Community & Government

Controlling Our Reproductive Lives

Gloria offers historical context for reproductive justice and shares how women have spoken out against a culture of silence.

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Topics include: Controlling Our Reproductive Lives The Power of Choice Challenging a Culture of Shame Democracy Begins With Our Bodies Unequal Access Under the Law


- There is no such thing as democracy without reproductive freedom, reproductive justice. [MUSIC PLAYING] I can begin to define reproductive justice, but each woman in her situation gets to define it for herself. It means the physical right and means to decide when and whether to have children. It also means the economic possibility of having children. Women who want the right to an abortion, contraception, and so on, are equally devoted to protecting the right of a woman to have a child in safety. It isn't advocating which choice, it's saying we each have a right to make that choice. I had an abortion when it was illegal here and in a lot of other countries. I had the opportunity to go to India on a fellowship. I was working as a waitress in London while waiting for my visa to come through. I had suspected when I left that I was pregnant, but I really didn't know what to do. So I took the London phone book, and I looked for the nearest doctor. And he, a kind man to whom I later dedicated a book, said he would send me to a woman surgeon who would perform this procedure. He said you must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life. It transformed my life. It made my life possible. And when I came home and became a journalist, I went to cover an early hearing on abortion. - Our position is that there should be complete repeal of all abortion laws, so that the individual woman can make her own decision in consultation with her doctor. - The terrible resentment of having our reproductive practices, our bodies controlled by men and laws made by men. - How many women are there in the state legislature? [INTERPOSING VOICES] - Women were standing up and testifying about what had happened to them, because abortion was illegal and unsafe. - When you have an abortion, you have to pay $700, go through this cloak and dagger business, and the guy finds you some guy who's willing to stick a hanger up you. I thought I was the lowest of the low. That I couldn't get any lower, and that I was the worst human being in the world. To find out that my mother, that my cousins, that people I was close to had abortions helped me more than most of the therapy that I had to go through. - And that for me was the first time I had ever heard women telling the truth in public and not being ashamed and bonding with other women who had had this experience or being supported by women, even if they had not had that experience. You know, if one in three American women had had an abortion even then, why was it illegal and dangerous? It was the beginning of a contagion of truth telling, mutual support, and that for me was the beginning of realizing how wrong sexual politics were. It did make me understand that there was going to be a women's movement as a consequence of and part of all liberation movements. - Now, thanks ...

About the Instructor

Women’s rights activists and political changemakers Gloria Steinem, adrienne maree brown, Amanda Nguyen, and Tina Tchen know there’s strength in numbers—especially in the fight for equality. Now, they’re coming together to dissect the issues women have faced in the U.S., talk about their advocacy efforts and personal challenges, and introduce ways you can play an active role in the feminist movement in your everyday life.

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Gloria Steinem, adrienne maree brown, Amanda Nguyen, and Tina Tchen

Four women’s rights activists discuss the feminist movement in the U.S., ways they’re creating change, and how you can join the fight for equality.

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