Still Our Bodies, Still Ourselves: American Women’s Health Activism Today
Donald Trump became the American president-elect on November 9th, and since then, American national news coverage has continued to document his cabinet picks and planned policies for office. However, beginning during the election campaign, a strong vocal protest to his presidency resounded from feminists. During the election season, Trump made provocative comments about women, casually dismissing these derogative comments as ‘locker room talk.’ Opponents have also criticized vice president-elect Mike Pence’s record of restricting women’s access to healthcare. As governor of Indiana, Pence introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization providing reproductive health services internationally, and signed a number of anti-abortion bills. In response to Trump and Pence’s perceived actions against women, donations to pro-women institutions have spiked.
The day after the election, the well-known feminist website Jezebel published a list of organizations for people to donate to. It supports institutions which some people feel are threatened by a Trump presidency. While the list offers a range of ‘pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-Earth, and anti-bigotry’ organizations, a few of these focus specifically on women’s reproductive health. While some are more recent organizations, like the Center for Reproductive Rights, founded in 1992, others like the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, began with the advent of second-wave feminism. This movement gained traction with American women during the end of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, with women arguing for equal legal rights and social equality. Organizations like the National Women’s Health Network, formed in 1975 by women’s health activists, were specifically intended to defend women’s health rights in government.
Many of these organizations, including NOW and the National Women’s Health Network, are still active and continue to advocate for women’s rights. However, support for these organizations has now shifted to largely financial donations. While the activism in the 1970s focused on consciousness raising through newsletters and word of mouth, today these organizations provide resources and legal protection for reproductive health. Partly, this shift is due to laws supporting reproductive control, such as the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, legalizing abortion in the United States. More generally, however, women’s health concerns have become mainstream, and the American medical system supports fertility control.
Safe and effective reproductive health care has become a fundamental right for many American women. Activists in the 1960s and 1970s fought for equal care, and many women feel they reap the benefits of access to fertility control. Some women now feel worry that with a changing government, these rights will be taken away. The National Women’s Health Network’s website currently features a pop-up that claims: ‘It’s a Critical Time for Women’s Health,’ asking viewers to ‘Donate Today.’ The website for the Center for Reproductive Control has a more direct pop-up advertisement which informs the viewer:
‘President-elect Trump plans to appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. We have a 25-year history of fighting for reproductive rights – and we’re not going to stop now. Are you with us?’
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund published a more mainstream list of ‘8 Outrageous Facts About Mike Pence’s Record on Reproductive Rights.’ These directed ads target viewers who support healthcare equality.
While women’s health activism is recognized today as a central tenet of second-wave feminism, recent feminist protests and efforts to protect women’s health legislation have continued to pursue the ideals of second-wave activists. Past efforts granted many more women access to reproductive control, and many are now willing to fight to keep these rights in light of perceived attacks on access.