What’s That Silver Ribbon You’re Wearing?

When Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, running for Senator of Illinois, he met Dr. Sophia Yen–a pediatrician and women’s health activist–who had one very important question: “Where do you stand on reproductive rights?” To which Obama simply replied, “I trust women. Period.”

That one simple phrase ignited a movement to make reproductive rights a mainstream issue, no longer marginalized or radicalized by the right wing. A movement to ensure women are not criminalized or endangered for their reproductive health choices. A movement to make it clear that women’s health matters to everyone and our rights must not be taken away–and to galvanize opposition to bills like the newly proposed No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The political climate may have changed, but Obama’s words hold strong and continue to inspire.

“I work for reproductive rights because they are my rights, they are my daughters’ rights.  They are the rights of men and women and need to be protected because people are taking them away,” Dr. Yen told Ms.

From that passion and Obama’s simple words, the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women was born.

Yes, it’s another ribbon campaign. But this one holds particular meaning: “Silver symbolizes science over ideology. Silver is clean and sharp, and as an M.D. silver is the color of medicine,” Yen told Ms.

The campaign’s founder wanted to make visible the pro-choice majority in America. Says Yen,

I wanted to show that this country believes that abortion is a private issue and that we as a nation trust women to make reproductive health decisions.

The Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women encourages reproductive rights groups, women’s rights organizations, health-care reformers and all others who support women’s health to come together under a unified banner–to stand up, be seen and show that we are the majority. Yen teamed up with EQUAL Health Network to promote the campaign and was quickly joined by the Feminist Majority Foundation, People for the American Way and ISIS, among dozens of other organizations.

One of the goals of the project, says Ellen Shaffer, co-director of the Center for Policy Analysis, which sponsors the EQUAL Health Network, is to make the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women a broadly-recognized yearly event. “It’s not acceptable to put this off in a corner,” says Shaffer.

There are a variety of ways to be a part of this project: You can add an “I Trust Women” banner to to your Twitter profile or change your Facebook picture for a month, from Jan. 22 (the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) to Feb. 22; you can buy a silver ribbon by donating $5 to a one of the campaign’s partner organizations; you can tell your abortion story, or read the incredible stories of others; or you can participate in one of many reproductive justice actions happening across the country this month.

Shaffer says campaign organizers have mobilized social media to bring together supporters across the country, and bring those who may not otherwise have access to a physical organization into contact with pro-choice groups online.

Social media-based awareness campaigns, among them breast cancer awareness and child abuse awareness, have received criticism from many activists (including here on the Ms. Blog). But the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women deftly separates itself by encouraging real actions and, most importantly, by asking supporters to stand, visibly, in favor of reproductive rights–an important thing to do in these Tea Party times. As Shaffer puts it, the campaign is “an opportunity for people to express truly, openly, candidly what they really do support.”

So today, or at any time in the next month, wear a silver ribbon, change your Twitter and Facebook profile photos, make a donation, blog, speak, write–do something to show your support for reproductive rights.

As Shaffer says, “This is an issue we can win.”

Photo courtesy Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women.



Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.