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The following are 10 things I heard during a “reproductive justice” panel discussion that was hosted virtually last week by Platform Women and the University of Iowa Women’s Resource and Action Center. If you have a response to any of these, feel free to send them to [email protected]

“The good news is so many of us believe in reproductive rights, universal healthcare, what you would consider to be fundamental, no-brainer things. We are fighting for ourselves, but we are also fighting for each other. That’s what keeps me sane. I’m standing up for myself and I’m standing up for so many other people.”

“I do agree with that, when it comes to our anti-sexual reproductive health-controlled state legislature. But the majority of Iowans support Planned Parenthood. Seventy-seven percent of Iowans support safe, legal access to abortion. So those are some of the things that I really root myself in. I know my community is on board.”

“How do we navigate these incremental, legislative bandaids? Planned Parenthood sometimes has to be a bit calculated in their approach. If we know that an organization might not like a bill or something if they know Planned Parenthood was involved in creating it, then hey, we’ll step out. We’re happy to step back if it means our issues move forward. That’s one way that we do it, absolutely. But it is tough, right, to organize in this environment when your legislature is extremely hostile. I just remember who we’re doing it for. It’s so much bigger than ourselves.”

“I root myself in knowing that we’re on the right side of this. That we’re doing something good that’s rooted in justice and I let that be what fuels me. I remind people that we’re working with that, the antis put us through all of this hard, emotional labor, especially because they know it will break us down. It’s important we take the time we need to step back, let our allies fight as well because we always need to be taking care of ourselves if we’re going to be taking care of this fight.”

“Fortunately Iowa does have an Iowa Civil Rights act which does include gender identity as a protection. So that is absolutely supposed to apply in healthcare settings. However, that language of gender identity was only applied like in 2007, so that lets us know there is still a lot more work to do. Last legislative session saw the legislature pass quite a few restrictions on gender-affirming surgeries. Knowing the legislature is willing to put those kinds of attacks on LGBTQ persons for healthcare, it lets us know who we’re up against and what we’re up against.”

“Now is a really important time to draw this line and say what is essential and what is important and what we’re demanding in this moment. That HRT is essential, abortion is essential, birth control is essential, gender-affirming surgery is essential.

“That means incorporating information (in sex education) about affirmative consent and what that looks like. Not only does it have to be affirmative, but it has to be something that is conscious, all parties are aware, everyone agreeing voluntarily and during your sexual activity it has to be ongoing and it can be revoked at any time. Not too many students know what that even means or looks like.”

“(Sex education) was all very binary and kept a lot of voices out. It has to be standardized across the nation.”

“In Iowa, when it comes to sex education, we’ve seen legislation introduced that would make it so you need to opt-in to sex education rather than if your parent wants to opt-out. Yeah, there’s a lot of attacks on if Planned Parenthood should be able to provide sex education since they also provide abortions.

“Birth control can help with many things. People often stigmatize birth control because they think people want to have sex and not get pregnant, as if there’s something wrong with that concept.”

Author: Jacob Hall