Original post on Think Progress

By: Igor Volsky on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:10 am

Gallup reports that while the uninsured rate has been increasing since 2008, climbing to 17.1 percent in 2011, “U.S. adults aged 18 to 25 — who are now allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 because of a provision of the 2010 healthcare law — are less likely to be uninsured than in previous years.” “The percentage of uninsured declined further in 2011 to 24.5%, from 27.6% in 2010 and 28.2% in 2009″ and young adults is the “only group Gallup tracks that has seen a significant decline in the percentage uninsured in 2011″:

Significantly, higher-income Americans who can afford to pay for the skyrocketing costs of health care and Medicare-insured seniors are two groups “among the least likely to be uninsured” and “have not seen an increase in the percentage uninsured over time.”

It’s the anniversary of Roe v Wade today, and pro-choice groups all over the country are holding or supporting events, including our state affiliates with RCRC.  Here at SYRF we’re joining Blog for Choice, by answering the question: What will you do to support pro-choice elected officials in 2012?

 

  1. Engage: SYRF doesn’t just believe in supporting elected officials votes, but in engaging with them as well.  With the help of our activist network we plan on continuing to recognize real champions in choice and doing our part to support their work by attending their town-halls, sending them our stories, and helping to mobilize their bases on the issues where they need support.
  2. Encourage: To show some additional love, SYRF and RCRC will once again deliver valentines to our Pro-Choice Superstars this February.  In the past, staffers have told us how much they appreciate these cheerful cards as an antidote to the somber or angry messages they are used to receiving.  Check back with SYRF closer to Valentine’s to find out how you can sign-on, and support our pro-choice members of congress.
  3. Educate: On our agenda for 2012 are several advocacy trainings and hill days operating at the national, and importantly, the state level.  Later this year, for example, SYRF’ers will be part of a pro-choice caucus speaking to legislatures in the Florida State House.
  4. Empower: As always, SYRF will be working hard to keep our youth network engaged in important issues, and to continue to provide trainings, materials and grants to help them with their local advocacy work.  Advocacy at the local level is an important way to let elected official know their constituents expect legislation that is  pro-choice, and pro-reproductive justice.

 

How are you supporting choice in 2012? Where you involved in any pro-Roe events this week? Leave us comments below, and let us know what you’ve been up to!

By: Megan Lieff  Intern for SYRF
With the new year starting, many have their eye on goals and accomplishments for the coming months.  From the suppression of youth voters to access to reproductive health services,  SYRF  certainly has plenty of issues we’ll be busy with.  For a small break in the daily grind, though, let’s take a look at all the amazing work we accomplished in 2011 – SYRF’ers have a lot to be proud of right now!  Here’s our first five, in no particular order…..

  • The 1 in 3 Campaign: In partnership with Advocates for Youth and Choice USA, we launched our 1 in 3 Campaign.  Based on the idea that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, the 1 in 3 campaign is bridging gaps between pre and post Roe women, to share their experiences with abortion and start more conversations.  You can get involved here by joining our pledge or sharing about your own activist work.
  • Breaking Waves: Last March we launched this very blog! Covering everything from health statistics to specific legislation, Breaking Waves has featured posts by our own Angela, partners at Advocates for Youth and guest posts from a variety of speakers, including one article originally featured  in the Huffington Post.
  • Pro-Choice Youth Week of Action: In reaction to HR3 and HR358 (The No Taxypayer Funding for Abortion and Protect Life Acts) we, along with Advocates for Youth and Choice USA, held telephone and e-briefings on the legislation, provided an advocacy training and organized a “youth call in day” to help put pressure on legislators.
  • NO! on 26: Our SYRF organizers, along with other activists, including folks from RCRC, worked tirelessly to help defeat Mississippi’s personhood legislation this past November.  With over 55% voting against the bill, residents of Mississippi showed their support for women’s health and religious freedom.
  • New Trainings: Last January we held a SYRF summit in Columbus, OH to discuss the importance of advocacy at the state level.  Discussions focused on topics such as sexuality and the importance of faith in the pursuit of justice.  Later, in August, we also held our pilot movement-building training in Tampa, FL.  The training was well attended with participation from students, community organizers and faith leaders across the south east, and led to collaborations with the local Planned Parenthood and ACLU.

