Originally written by Gabrielle Korn for On The Issues Magazine.
It’s no secret that the United States is in the midst of a War on Women: in 2011, 36 states enacted a record 135 provisions limiting access to reproductive health care, including 92 measures restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But as our reproductive rights are slipping away from us, activists are mobilizing.
During January 20-27, women and allies from around the country will come together to fight back — online. The Trust Women WEEK/Silver Ribbon Campaign and MoveOn will kick off 2012 with the “National Online March For Trust Women Week, Building Solidarity And Momentum For Reproductive Health, Rights And Justice.”
An online march is essentially a super-petition that concentrates attention from a wide variety of groups on a common theme in a short time period. It’s a powerful organizing tool because it allows activists to “reach and harness the voice of large numbers of people powerfully and quickly and link them with each other across geographic boundaries,”says Ellen Shaffer, a lead organizer for the Trust Women campaign. Through a site set up by MoveOn, individuals will click in agreement on one of six messages. Individuals will see their locations show up as dots on a map of the U.S. that will be updated in real time. The messages and signatures will go to members of Congress, governors and selected state legislators.
According to Shaffer, the response so far has been “remarkable.” The campaign has mobilized a list of over 50 feminist, social justice and health-related partner organizations in support. “Clearly,” she says, “people have been looking for a new way to express their support for women’s reproductive freedom, rights and justice, and this online march has given them a chance.”
The majority of Americans believe that women should have access to basic health care services, and that decisions about reproductive health care, including family planning and abortion, should be left to each person. However, according to the Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign, rather than addressing the public’s pressing concerns about the economy during 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures focused on eliminating access to basic health care services and contraception as well as abortion, with severe consequences for the most vulnerable.
Shaffer hopes that the online march will be able to reach the majority of the country that disagrees with these actions, but may lack the means to express it. “For example,” she says, “in our online work in the past year, we’ve heard from many people in the South and Midwest where onerous measures targeting women’s reproductive health are being forced on people – making them feel that they don’t have a voice. By offering a virtual way to link arms, people can find and exercise their voice in the democratic process.”
People who join the online march will be able to select from six campaign messages:
I trust women and I vote.
Reproductive rights are human rights.
Keep abortion safe and legal, and make it accessible and affordable.
Stand up and be counted for reproductive justice.
We are the 99%. Fix the economy, and stop the attacks on women’s health.
Contraception Is Prevention.
Trust Women Week includes January 22, 2012, the 39th anniversary of the historic Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. Shaffer hopes that throughout the week, as buzz of the action generates around the internet, allies of women’s reproductive freedom and justice will be activated and inspired. She says, “This is necessary now because we have learned that the opposition, supported by a well-funded minority, believes that they can continue to wage attacks on women’s health that the majority of Americans do not support. We have to change the tide, and we expect to do that in 2012.”