As we await a decision from the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, those working every day on the frontlines are alarmed—but also committed to reimagining reproductive rights in this country. While the two of us come to this movement from different backgrounds and identities, and bring different approaches, we are bound by shared passion for the work we do. Here we reflect on what makes us hopeful for the future.
What brought us to the reproductive health and rights movements?
Amber Gavin: I came to the reproductive health field from a deeply personal place.
After being sexually assaulted in college by an acquaintance, I went to a family medicine practice where the doctor refused to prescribe me emergency contraception. This experience spurred me to work in reproductive health. I know how crucial it is to have a supportive healthcare provider who trusts and listens. This is the patient-centered approach I always bring.
Israel Cook: As a queer Black woman in the South, I grew up facing the reality that accessing reproductive health services meant something different for me than many of my peers. My desire to incorporate all my identities led me to the reproductive justice movement. As defined by SisterSong, reproductive justice, founded by Black women, works towards the human right of bodily autonomy, the right to have children, not have children and parent children in safe and sustainable communities. Now as I work in the reproductive rights legal and policy space, I strive to bring a reproductive justice lens to my work.
As a queer Black woman in the South, I grew up facing the reality that accessing reproductive health services meant something different for me than many of my peers.Israel Cook
What excites us about the future of the reproductive health and rights movements?
Gavin: For healthcare staff, and others in the reproductive health community, our vision is abortion de-stigmatization. A world where abortion is discussed openly, not shamefully. The ability to access care with no harassment or intimidation. And a future where abortion clinics are not just secure in their legality, but where the communities around them thrive.
Abortion providers, funds and advocates are courageous. Every day we provide reproductive health care that includes abortion as part of a broader system of community support and self-actualization.
Without question, weakening or losing Roe will be devastating in the short term. But I know we can build something new, something better. The space is ripe for new movement partners, such as new advocates like Israel, to come share in community and build a reproductive health and rights framework that is stronger and more inclusive.
As someone newer to the movement, I aim to embrace different approaches to establish true access to abortion and achieve the ultimate goals of the reproductive justice movement.Israel Cook
Cook: For lawyers, Roe is exalted as the foundation of the right to abortion. While Roe has been a key component of the liberty doctrine—supporting not only the right to abortion, but also rights for LGBTQ people—abortion opponents have continued to chip away at abortion rights and access. One thing the current landscape makes clear is that Roe has not provided access to everyone: Many people already live in a post-Roe reality.
Yet this does not have to be our future. Advocates, providers, lawyers and everyday people across the country can confront this reality and build a future where we uplift and center the voices and ideas of Black people, people of color, disabled people, immigrants, young people and more.
Innovative, powerful ideas that differ from the status quo have always come from underrepresented communities, during unprecedented times. As someone newer to the movement, I aim to embrace different approaches to establish true access to abortion and achieve the ultimate goals of the reproductive justice movement. We must fight for true bodily autonomy, safety from police brutality, voting rights, economic justice and racial justice. This work moves us to not only defend Roe, but to build toward a more intersectional, connected movement we envision for the future.
At a moment when Florida lawmakers are attacking not just abortion, but so many of us personally—immigrant communities, LGBTQIA people and Black people—we are more determined than ever to provide care.Amber Gavin
What sustains and inspires us in our work at this crucial moment?
Gavin: At A Woman’s Choice, I have the privilege of supporting managers and staff at our clinics in four different cities, as well as our Choice Hotline, which handles all incoming calls and appointment scheduling for our clinics. Hiring staff, maintaining our website, evaluating and managing volunteers and coordinating with attorneys are just a few parts of my job. At an independent, free-standing clinic not affiliated with a national organization, everyone takes on multiple roles.
At a moment when Florida lawmakers are attacking not just abortion, but so many of us personally—immigrant communities, LGBTQIA people and Black people—we are more determined than ever to provide care. Abortion providers are often ahead of the other healthcare sectors in delivering inclusive, welcoming care. Providers meet patients with support and compassion and place the power in the patients’ hands instead of making decisions on their behalf. Independent abortion clinics like ours help patients reclaim their dignity and sense of self-worth. We trust patients to do what is best for themselves and their families. Other healthcare sectors could learn a lot from the way abortion providers and clinics work.
Israel: The best part of my job is supporting state advocates who maintain access to care every day. One way I do that is by tracking hundreds of abortion bills from around the country to support state strategists and educate partners on legislative trends. Just this year, legislators introduced almost 130 bills that would expand or protect access to abortion in the face of an increasingly restrictive federal legal landscape. It is gratifying to share these positive changes on the horizon and work with other advocates on nimble and creative solutions to ensure access to abortion.
Care about reproductive health, rights and justice? We do too. Sign Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you have had an abortion, or stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion. (Or go back to the “Beyond Roe” essay collection.)