Since starting my internship with NOAF, I’ve been most surprised to learn about the facts of reproductive health, rights, and justice. I spent a good amount of time during first two weeks of my internship conducting research about the history of abortion in this country, and I’ve learned that the abortion narratives I grew up hearing are simply unfactual. For instance, the Guttmacher Institute reports that 59% of women receiving an abortion have already had at least one child and 62% are spiritual. Raised in suburban Ohio at an all-girls Catholic high school, I never heard these stories. As it turns out, neither did most of my friends and family. So it’s been fascinating to have these conversations with people I love. Though sorting through decades of misinformation can often be difficult, I’ve found that people are usually willing to talk to me, if only because the information is coming directly from someone they know.
As the weeks have progressed, I’ve moved toward working on NOAF’s first community canvassing project. During the last week in July, we’ll be canvassing the neighborhood surrounding the Women’s Health Care Center – New Orleans’ only abortion clinic. A large chunk of my work for the past two weeks has consisted of meeting with other organizers in Louisiana to explore options and goals for the canvas, setting up organizational details, and publicizing among NOAF members. I’ve also been working as a clinic escort one morning per week in front of the Women’s Health Care Center, ensuring that the space is safe and as comfortable as possible for patients amidst the protesters. On those mornings, I’ve really enjoyed meeting other clinic escorts and hearing their stories.
One piece of advice I’ve received this summer is that, as a mission-driven young person, the best place for me to make an impact on health injustices will change throughout my career. One year I might be working with a non-profit, the next in an elected official’s office, the next with a consulting firm. Therefore, it’s important to me that I gain experiences in multiple professional spaces. My internship with NOAF has allowed me to learn how a local non-profit works, but has also given me the opportunity to meet with and learn from folks working with diverse types of organizations. I’ve met with an organizer from a brand new New Orleans non-profit, talked with a clinic administrator in a more conservative area of the state, and heard from a regional administrator of a large national organization. It’s becoming clear to me that there are thousands of ways to be involved in this work and that the work couldn’t be accomplished without all of them. One thing everyone can do, though, is inform themselves about the facts of reproductive health, rights, and justice. The Guttmacher Institute is a wonderful resource for this. Once you have some facts, you can start conversations. And conversations are a powerful tool for culture change.