We’ll be back in Part Two with five more moments from 2011, and a closer look at our goals for 2012.   And what about you? Leave us some love in the comments about the amazing work you all have you been working on through your schools, community groups or spiritual organizations


On July 6th I helped represent SYRF at the Campus Progress National Conference. I had no idea what to expect as I arrived at the Omni Shoreham hotel at 8 am, all I knew was that I was very, very tired. The hotel is big and very confusing so I had to have a very nice Campus Progress intern walk me to the tabling area where I met up with Angela, the SYRF director. We set up our table which included putting out condoms* and candy, a great combo. People started trickling in around 8:30 and we got to start handing out our pens and telling people about our organization. Many of the conference attendees did not know that something like SYRF existed and were delighted to find out more about the program. For the next 8 hours I spoke to so many different people and listened to what their beliefs were and why they were pro-choice. One guy came up to us and said, “As a pro-choice Christian, I’m so glad that you exist. Thank you.” It’s days like these that give me hope for reproductive freedom in our country. Women’s  healthcare is under such attack lately, it can be easy to become cynical and pessimistic. But, when I see hundreds of people my age with progressive ideals and reproductive choice in mind, I’m able to take a step back and realize that there is something I can do to fight back against the anti-choicer’s who are currently calling all the shots. Young people of faith have a strong voice and we can use it to spread the word to politicians in office and others around the country that we want comprehensive sex education, that we want access to birth control and contraception and abortions, that we want high-quality affordable healthcare, and that we deserve it.

 

*The king size were the first to go, possibly because of the shiny blue packaging.

 

Blog Post by:

 Leora Cohen-Rosenberg

Policy Intern

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

As a Reform Jew, I find it hard to believe that an organization like In Shifra’s Arms exists.

In Shifra’s Arms (ISA) is a unique Jewish crisis pregnancy group because it is the only known one of its kind. ISA encourages pregnant women who are considering abortion to choose an alternative. It stresses adoption as an option and offers services to women deciding to keep their child. Like similar centers, ISA does not give out any information regarding abortion. It is odd to me that this type of center, usually provided to women based on Christian values, would use Judaism as its foundation for existence.

The only text in the Hebrew Bible that comes close to mentioning abortion is in Exodus 21:22-25:

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm [to the woman], then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

The implication is that if a woman has a miscarriage after being hurt by a man, that man owes her husband monetary compensation. If that man kills the pregnant woman, he is only punished for her death, not the death of the potential child. In Judaism, we believe that a fetus is only a potential life until it is born, when it becomes a full life.

Judaism trusts women to make the difficult decision of whether to choose abortion or not. ISA seems to be working under the impression that abortion should be the very last thing on a pregnant Jewish woman’s mind and should be avoided at all costs. In Jewish teachings, if the pregnancy is causing a woman harm, be it physical or psychological, the woman’s health always takes precedence. All sects of Judaism believe this to be true. We are not pro-abortion but we strongly believe that a woman is fully capable of deciding whether continuing with her pregnancy would cause any damage to her body or her psyche. ISA does not mention these values anywhere on its website; they are not working under Jewish teachings. In their minds, abortion should be taken off the table completely. It is a hard concept for me to fathom. This is not a Jewish organization trying to help women, it is a pro-life organization using Judaism as a façade to draw in Jewish women and convince them not to have an abortion.

By: Leora Cohen-Rosenberg

Policy Intern

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Why Civic engagement and Aggressive Grassroots tactics are more important than ever

By Angela Ferrell-Baxter of Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Justice

Photo courtesy of TBD

I remember it as if it were yesterday, the buzz that I felt in 2008 after sweeping “progressive” victories. Everything pointed to change for the better as I stood alongside other progressives and holders of the American dream of freedom and equality. Indeed there was no way that we could fail, or at least that’s what I thought.

Fast forward to 2011, and so much has stayed the same or rolled backwards. Is this what I signed up for when I volunteered at local fairs, phone banked and wore buttons and t-shirts announcing that I stand for “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN”? What about all of the people that I had friendly debates with about how this new leadership would propel us forward? I think that many of us were so hungry for the possibility of better that we behaved like enamored teenagers.

With all of the recent buzz over abortion, health care exchanges, defunding family planning clinics and stamping out public radio and television to name a few, my head spins. How in the world could this be? How is it that those who want to launch us backwards have decided to speak for me, a District of Columbia resident?

As a DC resident I am outraged that the lives of the women in the district are being used as political pawns. In order to “prevent” the imminent federal government shutdown last week, DC women were thrown under the bus. The deal includes a rider bans the district from using its own funds to provide abortion services for lower income women. It’s the ultimate slap in the face for DC. This shady deal infuriated residents and activists alike. On Monday April 11, The DC 41 (which included Mayor Gray, council members and other activists from DC Vote) staged a protest in front of the Hart Senate Building to demonstrate their anger with Congress meddling in the affairs of DC. It was about our autonomy and self- determination. With about 300 supporters, the people amplified their voices.

