(Nov 1, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Erin Matson, co-founder of Reproaction, a national direct action organization focused on advancing issues of reproductive justice and increasing access to abortion services. Reproaction’s other co-founder, Pamela Merritt, is based in St. Louis, MO, and they have a network of activists across the country. The work in collaboration with many other abortion rights, reproductive justice, and women’s advocacy organizations.
Erin established her credentials in feminist activism as the youngest state president of the National Organization of Women when she assumed leadership of Minnesota NOW at the age of 23. She moved with NOW to DC and one of the early issues she worked on was pharmacist refusal clauses. This is the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription if it is conflict with their personal beliefs. Today, in 2017, the Mid-Atlantic grocery store chain Harris Teeter has taken the emergency contraception Plan B One Step off the shelf and made it available ONLY through the pharmacy or through a store manager. THIS IS A CORPORATE POLICY. Any employee of the store can refuse to sell any customer this FDA approved medication. Harris Teeter has given no explanation as to why this is their policy. Reproaction is leading a direct against a Harris Teeter store on November 20, 2017, to raise the visibility of this issue to women in the DC metro area.
Erin also helps to define what “reproductive justice” is and how it encompasses more than simply protecting women’s access to their legally protected right to abortion services. She explains that the concept and framework of reproductive justice was pioneered by women of color, specifically black women in this country, in the 1990s. It encompasses three things:
The Right to Parent
The Right not to Parent
The Right to raise children in a safe and healthy communities
Social justice includes addressing forceable sterilization, inadequate pre-natal and maternity care, and even issues like the Flint Michigan poisoned water supply. All of these issues disproportionately impact communities of color.
Erin and Pamela Merritt, along with SisterSong, led a direct action against a “fake clinic” in Atlanta as part of the Netroots Nation conference in August of 2017. Crisis Pregnancy Centers lure women into their fake clinics by offering abortion assistance when in fact they exist only to talk women out of having abortions. Many are funded with tax dollars that have been redirected from other programs – like food assistance. They perpetrate fraud and do not have to meet HIPAA requirements regarding privacy of information because they are not real medical clinics. The stigma around abortion has been engineered by anti-abortion forces that are deeply anti-woman. The “1 in 3” campaign highlights the fact that one in three women in the U.S. has chosen to have an abortion and yet many never discuss it – not with friends, family or colleagues. This keeps this choice stigmatized and feeds this culture of shaming women who have made a decision that is right for themselves and their families.