When you attend a protest, you should always double check the address first.
A few weeks ago, my sister and I showed up to the Pittsburgh #StopTheBans rally- or so we thought. It was scheduled to start a 12:00, so we made signs in the morning and then headed to the bus stop that would take us from our home at the intersection of city and suburbia to downtown, where the protest would take place, in the late morning. By the time we got there, it was 11:30- and we didn’t see anyone. After a few laps around the building and a lack of people present anywhere on the block, we decided that we’d leave our signs outside the county building if no one else showed up at noon. At 11:58, we were pretty much ready to throw in the towel. It was weird that no one was there in retrospect (c’mon, we couldn’t have been the only liberals in western Pennsylvania), but we figured maybe we had gotten the time wrong.
At 11:59, however, we saw older women parading down the streets with signs coming toward us. We apprehensively checked them out (to make sure they were on the same side as us in terms of the abortion debate). They were there for the rally too (and pro-choice!), so we followed them two blocks down. It turns out we had the wrong address, but we made it!
We joined the modest— but sizable— crowd and began chanting and waving our signs.
I was surprised to see that my sister and I were two of the youngest people there, considering we’re part of the demographic that likely would be affected if abortion rights were to be overturned. Abortion is not limited to any age or gender expression, but it is more likely that young women still in school, still without jobs, and still not in serious relationships would be more likely to seek an abortion.
Reproductive rights have repeatedly generated fierce debate in the U.S., especially with the widely varying viewpoints of a diverse country and two polarized political parties. Though abortion was made legal in 1973, plenty of states are finding ways to make it harder- or practically impossible- to undergo an abortion. The topic is undoubtedly complex- and rather philosophical- because of different people’s (and state’s’) opinions on when life begins and what constitutes personhood. It’s a crime to end a person’s life, yes, but when did they come to a person?
On this particular day, my sister and I were protesting several states’ decisions (including our neighboring state Ohio, just a cool 45 minutes away) to ban abortions after only the first six weeks of a pregnancy, despite the fact that a woman typically only finds out that she’s pregnant at or after this length of time. On top of limiting abortions, many states aiming to restrict abortion do a disservice in the sexual education and reproductive health department, continually promoting abstinence-based programs that teach students that sex is shameful, obtaining contraceptives is not an option, and seeking an abortion is murder. I believe that reproductive rights— whether that be the ability to choose, to obtain contraceptives, or receive comprehensive sex education— should be available and normalized.
In the midst of constant news about reproductive rights, I’ve thought about how taking charge of your sexual health is portrayed. Whether it’s flat-out stigmatized or a taboo topic, both sides of the political spectrum miss the fact that sex is fun- and reproductive rights should be seen that way too. I noticed a few months ago that common contraceptives— condoms, the pill, IUDs, and patches— resemble candy in some ways. Candy is something that most kids find fun, exciting, and pleasurable. Perhaps if contraceptives were seen in the same light-hearted manner as candy, there wouldn’t be stigma, debate, or denial with regard to obtaining them or protesting against laws that limit access to them.
Included in this series are comparisons to multiple birth control methods, but there are many more out there. Consult websites like Planned Parenthood or talk with your doctor to learn about all of the available options to find a method that works for you, your body, and, if necessary, your partner. May this series also be a reminder that some lighthearted media about birth control and reproductive rights is needed.