YWCA’s Young Women Advocate for Reproductive Rights

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YWCA’s Young Women Advocate for Reproductive Rights

by Danielle Marse-Kapr
YWCA Orange County, N.Y.

Danielle Marse-Kapr

In April 2011, I joined a group of YWCA advocates under 30 in Washington, D.C., for the YWCA National Conference. We joined thousands of activists around the Capitol building for the “Stand Up for Women’s Health” rally to protest the defunding of Planned Parenthood as a stipulation of a new healthcare bill.  Each evening we would huddle around the TV to see what would become of Planned Parenthood’s funding.

As staff of the YWCA, an organization which functions as both a social service and a social justice agency, we are very familiar with the lives of women who need the affordable care that Planned Parenthood offers. Furthermore, we have all personally accessed Planned Parenthood for healthcare and reliable healthcare information. By the end of the week, though we were relieved that Planned Parenthood had not been defunded, the narrow 42-58 vote was an ominous foreshadowing of what was to unfold over the next 12 months — a brutal assault on women’s reproductive rights.

A year later the struggle has only intensified. Legislators are sponsoring bills that: require women to undergo medically unnecessary procedures before terminating a pregnancy, claim that fetuses have “personhood,” dictate that life begins before conception, among others. Pundits and political leaders are asserting that women ought to hold aspirin between their knees, that the Catholic Church should be given power to dictate the healthcare women receive, and, perhaps most famously, that women who want affordable birth control are sluts.

But young women will not be shamed out of protecting their reproductive rights. Generations of feminists before us taught us to be thick-skinned when powerful men call us prostitutes for demanding basic human rights. We’ve been trained to ignore the lie that our autonomy is not important and that our bodies are not our own. Even having been born into a post-Roe v. Wade America, young women are cognizant that these rights are still new and vulnerable.

We may not have been expecting it when Pennsylvania began considering a bill to force doctors to perform a transvaginal ultrasound on women seeking an abortion, but we were equipped with the feminist rationale and activist know-how to combat it.  When the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood, we knew within moments and took to our keyboards, the funding was renewed within hours.

A women’s advocate in her 60s asked me what it would take to get young women out into the streets. In a sense, we are on the streets. We are the generation of the online petition, the satirical meme, and the trending Twitter hashtag.  We may not always march in protest (although many times we do!), but we are constantly dispensing information, telling the public and our elected officials what we think, and organizing to ensure that we can access reproductive health services.

At the YWCA, we are doing work to mobilize more young women to the voting booths. This November, young women will ensure that anti-choice politics does not decide the future of our reproductive rights.

This article first appeared as an op-ed in the Times Herald-Record.

A life-long feminist, Danielle Marse-Kapr is the gender equity coordinator at YWCA Orange County, New York. Danielle’s work primarily focuses on women’s economic empowerment including nontraditional job preparedness, salary negotiation, legislative advocacy, and professional development for young women. Danielle is also the co-chair of Emerging WomYn Leaders, an initiative for women under 30 in YWCA’s northeast region. You can follow Danielle on Twitter at @DMarseKapr.