I then realized that I was not the only one questioning everything that I once held in high regard and that frightened me. It frightened me because I am right on the front lines of many of these fights. For the most part I’m pretty informed on the day -to- day politics and am often sitting at the tables where our strategies come together. All of that and I still found myself disheartened and disillusioned. If I was fed up then I could only imagine the utter disdain and lack of confidence held by the folks that were far removed from the fight.

This cannot be. As upset as we are we must realize that our lack of engagement will allow more draconian measures to eke by. Throwing our arms up and ignoring what’s happening around us has never and will never save us. Grinding our teeth but not raising our voices will not protect us.

What I do know is that there is a lot at stake. For the lives of women and families, for the dignity and support of our underserved communities and for the respect of all who came before us, we must fight back. How do we fight back? We do it one story at a time, advocating for and educating on all of the issues that affect our communities. All of these issues intersect and they should be fought for and protected as a part of our progressive values. It unacceptable to just maintain the status quo. It is more important than ever that we remain engaged and reach a hand out to those who have disconnected.  We have to be the change that we seek “for real” this time. Our People ARE our power.

This article was originally posted by Huffington Post on March 31, 2011.

 

As a fashion photographer, I shoot a lot of pictures that contribute to the sexual imagery that confront youth every day in America. While American teens live in a society that uses sex to sell everything from lipstick to laptops, they are rarely afforded opportunities to discuss sex in an open, honest way. Because of my work in many different countries and cultures, and my involvement in a project called Move For Aids, I became interested in the issue and decided to take a deeper look at how America’s inability to talk about sex really impacts teens.

I was really shocked by what I found. Every day in America, 10,000 teens catch a sexually transmitted disease, 2,400 teen girls get pregnant, and 55 young people are infected with HIV. Also consider these cold, hard facts:

But I wasn’t just shocked by the statistics but also by the fact that most people are unaware of how bad the situation really is and also how valuable open communication and education can be in alleviating the problem.

After processing what I had learned, my mission became to bring these shocking facts to life through film and in the process offer some real solutions to try and improve the situation. That film is called Let’s Talk About Sex. For three years, I traveled through the United States and Western Europe on a journey to understand common trends on sex and sexuality, and to profile young Americans who have been directly affected by the current lack of honest, open conversation. These teens are powerful advocates for change, navigating the real world with little guidance about sexuality, and occasionally facing devastating consequences as a result.

The film highlights the price young people pay for a culture where fear, shame, and denial too often undermine education, communication, and basic common sense. It looks at a broad swath of the American teenage experience — from a teen in Atlanta, GA who discusses the disconnect between the virginity pledge movement and the reality of teen’s lives, to college students talking about the “hook up” culture of college, and a young gay man who was infected with HIV at age 17 talks about the impact the lack of sex education and information has on gay teens.

Let’s Talk About Sex concludes in Oregon, where some of the lessons learned in Western Europe are helping to create practical solutions. The differences between Europe and America are staggering. If the U.S. were able to achieve the sexual health outcomes on a par with the Netherlands, American teens each year would experience 600,000 fewer pregnancies, 350,000 fewer births and 63,000 fewer abortions. The annual savings for American taxpayers would reach $505 million.

The Internet and modern life have changed the playing field for teens. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and make sure young people have honest, reliable information and communication around this issue. Sexuality is such a big part of who we are, and I believe that most people want to talk to their children about it but they just don’t know how. Let’s Talk About Sex was created as a tool for parents, educators and community leaders to initiate healthy, age-appropriate conversations about sexual health across America. Only a community effort will really solve this problem, so please join me in getting this important message out.

The film can be seen on TLC, April 9th at 10 PM EST / 9 CST. More information on the film can be found at LetsTalkAboutTheFilm.com

James Houston is a fashion photographer and filmmaker.



March 31, 2011 

Originally posted on Feminist for Choice Blog . By Faith Pennick (read more about Faith below)

The new (but not really new) trend these days is pro-life organizations putting up billboards in primarily Black communities, with the intent of shaming Black women and their reproductive options. The latest version is a billboard unveiled in my hometown of Chicago, about a mile-and-a-half from where I grew up, featuring Chicago’s adopted son, President Barack Obama.

