Commentary Human Rights

The Changing Faces of the Pro-Choice Movement

Nancy Keenan

Baby boomers may not have everything in common with the Millennial generation. What our generations share, though, is the core belief that women – not politicians – should make personal and private decisions about their health care. 

This article is the fourth and final in a series published in conjunction with Choice USA in an effort to highlight the importance of intergenerational dialogue within the reproductive justice movement and to uncover ways to work together across generations in order to sustain and thrive. Read the first three in the series by Kierra JohnsonAndrew Jenkins and Eleanor Hinton Hoytt.

What was it like to be part of the baby boomer generation that won the right for women to have full control of their bodies and their futures? Exhilarating. And damn hard. We challenged social norms and refused to stay quiet. We didn’t organize just to win the right for women to choose abortion, we organized to change the status quo of the world.

Women of my generation fought the good fight – we won some, we lost some. We never gave up. Yes, we had dreams for ourselves but we also had dreams for our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and their futures.

Unfortunately, during these last two years we have fought some of the same battles that we thought we won decades ago. To quote baseball great Yogi Bera, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Politicians who told voters in 2010 they would focus on the economy then launched a War on Women once in office. Now they are trying to deny women birth-control coverage, de-fund Planned Parenthood and require a woman to undergo a forced ultrasound before accessing abortion services. Enough already!

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The public is fed up with extremism and political posturing.  In this time of severe economic challenges, Americans want their leaders to focus on solutions and to get something done. Instead, we see politicians like Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) making outrageous and heartless claims about women who have been raped. All of this adds up to turning back the clock on women’s freedom.

The lesson we can learn from all of this is that the personal is political. Elected officials across this country make decisions that impact us. Therefore, when we vote – or don’t vote – it has a direct impact on our everyday lives. By the year 2020, the Millennial generation will make up 40 percent of eligible voters. Some will become the next generation of congresswomen, school board members, mayors, governors and attorneys general.

They will lead. Their values and experience will inform the world they envision for their sons, daughters, granddaughters, nieces and nephews. They will tell their own stories for their times.

Baby boomers may not have everything in common with the Millennial generation. We didn’t grow up with texting or twitter hash tags. And, Millennials have never known what it’s like to live in a country in which abortion is illegal.

What our generations share, though, is the core belief that women – not politicians – should make personal and private decisions about their health care. We believe abortion should remain safe and legal. We also believe that with medically accurate sex education and better access to birth control we can prevent unintended pregnancies. And we can all agree that women should have as much information as possible when seeking out health-care options.

Roe v. Wade turns 40 in January, 2013. It’s time for women of my generation to embrace and support the leaders of a new generation who have and will protect reproductive choice for the next 40 years. Our silver lining in the face of all these anti-choice attacks is that young people have said “enough is enough,” and we’re going to see them flock to the polls and vote their pro-choice values. I couldn’t feel more confident and excited to support the new generation of leaders to drive the pro-choice movement into the future.

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