Friday was the last day of the 2015 summer session of Feminist Camp, but there was precious little time for us to take in that fact. The focus of the day was Reproductive Justice, and our cohort separated into small groups to visit three reproductive health organizations throughout the city.
One of our pre-camp readings discussed the importance of the Reproductive Justice movement. The author of the piece, Monica Rae Simpson, called us to remember that Reproductive Justice was a term coined by black women in 1994 that encompasses much more than abortion. Reproductive Justice (RJ) is the right for all women, trans, and gender nonconforming people to have or not have children, and have access to resources that enable bodily autonomy and healthier birthing and parenting practices.
All of the organizations we visited explored a facet of this definition of RJ, from the Choices in Childbirth center where members of our cohort saw clips from the film The Business of Being Born and discussed maternity care services, doulas, and midwives, as well as the disparity in LGBTQ+ parents. Some of us traveled to the Modern Family Center at Spence Chapin, where campers unpacked their definition of ‘family,’ and learned about international and domestic adoption processes, as well as some of the difficulties associated with both. Our last breakout group was set to visit the Choices Women’s Medical Center, one of the most comprehensive reproductive healthcare clinics in the United States, founded by Merle Hoffman, author of Intimate Wars. Unfortunately, they were thwarted by public transit snafus and weren't able to make it.
We reconvened at the Feminist Press and launched into a discussion about our experiences, until representatives from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women joined us. The NAPW is a 501(c)(3) organization working to ensure that all women and people with the ability to become pregnant maintain their human and civil rights, particularly those who are pregnant and parenting. Lynn M. Paltrow, the founder of NAPW, told us about how she became involved in RJ and about a few cases she has worked on in the past. With her was Kylee J. Sunderlin, who contributed to our conversation about RJ cases, and a small group of NAPW interns. Gabriela Noa Betancourt, an intern from Tulane University, has been researching El Salvador’s Las 17 for the NAPW. A longtime advocate for RJ rights, Gabriela said that working with the NAPW has been an amazing experience, and she is happy to know that such an organization is not only doing the work but also staying true to its cause.
Shortly after our meeting with NAPW, we spoke with Symone New of the Doula Project, an organization that provides free full-spectrum support for pregnant people that encompasses emotional and physical care, as well as information and other resources. Full-spectrum doulas work on birth, abortion, and adoption cases, and offer complete non-judgmental support so that clients are empowered to make the choice that is best for them. Symone prompted our discussion by asking us to think of a time when we were supported by someone else, and continued to say that the Doula Project believes that everyone is deserving of this support. Symone entertained our many questions and told us about what it means to be a doula, and the joy that work brings to her life.
Once we thanked Symone for her time and said goodbye, we had one last item on our agenda: the closeout.
After an intense week of challenging conversations and personal revelations, we were finally at the point of saying our last goodbyes. A camper from a previous year offered us Feminist Camp merit badges, a small token commemorating a monumental week. One by one, we gave each other a badge with a word of thanks or appreciation, and we returned the favor by offering a badge to another.
I found myself at loss when trying to put words to the experiences I’ve had, the relationships I’ve developed, and what I’ve learned about myself and my place in our movement. Even now, I’m still at a loss for those words.
Sometimes the depth of our growth as people and activists escapes the conventions of language and can only be measured in the actions we take. Now, I am acting with a greater foundation of knowledge and the backing of a strong network of powerful feminists, and I owe all this to Feminist Camp.