Generation Roe: A Perspective On The Current Pro-Choice Landscape And What The Future Holds

April 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

By Sarah Erdreich, author of Generation Roe (Seven Stories Press, March 2013). Generation Roe TP

In the spring of 2008, I was living in Washington, D.C. and working as a freelance editor. I enjoyed the work, but missed having someone besides my dog to talk with during the day. So when I came across a job posting for part-time work on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, I jumped at the opportunity.

I had never worked in the reproductive rights field, but I had always believed that women should have the right to choose: I grew up in a politically liberal town (Ann Arbor) in a politically liberal family, where I took lots of rights for granted.

And I thought that I knew plenty about abortion before I began working on the NAF hotline: the legendary court cases, the anti-choice violence, the reasons that a woman would make this choice. But working on the hotline was a real eye-opener. Every day, I heard from women of all racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds that were unable to access a legal medical service because of their income, their lack of reliable transportation, or the restrictions their state placed on abortion care.

I ran across an article in The New York Times titled “Where to Pass the Torch.” The article focused on the number of abortion providers, clinic directors, and activists who were approaching retirement age. Who were take their place, the article asked; were there enough younger pro-choice activists to fill the void?

I read that article, and realized that I was surrounded by young women and men in their 20s and 30s, who had grown up with legal abortion, and wanted nothing more than to make this their life’s work. I decided that their voices deserved to be heard, that the future of the movement was in my hands as much as anyone else’s, and that a book needed to be written about it.

To make Generation Roe a unique perspective on the current pro-choice landscape and what the future holds, I interwove the young with the old, because the movement and the moment are ripe for both: the voices of these young activists, along with their peers in medical and law school, mixed with the stories of clinic directors and providers that have been working in the field for decades. These experiences appear alongside detailed research about abortion provision, legal history, and the intricacies of state law. Just as the laws and history provide context for how abortion has become such a controversial issue, the personal stories make a compelling case for why access is still a fight.

The women and men just entering the field also offer an often-overlooked perspective on how reproductive rights are part of a larger social-justice framework.  My book explains how access to contraception and comprehensive reproductive health care are issues that affect men as well as women, and how being able to control one’s reproductive choices affects other choices, from education to relationships to career opportunities. It covers the messaging of the anti-choice movement, the failures of mainstream reproductive rights organizations, and the many ways that our culture stigmatizes abortion and the women that choose this procedure.

I am thrilled that this book is being included in an academic catalogue, because I wrote it with college students in mind. In many instances, the people profiled in Generation Roe are their peers; they are discussing topics that are a natural fit for university classrooms.  Five years after making this issue my mission, I’m still spending too much time alone talking to my dog, but we have a lot more to talk about: forty years after Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights remains the third rail of American politics. Generation Roe presents a new perspective on why this is, and how readers of all beliefs can find common ground.

Sarah Erdreich has been identified as a leading pro-choice activist by Newsweek, and her incisive writings on abortion rights have been noted by Jezebel, Feministing, and the National Partnership for Women and Families. She has worked for several prominent pro-choice organizations, and has been published in On The Issues, Lilith, Feminists For Choice, and RH Reality Check. She has also worked editorially with the magazines HUES and Teen Voice. Generation Roe is her first book.

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Entry filed under: cultural studies, Ethics, Gender Studies, History, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , .

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