From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters
Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement by Sarah Erdreich
This book is an excellent overview of the legal and social threats to abortion rights today and how feminist activists, especially the younger generations, are fighting back. It is also a good introduction for those who don’t know how abortion became illegal and the extreme harm that did to women. Erdreich tells how feminist activists made it legal through the U.S. Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. Since that time, anti-abortionists have used legislation to chop away at that right with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe and reproductive rights in general.
Erdreich explains how each piece of legislation, while posing as protection for women’s health, harms the most vulnerable women—the poor, teenagers, or women of color—and could potentially cause even more harm to society in general.
NEW GENERATION AWAKENS TO THE FIGHT
The author interviews clinic workers and activists about the violence and harassment they face from anti-abortionists and the ostracism they receive from friends and family. She describes how it is becoming increasingly difficult for medical students to receive abortion training or even how to treat a miscarriage or learn accurate information about forms of contraception. She also shows how the lack of positive treatment of abortion in the movies and TV contributes to cultural disapproval of this common procedure.
Most importantly, Erdreich focuses on how those who have come of age thinking the issue of their reproductive freedom was long settled are being awakened by the violence and misogyny of right-wing attacks. She shows the new pro-choice activists’ great creativity, especially with social media and the internet, creating websites like “I’m Not Sorry,” “I am Doctor Tiller,” and “The Abortioneers” to share personal stories about abortions and about providing reproductive health services. These stories, she explains, are the most important factor in changing the minds of people who have only heard anti-abortion propaganda and making them curious about the facts.
Medical Students for Choice formed to increase the number of abortion providers and correct the misinformation and lack of training in medical schools. When the members of Voices for Choice call up anti-abortion protesters to politely request that they stop harassment, 80% comply, realizing their actions now have consequences. Erdreich also shares ideas her interviewees would like to see more widely implemented such as individual women asking their ob/gyns if they perform abortions and shaming them if they don’t.
Erdreich explains that this grassroots activism is a departure from large pro-choice organizations, which don’t allow employees creativity for fear of alienating donors. She states these organizations have also squandered resources by a strict focus of preserving Roe.
CRITIQUE OF RELIGIOUS RIGHT IS MISSING
She touches on how the pro-choice movement is now taking more of an intersectional approach with the formation of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. Male activists are also becoming involved with an understanding that women’s reproductive freedom “is a reflection of egalitarianism and freedom in general.” Having infiltrated an anti-abortion “March for Life” and a so-called “crisis pregnancy center” (in reality an anti-abortion phony clinic), Erdreich contrasts these to the anti-abortion mindset of leaving reproductive decisions up to their male leaders, who willfully have no understanding of medical reality or of women’s individual situations.
Unfortunately, she does not use the term “religious right” and does not seem to understand that this is a highly organized movement with a theocratic agenda.
In spite of this major drawback in understanding the opposition, Generation Roe is rightfully popular with activists as a source of ideas and of inspiring hopefulness in the ability of people to become activists and to make positive changes.