All posts by evadils

Wrap-Up: Internship with New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF)

 

This summer, I’d say I’ve completed a thorough introductory education not only in reproductive justice, but also in community organizing. I started with conducting personal research, shifted to attending community events, and ended with organizing NOAF’s first-ever community canvass. In organizing this canvass, I learned how much of a team effort organizing should be.

Developing our canvassing script, for instance, was a five person project. Hannah Cohen, another NOAF intern, brought her professional canvassing experience to the table and helped me create the canvassing script’s initial draft. Another NOAF third intern, Paloma Pinto, brought her communications background to the table and proposed some effective edits. Ben Zucker from Step Up Louisiana contributed perspective from his organization’s membership-based grassroots strategy and his background as a union organizer to ideate before the script’s drafting phase and to streamline the script later on. NOAF board member Maria Wickstrom contributed her extensive labor organizing experience with some final edits. This extensive drafting process allowed me to grow not only in my teamwork abilities, but in my understanding of the importance of strategic messaging to culture change and community engagement.

The soft launch of our canvassing campaign was terribly successful, largely due to our well-thought out messaging strategy. Instead of canvassing with a specifically pro-abortion message, we focused on the issue of the loud, obnoxious anti-choice protesters who camp out outside the Women’s Health Care Center to harass patients and neighbors each morning. In this way, we were able to identify and connect with NOAF supporters in the neighborhood. However, we were also able to call in neighbors who were pro-life or undecided but agreed that the protesters were disturbing their community to the detriment of clinic patients, patients of the 20 nearby health care providers, their families, and their neighbors.

Though not everyone has the ability to canvass, the time to clinic escort, or the money to donate to the Fund, one thing everyone can do is to begin conversations about abortion. Everyone can start to normalize the word “abortion” and experiences surrounding abortion among your families, friends, and peers. Abortion is not nearly as rare as one might expect. One in three US women will obtain an abortion at some point in her life. You can even take it one step further and host a house party through NOAF’s OutLoud Story Sharing program. I’ve learned this summer that these conversations are an essential component to changing hearts, and it’s nearly impossible to change minds without changing hearts first.

Advertisements

My First Month with NOAF!

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.

Internship With New Orleans Abortion Fund

14470443_1134018936663402_5438492222906236321_n

My name is Eva Dils, and I am a rising sophomore most likely majoring in Political Economy with a Public Health minor. This past year at Tulane, I worked on the Executive Board of National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) Celebrate Mental Health Festival; served as the Mental Health Vice Chair of the Student Health Advisory Committee; helped found TUlinked, a student-run organization that matches first-year and transfer students with upperclassmen campus leaders to guide them through their first semester at Tulane. Next year, I will serve as the Director of Student Health and Wellness for Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government.

My work is informed by my deeply-held belief in the power of communities of care. Communities of care can be as small as a Tulane student organization or as large as an entire nation, but each shares a goal of seeking to understand, affirm, and uplift their members.

With NOAF this summer, I hope to contribute to the development of a community of care in New Orleans. I will learn about the work NOAF engages in and the people it engages with, asking questions and engaging in conversations to expand my understanding of the issues surrounding abortion in New Orleans and the South more broadly. I will physically support people’s right to choose when to be a parent by helping create a calmer clinic environment through my presence and demeanor as a clinic escort. Finally, I will work on other projects that seek to improve people’s access to reproductive health services through efforts based particularly in equity, destigmatization, and information dissemination.