Once again, our experiences as African American women are funneled into the narrow existence of nurturer, caretaker and sacrificial lamb for the race/family/society. It’s our job to birth the next President or the next great Oscar-winning actor. That simplistic notion fails to embrace two key points that impact a Black woman (or any woman’s) choice to terminate a pregnancy:

1) In most cases, a child who rises to greatness was raised by a mother or parents who LOVED THEM AND WANTED TO HAVE THEM, and that’s not to say that some of those same mothers/parents did not consider abortion early in the pregnancy.
2) What about those women with unwanted pregnancies who may THEMSELVES want to be President of the United States or an Oscar-winning actor (or doctor, lawyer, teacher, astronaut…)?

Why are the dreams of the potential mother less important than the possible dreams of a fetus? Likely because, explicitly or implicitly, the dreams of women—in particular Black women–are typically discounted overall in American society…?  I made a documentary in 2007 titled Silent Choices, in which Black women talked about their experiences in having abortions and the complicated reasons why they came to that decision. In all three cases, the women cited their desire to complete college and their post-college ambitions as one reason they terminated their pregnancies. No woman should be made to feel ashamed for choosing to better their lives and/or enhance their intellect, knowing that for many being a young mother may impede or halt pursing those dreams. And to those pro-lifers who would suggest that having more babies at any cost is what’s “best for the race?” Not that the majority of these pro-lifers care about what best for African Americans (because if they did, they would be buying billboard space pushing for jobs with living wages, access to quality education and intelligent, non-racist ways in fighting crime, among other things), but I say to them: all races thrive when their women have real options in health care, and when reproductive choices aren’t legally or financially obscured and condensed into insidious billboards.

About Faith:
Faith Pennick is a filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her latest film is the documentary Weightless, about a scuba diving camp for plus-size women.  You can get more information about her work at www.orgchaos.com. Pennick is also on Twitter @orgchaosmedia.

 

Guest Post by: Paula Bryant of Infusion Magazine

InfUSion Magazine is a quarterly, student produced news magazine that covers the latest campus, local, state and national news for the UGA community. Coverage includes sports, politics, fashion & style, entertainment and more!

In the years since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, abortion has become an even more controversial issue. Since August 2010, both sides of the abortion debate have begun speaking out on campus, locally and statewide.

The yearly arrival of the Genocide Awareness Project on UGA’s campus, a campaign that displays graphic abortion photos and claims that abortion is genocide, was one of the first groups to begin the attempt to disparage our reproductive rights on campus last year. GAP and Justice For All, another anti-abortion group, are both sponsored by Students for Life, a student-founded and run anti-choice group.

More recently, the Republican Party of Georgia has proposed to redefine the meaning of rape and rape victim. The redefinition would deny women life-saving procedures, even in cases of rape and incest. Similarly, Representative Franklin proposed that every woman be investigated after miscarriage earlier this year, and Paul Broun stated that “God could not bless our country” with so many abortions taking place. Finally, the Republican Party has proposed to completely cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides health care services such as STI checks, cancer screening, preventative care and prenatal care for thousands of women.

Thus, it seems there is a war against women’s reproductive rights taking place, and abortion is being used as the fulcrum.

In response to the recent setbacks of women’s reproductive rights, the Women’s Studies Student Organization (WSSO) began the semester by holding a candle light vigil for the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Roe v. Wade was the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that the right to privacy extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

This semester women’s reproductive rights are taking a disturbing step backward from the progressive 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade. On March 8-9, 2011 Justice For All visited UGA’s campus, and WSSO decided to protest.

Elizabeth Barnard, a member of WSSO, explained, “We need to make sure UGA is a bastion of intellectual dialogue on important social issues, and not a venue for hateful, inflammatory rhetoric!”

Thus, WSSO is fighting for intellectual, educated and proactive dialogue between pro-choice and pro-life activists. The goal is not to force women to have abortions, but to be understanding and accepting of women’s rights over their own bodies. During Justice For All’s display on Tate plaza, WSSO volunteers handed out condoms and medically correct information.

I believe that groups like GAP and Justice For All have a right to operate, but that they do

 

not have a right to disseminate hateful and inaccurate information as they have.

Many anti-abortion groups, such as GAP and Justice For All, rely primarily on inaccurate information, opinions and religious beliefs in order to back their arguments, yet they advocate for making abortions, a right which every woman should have, illegal. Inaccurate information, personal opinions and religious beliefs have no place in lawmaking.

WSSO, Sexual Health Helpers at UGA (SHHUGA) and Kathleen Dailey, the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom representative, a project of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, peacefully protested Justice For All, and many students were grateful for their presence, including me. The members of WSSO, SHHUGA and the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom acted responsibly and understandingly, and I believe they truly have our students’ best interest at heart.

Paula Bryant InfUSion Magazine

Two young people walk into a congressional briefing on proposed restrictions to abortion access and funding. They see their peers, their friends sprinkled throughout the crowd. The briefing begins. Expert after expert shares the devastating impact these restrictions would have on various communities, but there is no mention of youth. So, one of them asks: “What impact would these restrictions have on young people?” Not one of the “experts” could answer.

The punchline of this sad-but-true tale was deafening silence — and it’s no laughing matter. As a group, a community, a vulnerable population, young people and our needs have continually been left out of the debate around reproductive and sexual health and rights. Make no mistake: together with communities of color and low-income communities, young people have the most to lose if the heinous No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 3) and Protect Life Act (HR 358) — popularly known as the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda — become law.

The financial realities facing young people — students, those with entry-level positions and those affected by the recession — help explain why these bills are especially detrimental to our age group. At all educational levels, we are much more likely to be living in poverty or subsisting on low incomes than older people. As a result, more than 10 million young people lack adequate (or any) health insurance, according to U.S. PIRG, and many cannot afford the high cost of many forms of contraception and may not be eligible for subsidies.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, young people already have the highest rate of unintended pregnancy of any age group. Among young women, more than one in every ten has an unintended pregnancy — twice the rate for women overall. Access to abortion care and insurance coverage for abortion is critical to these young women, as is better sexuality education and access to contraception.

Sadly, young people are also more likely to face additional legal and procedural roadblocks to accessing reproductive health services. In fact, these barriers are so difficult that many young women are forced into having a later abortion — which is more difficult to obtain, often available only in a hospital and much more costly.

At any age, abortion is not an easy decision but is often a necessary one. This is no different for young people. MTV’s recent special, No Easy Decision, featured three young women who made the decision to have an abortion. One of the women, Natalia, was a junior in high school when she found out she was pregnant. Terrified to tell her family, she was forced to seek a judicial bypass in order to receive abortion care. “I stood in front of a judge and asked him to please not make me tell my parents,” she explained, “And they granted it, but it’s kind of hard to stand in front of a stranger in an empty court room all by yourself with no one standing next to you at 17 begging for permission to make your own decision.” She sold her prom ticket to come up with the out-of-pocket costs of the procedure.

These stories are almost always absent from the national conversation over abortion rights, as stigma and fear pressure women (especially young women) into silence about their experiences. Yet, Natalia’s story perfectly illustrates why young people need fewer, not more, barriers to accessing healthcare and insurance coverage for abortion — and why access to comprehensive sex education, contraception and family planning services are so important. Yet, young people are almost always the first targets of anti-choice legislation at the local, state and national level. Whether it is mandatory parental notification and consent laws or late-term abortion restrictions, anti-choice proponents have been hard at work putting up barrier after barrier for young people to access abortion. For many young people, the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda would be the final, insurmountable barrier to an already obstacle-filled process.

But then, that’s exactly the point. The politicians pushing these bills want to impose their moral and religious views on all of us — whether we share those views or not. Our generation has grown up in the most diverse environment in American history. We have a deep respect for differing religious beliefs and political views. We also have a responsibility to speak out when any group attempts to impose their ideology on the rest of us.

Decision-makers and those in power may not be aware of the impact that the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda will have on young people, but we are. We are speaking out against this legislation because we know what it will do to us as individuals and communities. We are voting, tax-paying citizens who know how to use the power of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to educate our peers about the devastating impact of this legislation. We are calling Congress and holding meetings with our representatives. We are letting them know that if they cave on our reproductive rights now, they will feel it at the ballot box in 2012. We need leaders who have the best interests of our health and futures in mind and who are willing to fight for what is just.

We constantly hear the laments about the need for young people to engage with the political process — well, here we are. You can’t lecture us about responsibility and then take away our fundamental rights to make responsible decisions about our own bodies and lives.

We must make sure young people have a place at decision-making tables. We must make sure our rights are protected, even when it is more politically complicated to do so. We must invest in the time, the activism, the talent of young people. Doing anything short of this will make for an even sadder punchline to an already terrible joke.

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post
Authors: Angela Baxter, Director of SYRF; Sarah Audelo, Advocates for Youth & Carmen Berkley, Choice USA.