by Shevone Torres
I arrived in D.C. 2 days before the action took place. You can feel the tension. The moment I stepped foot in Washington D.C. I was overwhelmed by the amount of police presence. One whole sidewalk was blocked off filled with cops and dogs sniffing bags. I wondered what I just got myself into.
As I reached the place I would be staying at, a wave of concern came over me as I was told some of the alt-right was driving around black neighborhoods showing off their guns. We still continued to do the work. On Saturday we canvassed bus and train stops, warning black people about the rally that was coming Sunday. I came across this 91-year-old black woman who had a warm smile on her face. She asked why we were there, so I told her. It broke my heart to see that warm smile turn into fear and panic. “Why are they coming here? I need to get home. You need to get home.” I didn't understand at first until she told me her story about her experience with the Klan. The pure terror on her face told me everything I needed to know. After reassuring her I was fine and that she should stay safe, I continued canvassing the rest of the day. I returned to my room defeated.
Sunday. The day 400 Klansman would cast a shadow over chocolate city. My nerves were getting the best of me. That morning we all had brunch and went to a healing space. As we left to meet at 16&I, I was overwhelmed by the presence. As we marched towards the park, our numbers began to swell. Only after 2 blocks, over 2,000 counter-protestors had shown up. We decided not to go into the park because an abysmal 20 Klan people have shown up. We took that opportunity to turn it into black joy Sunday. We hooked up the speaker and turned it into a giant block party. Until you see hundreds of joyous black people do the electric slide and the wobble, you haven't lived. Then it hit me. Us drowning their hate with our love and joy was a powerful statement. It's the history of black people all rolled into a statement. You will not take our joy.
As the music faded and we said see ya (goodbyes are forever) I realized the connections I made, the new friends, would last me a lifetime. We walked back to our hotel room feeling we did great. A block away, we seen about 30 cops lined up on the block all the way to the hotel we were staying. It snapped us back into reality. So we silently walked down the block, (knowing anything we said could cause harm to us.) This is America. Our joy can't last too long.
I got to my room then I saw an amazing sight. Close to 100 antifa marching down the street. It was so beautiful to see them marching the black block. It was a reminder there are some out there that will fight- literally. So I laid in bed eating my funnel cake fries (yes it's a thing. It was delicious.) ready to sleep.
Monday came and it was time to leave D.C. As I gave my hugs out and boarded the bus, I went home knowing I did a good thing. Even if people don't know my name I left an impact.
by Casey Olesko, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey
Let’s be crystal clear: the right to access safe and legal abortion in the United States is on the line.
With the recent nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the future of abortion access, reproductive health care, LGBTQ rights, the environment, voting rights, and the right to be free from discrimination in this country are all in question. Whoever the next nominee to the Supreme Court is will have the ability to decide our country’s future path on all these issues and more.
How do we know? It’s simple: President Trump told us. Trump made clear that he would only appoint biased justices who would, in his words, “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic case that legalized abortion in the U.S. And the facts show that Kavanaugh has already made efforts to limit access to safe, legal abortion. Just last year, he attempted to use his judicial power to prevent a young undocumented woman in U.S. custody from accessing a safe, legal abortion. If Kavanaugh had had his way, he would have allowed the government to delay the young woman’s abortion. Fortunately, the full court on which Kavanaugh sits intervened and allowed the young woman to access the health care she needed.
He’s also ruled against women’s access to birth control. Let that sink in: birth control, which 99% of sexually active American women have used, and has led to soaring rates of economic participation by women since 1965, when birth control was made more accessible in the Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut. Kavanaugh authored the dissenting opinion in the D.C. Circuit’s 2015 ruling on the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit – writing that he believed employers have the right to deny their employees health insurance coverage for birth control.
It’s clear Kavanaugh cannot be trusted to uphold the precedent of Roe v. Wade – that the constitution affords every person the individual liberty to make decisions about their body and their relationships, including the right to access contraception and abortion.
The stakes are incredibly high. Right now, there are numerous cases relating to reproductive health care access moving through the federal court system – many are just one decision away from the Supreme Court. At least 20 states are poised to immediately seek to ban abortion if Roe were overturned. Already, too many already face significant hurdles to abortion access – for example, women of color and women with low incomes already face barriers in accessing care. In a world where abortion is illegal and the Affordable Care Act is overturned, these barriers will only be heightened. People of color in the U.S. are more likely to be uninsured than White people and less likely to have access to family planning services, which can result in significantly lower rates of contraceptive use – and higher rates of unintended pregnancy. Though rates of unintended pregnancies have dropped significantly overall in the last 30 years, women of color are still roughly twice as likely to experience an unintended pregnancy as White women.
Who sits on the Supreme Court will determine the course of our history, and the course of countless lives. They will decide whether our government trusts women to make their own decisions about their bodies. We will only accept a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold our constitutional right to make personal decisions about our bodies and our lives. We cannot allow our children and grandchildren to have fewer rights than we do. Americans do not want to see this happen: more than 70% of Americans support access to abortion, including a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. In the last 18 months, millions of people have marched, flooded town halls and the halls of Congress to demand our rights. And if we were fired up before, you’d better believe we are super-charged now.