Live-Blogging NCRW’s “Reproductive Rights” Panel

Sarah Seltzer

I'm at the National Council for Research on  Women's annual conference,  live-blogging the Thursday morning panel on reproductive rights.

I’m at the National Council for Research on  Women’s annual conference,  live-blogging the Thursday morning panel on reproductive rights.


Sharon Camp, Guttmacher Institute
Wendy Chavkin, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Adrienne Germain, International Women’s Health Coalition
Silvia Henriquez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Loretta Ross, SisterSong


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Anika Rahman, Americans for UNFPA THURSDAY


First question is about the new administration and how much the climate for Reproductive Rights has changed
+ what new priorities are.

Sharon Camp: "We are already deeply disappointed that the new adminstration has failed to make eye-contact with the issue of abortion."

Camp expresses concern that although Obama will be "transformational," administration has and will sidestep issues like the Hyde Amendment, stimulus funding, international funding, and Health reform that tackle social inequality in terms of abortion access and coverage. 


Henriquez: Obama administration reveals the "opportunities presented to communities of color to show we have ability to lead." She hopes to mobilize community to work on reproductive health issues. Points out that a more friendly-faced administration and downturn combined present a challenge for funding and organizing. 

Has been pushing for coverage for immigrants, ready to push for access to safety-net programs for immigrants when the issue of immigration reform comes up. Wants women’s rights community to get on board w/immigration reform fight.

Germain: People don’t know yet that despite Democratic congress "we don’t have supporters in House and Senate who can push issues forward." It’s crucial on a grassroots level for citizens and orgs. to pressure politicians as much as the opposition does.Also crucial to change discussion of HIV prevention internationally to focus on reproductive rights.

Ross: Quotes LBJ–"I agree with you, now make me go out and sign it." Says it’s all about mobilizing voices to force Obama adminstration to pay attention to our agenda, and says when women of color do speak to elected officials on RH, they are grateful to hear non-white voices on the issue.

Says there’s sometimes disagreement w/allies–i.e. people in mainstream pro-choice movement who don’t think Hyde  Amendment is a priority.

Finally Ross says we can use organizing momentum from election to tip some more southern states blue.

Chavkin: Says health reform is the issue to insist upon for Obama for his first term–he needs the victory. "He needs us." Public option is key, and using "medical standard of care" in language instead of listing reproductive services that will siphon off votes.

Rahman: Wants to build bipartisan support for issues. Says it’s a shame to see RH as a one-party issue.


Question from the floor on immigrants and health coverage.

Henriquez says it’s to our best interest, while health reform being negotiated in DC, to deal with supplemental issues that affect immigrant and diverse communities: community health care for instance. Organize activists and community members to talk to officials about their needs and take other advocacy avenues.

Question from the floor on working with international groups beyond US aid and UN jursidiction:

Germain: says there’s incredible motivation on the ground, but the issue is connecting local with global donors, big countries like US and Europeans. Says she’s more optimistic than her younger staff. Says we have an obligation to right the wrongs of previous administration which "ballooned" NGOs that were opposed to women’s rights.

Camp:Says local funding in jeapordy because int’l donations tend to be more general,central, not reaching grassroots.

Questions about where doctors stand and how women’s health framework (as opposed to rights) plays in Washington:

Chavkin: Doctors often come from privilege so can be conservative. But some have been moved by reality they’ve seen. Mentions several very progressive groups of medical professionals fighting for public option in health care.

Also says that legislators are excited about  "women’s health across the lifespan" approach because reproductive rights battle has become so entrenched.

Henriquez: Women in NLIRH’s constituency are heads of households, part of larger groups: women’s health is about the well-being and opportunities of families and communities.

Want to work with larger social justice issues, but faced with misogyny/ and opposition when women’s issues come up.

Loretta Ross: Made it safe for women to have abortions, but not to talk about abortion and for elected officials to stand up for abortion. 

"Have to convince politicians that we will vote them out of office if they don’t support our issues"

Germain: If we don’t make abortion acceptable conversation, we start to lose other things like contraception, family planning. Germain says we can’t stand up for our human rights if we don;t have our health and ability to control our bodies. 
First step is educating politicians effectively.

Rahman concludes: it’s all about education and mobilization.

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