The Personal Is Still Political

I have spent the last four years advocating for abortion rights, family planning access, and sex education while attending American University in Washington, D.C. From targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP laws) to proposed Title X cuts, the attack on reproductive rights in America is rampant.

I have had the privilege of being unharmed by these politically-charged attacks. My access to reproductive and sexual health care hasn’t been restricted. But for people living in states like Mississippi — which only has one abortion provider — legislation protecting reproductive health care access matters.

I am a reproductive rights advocate because I believe all people should have access to abortion and family planning services. That is not to say that feminist women who choose to dedicate their time to causes other than reproductive rights are any less valid. Women need to be free to pursue whatever passion they have. That is feminism.

But this is my passion. Some argue that I am a single-issue voter, that I am stuck in the “women’s issues” box — meaning I only care about issues that were central to second-wave feminism (such as workplace fairness, equal pay, and sexual freedom). They say I’m blindly following a trend and playing out a stereotype. Others tell me the feminist movement is just another movement led by corrupt, power-hungry people and I am a victim of its manipulation.

No person or group is pressuring me to care about reproductive rights. Any claim that says otherwise is rooted in the belief that I am not only incapable of thinking for myself, but that I am incapable of thinking on a larger scale. Obviously that’s far from the truth, but the fact is, I don’t need to explain myself or justify my passion to the naysayers. If others want to know the real reason why I dedicate my time to contributing to the reproductive rights movement, they can read stories like these:

“Thank goodness you’re not required to listen to the heartbeat but you’re required to look at your unborn child on the sonogram, required to be explained what they’re seeing in the sonogram pictures and trust me if I wanted that…that’s something that you want to do if you want to keep the child. I don’t want to see anymore than I have to. I don’t want to be made to feel like a bad person any more than I already do. And you have to do that just to get through the process. You have to be made to feel like a criminal.” — Faith

“When it comes to seeking health services, especially reproductive health services, transgender folks are exposing themselves to the risk of being othered, having their identity completely disregarded, or being bombarded with uncomfortable and invasive questions. There have been many times that I have chosen not to seek medical care because I was afraid of having to explain myself or of being disrespected. When the choice becomes seeking medical attention and dealing with mental and emotional distress or going without medical attention and dealing with those repercussions, more often than not, transgender people choose the latter.” — Nik

“At age 22, I had a laparoscopy and was diagnosed with endometriosis. Some of the endometriosis was surgically treated, but right now the simplest way for me to continue treating it is to take birth control continuously. This prevents me from having a menstrual cycle and lessens my pain, though only slightly…If I were no longer able to obtain birth control, I don’t know what I would do to control my symptoms.” — Rebecca

“I’m not sure if I would have gotten an abortion if the TRAP laws existed. I didn’t have a job at the time. I can’t imagine having to drive to a further clinic and pay for a hotel to wait 72 hours — it’s already too expensive just paying for the procedure. I would have probably done something else.” — Casteel

I’m not a single-issue voter. I worry about ISIS’ threat to our national security. I believe a person working full-time should not live in poverty. I am especially concerned with gun violence in America and Congress’ lack of action. These issues matter to me, but so do reproductive rights. I am voting for Hillary Clinton in November, one reason being that she supports access to abortion and family planning services. That is my decision and my decision alone.

This is a post I wrote for Milk, an online newsletter for ambitious women. Click here to subscribe to Milk and receive one woman’s story in your mailbox each Friday.