Pictured left to right are Elisabeth Sowecke, Kate Vlach, Alexis Zepeda, Raina Aronowitz, and Tiffany Reed, DC Abortion Fund lead volunteers at the Fund’s Holiday Fundraiser.

Tiffany Reed and Alexia Zepeda of the DC Abortion Fund and their colleagues throughout the country who give thousands of volunteer hours talking to women who need abortions and finding the money to support them. Five years ago a group of five abortion rights activists took the DC Abortion Fund from near extinction to providing 400 women in the DC Metropolitan area with the funds they needed to get the abortion that would change their lives. Tiffany Reed who works for the DNC all day committed five years ago to never having to say no to a woman who calls and so far she has kept that promise. Alexia who works at the National Abortion Federation during the day told me about the year when too few volunteers were available and she almost single handedly answered all the calls, stressed out by the unrelentingly hard lives of women who had no one to talk to; no one to lend or give them the money they needed and faced what often felt like the humiliation of turning to strangers for not only money but solidarity and support. Without these volunteers tens of thousands of women would be completely alone at one of the most critical moments in their lives.

Submitted by Frances Kissling

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Mona Reis

I want to recognize Mona Reis, director of Presidential Women’s Center
in W. Palm Beach, Fla and her extraordinary staff for as a heroine of 2010. Under Mona’s  incredible leadership, this clinic has managed to remain open and offer quality abortion care, in spite of the antiabortion movement’s relentless attempts to shut them down. This clinic has had aggressive picketing, stalking, butyric acid attacks, and most seriously, a firebombing  a few years ago that led to the clinic being closed for a time. But under Mona’s leadership, the clinic reopened, with no staff members quitting, and with renewed determination to keep providing care to women who need it. This is a jewel of an abortion facility, and deserves recognition for their unwavering commitment.

Submitted by Carol Joffe, Professor Emerita of Sociology, U.C. Davis, Professor, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, UCSF

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Joyce Schorr

Joyce is the President and Founder of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP). WRRAP is an all volunteer organization that raises money to help poor women in need of a safe and legal abortion at clinics all over the nation. The organization has been around for about 20 years, and 2010 has been a particularly hard year for women in need  because local funds around the country have been out of money most of the year. WRRAP acts as a safety net to pick up the balance of funding needed for desperate women in desperate straits.  Joyce single-handedly raises the funds that WRRAP grants, and her work is pretty much unrewarded. She is most deserving of recognition for her work in a time of great economic uncertainty.

Submitted by Judith Krain

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The Sex Workers Project

I am writing to nominate the amazing women at the Sex Worker’s Project for the reproductive justice heroine award. I want to nominate all three staff attorney’s to win the repro justice heroine award: Lynly Egyes, Melissa Broudo Sontag, and Sienna Baskin.

The Sex Workers Project (SWP) is a non profit organization that provides legal and social services to sex workers and trafficking victims. The SWP is  the only organization in the United States that provides legal services solely for sex workers. I think the amazing lawyers at the project should get the award because of all that they have done for sex workers rights this year, a community that is often marginalized within the reproductive rights movement.

This year, lawyers at the SWP worked with the New York legislator to pass the Trafficking Vacating Bill which was passed in June. The bill allows survivors of trafficking to remove past convictions of prostitution from their record. I have been interning at the SWP for only 2 weeks and seen what a HUGE difference this bill makes in the lives of of sex workers and trafficking victims. Through this bill they can get jobs they couldn’t get before and have education opportunities they didnt have before. I had one client tell me that although the social programs that other organizations offer are great and important, the legal help is what she really needed for her to be independent and get a job which is all she really wanted.  The SWP is also working on passing a “No Condoms As Evidence bill” which will prevent cops form using condoms found on people as evidence of prostitution.The SWP also works closely with the sex worker community in New York, in the U.S. and around the world. They do so many amazing things all of which are rooted in reproductive justice activism.   

Submitted by Lara Shkordoff.

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Alice Welbourn

Alice has been a tireless campaigner and advocate for women’s rights and in particular the sexual health and reproductive rights of women living with and affected by HIV globally.  In her quiet unassuming manner, Alice has stood up for and affected the lives of women living with HIV across the globe. She is an active member of the Wecare+ Network; is a founding member and director of the Sophia Forum and is director of the Salamander Trust. Networks and organizations committed to ensuring the needs of  this group of women are recognized and addressed at policy level; and also that the rights of women living with and affected with HIV are in place as well as ensuring that women have access to the tools they need to practice these rights. Alice also sits on countless High profile bodies working directly to achieve these goals.  Alice generously gives her expertise and indeed herself, without ever making a big deal of the admirable work she has done and continues to do over the years! In my book, Alice truly represents courage and resilience in standing up for our rights as women living with HV.

Submitted by Angelina Namiba, Project Manager, Positively UK.

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Angileece Williams

Angileece Williams of Cleveland Ohio who recently won the national Scenarios USA film contest for her script, Life’s Poison. Tackling gender issues and masculinity stereotypes head on,  her script tells the story of an African American teen that believes manhood is about suppressed feelings and bullying after witnessing domestic violence and experiencing parental abuse. The main character struggles to redefine what a real man is. The film was made into a movie by Hollywood director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother).  According to the director,  he is “very proud” of the movie, and he says about young black men in this country, “To put up this persona of toughness and machismo, that that’s their definition of black masculinity, and that’s not how that has to be. There’s some real danger in that. And right now, if there’s not a change in attitude, from ignorance and being cool to valuing education, I think we’re gonna be in a lot of trouble. Writer Angileece Williams, age 16, Cleveland, Ohio says, “We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, of exposing ourselves and sounding dumb. But the danger of indifference is far worse.”

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans.