Funding clinics to lead pro-choice politics

Sarah Erdreich and Rachel Joy Larris have a fascinating, visionary post up at Abortion Gang titled “How to Better Fund A Pro-Choice Movement.” Here’s an excerpt:

The fact of the matter is that most national pro-choice organizations have very little staff in most states. There are exceptions, but in many cases, there might be only a single executive director and perhaps one or two other staff and interns to protect reproductive rights within the entire state. Of course, other organizations, such as state ACLU chapters, often devote resources to reproductive issues, but for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota there is a single Planned Parenthood and a single communications director to cover all reproductive rights issues for all three states. For politicians in these states and others to feel beholden to their pro-choice constituents, more work needs to be done at organizing from the ground-up.

There is perhaps a better way of doing this than continuing to push money to the existing pro-choice organizations. After all, who better knows their state’s issues, and the concerns of their community, than the clinics themselves?

National organizations like Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, and NARAL do a tremendous job in working on the federal level, and we are not suggesting that they are delinquent at the state level. But in our experience, it is the clinics themselves that can have the most direct impact on their communities, and that best know the intricacies and restrictions of their state’s laws. It would be wonderful to see more support on this grassroots level, both of the financial and volunteer kind, to help protect and expand the work that clinics do.

Please read the full post here.

I am so excited by this idea. Serious threats to reproductive health care access, especially abortion access, get pushed through in states all the time. There’s often very little that can be done in states with overwhelmingly anti-choice legislatures. Roe v. Wade has been chipped away to the point where it’s barely the law of the land in large swaths of the country. We need state based strategy, not just organizing at the federal level.

And I love the idea of trusting in the leadership of direct service providers. They know best what the threats are and what they need to be able to provide the best reproductive health care to the people they serve.

I’m curious to hear reactions from clinic staff and directors. They’re certainly swamped with the work they’re doing already, but what would it mean if they had the funding and resources to do political organizing better? Because it’s very true they’re doing this work already anyway.

I’m so inspired to see this sort of visioning happening around ways to do pro-choice politics better. I think we’re moving in a really exciting direction.

Related posts:
Pro-choice orgs won’t get rewarded for rolling over
In budget fight, pro-choice organizations get played again
Are there alternatives to the failing national reproductive rights organizing model?

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • Shelley Schreiner

    Jos, I love you and your posts about organizing and thinking outside of the existing models to get this work done. I just had to stop by and weigh in on this one!

    I think the concept and vision of what is described here is incredibly valuable and I love love love the idea of having the public policy goals coming from the ground up as opposed to the top down. I think that a big limitation of our work is that so often public policy and political initiative are developed federally in “national offices” and then disseminated throughout the states. Even when we’re “on defense” there is usually a pre-determined strategy, message, and set of tactics that we get from a large national organization. This isn’t a criticism of that — I think it just developed this way out of necessity. Everyone is silo-ed in their roles within an organization, and the policy people have the political expertise so they do the political work and everyone else follows because they don’t have time or resources or skills to do otherwise.

    Which leads me to me observation about your post, and the original post that you referenced. You said that clinic and direct service staff are probably already so busy with the work they have. I think that is true, and further, I think that they don’t have (and maybe don’t care to have) the political acumen to be directly involved in policy advocacy or organizing work. Because like it or not, the political game exists in the state houses across the country where these attacks are taking place, and we have to be able to play it in order to defend ourselves and to be pro-active on issues that we want to make progress on. Similarly, while I think organizers are made not born, I think you’ll agree that it takes a certain kind of personality to be willing to knock on doors and phone bank for hours, and it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Your post makes me wish for a middle way of sorts — a world in which advocacy organizations base their policy initiatives, their strategies and tactics, their volunteer recruitment and management plans, and their fundraising around what those people on the front lines need and observe. We need much more intimate involvement from those folks in order to create holistic approaches to reproductive justice issues.

    Anyway, that’s a really long comment for you! Thanks for writing this and for continuing to think about how we might re-envision our model.