Opinion

#IResistWePersist: How inroads persists and resists in difficult times.

Posted 6 September 2017 12:00 AM by Katie Gillum

In observance of September 28th, the International Day for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, we decided to share more widely the message of solidarity I first drafted in the wake of upsetting political events that happened in 2016. The wake has not subsided, and in many ways has grown more complicated, more fraught for many--in our families, in our communities, in our networks, in our connected world.

So when WGNRR reached out about their planned actions for this year's September 28th, we at inroads, armed with the experiences, ideas, concerns, struggles, and energy shared with us by inroads members, were ready to ACT this September 28th. So our solidarity action as inroads in the spirit of #IResistWePersist will be to share, weekly some thoughts of our staff, Steering Committee, and motivated members about how they are or plan to resist and persist in the face of stigma and discrimination associated and with abortion and our allied movements for reproductive justice: economic, environmental, racial, disability, gender, migration, labor, food, and youth justice.

 

My Dear Fellow Makers of inroads,

 

The Spark

Last week I found myself searching for guidance but sprinting away from the media. I started feeling a desire for a leader to tell me what to do. But that desire felt both personally hypocritical and hollow, given that the fear and anxieties comes from newly elected “leaders” of major states with, among other dangers, willingness to tell people who they are and what to do without regard to their needs or values.

What it took to moor myself was several days of mourning and, even more comforting, looking at the names of humans in my phone, throughout my email, on the inroads Collaboration Workspace, and at photos to remind me where the direction, meaning, and value is created in my life: with and by the communities I operate in. inroads members and our colleagues and communities have the tools, values, and purpose to reign in the darkness. You’re still here. Inroads is still here. We’re going to make it through.

The Darkness

The last 18 months have seen a rise in restrictive, fear-based, isolationist political movements in Poland, Croatia, the US, UK, India, and beyond. This is a real threat to those accessing, providing, and advocating for abortion, and it provides new challenges to we who want to end abortion stigma and discrimination. In Guatemala for the CLACAI conference, in discussions about the Global Gag Rule, at other meetings and events across the globe we can all see the fear these political changes are creating; the anxiety is palpable.

Instead of the coded denigration and “indirect” threats to abortion and our communities that we have become accustomed to—anti-abortion protests and violent acts; a lack of services, training, and supports for providers; cheap TV-show laughs about abortion and promiscuity; laws that prevent and exclude women from abortion care—future threats to safe, legal abortion and challenges to our work of valuing abortion and those of us associated with it may become more explicit and concrete in the near future.

The Power

So, there’s no way around it: We face a bolder, more explicit foe, and this will be unpleasant. We’ve all been here before in some way; however, this time we have each other. It cannot be overstated how radical and powerful this act of sticking together, using real democratic and non-hierarchical principles is. Stigma thrives and mushrooms in the darkness and under heavy laws and opaque oligarchies. Staying connected, building alternative communities and news ways of wielding power breaks through that darkness.

The Needs

So we write you today not only with a message of hope and affirmation of all of our work, but with a message of need:

  1. More than ever, the world needs us to bring our intersectional approach and stigma lens to this work of providing abortion, of researching abortion stigma, of counselling about family planning option, of designing health systems, of making art, of writing laws. Otherwise, we risk losing more ground, of stigmatizing even while we may keep things legal, of losing access while keeping a “right”.
  2. The movement needs us to use these radical approaches of inclusion, of participation, of self-determination. They combat autocracy, and they model to our friends, family, and colleagues that there is another way to lead, to join, to participate, to live. 
  3. We need each other, deeply, now. That doesn’t mean we need to give more than we can or increase our time; it means that every time we do connect it *means* more, and we should feel that. It builds a trust and a momentum that is less affected by these winds of white-supremacy, misogyny, jingoism, hetero and cis-normativity, and fear.

The Mantra

As we move forward with our work, inroads is going to be stepping carefully but forward. To make sure we don’t use the tools of fear and oppression in fighting back, I’m musing on the following values for how we work:

Protective not defensive.

Purposefully moving not waiting.

Reminding and reflecting not reciting and restricting.

Listening not waiting to talk.

Sharing not guarding.

Healing not hiding.

Community. Together. Community.  

The Next Moves

These ideas of how to move forward in stamping out stigma come not from some strategy book or sense of authority; they come from watching what you’ve done as individuals and a community for the past two years and long before that has brought us together, brought us levity, brought us successes.

  • Protect what we all do and what we build through strengthening our partnerships with each other, in our communities, and into related fields.
  • Ask for help and solidarity from each other: through the inroads Collaboration Workspace, email, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter.
  • Let yourself and your community off the hook for solving it all or solving things fast.
  • Read the inspiring, invigorating words of fellow inroads members fighting their battles all over the world.
  • If your feeling overwhelmed or stuck, look to the experience, knowledge, and expertise about how to keep understanding and fighting in the inroads Resource and Tool Library.
  • Share news of wins and positive interactions that we all may find solace, joy, and inspiration in.
  • Look for and acknowledge communities and individuals feeling even more cut off from our movement and access.
  • Invite the struggling or the surging to join your team or this network. You may not be able to start collaborating with them yourself, but together we can.

In solidarity, arm-in-arm making inroads on stigma for a healthier, happier, more just world,

Katie Gillum

Co-convener

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