During the week of June 16-21st, 2014 youth from First UU Columbus alongside a couple of teens from other UU congregations came together to learn about reproductive justice. We learned a lot, challenged each other, affirmed our strong beliefs in human rights, and had a bunch of fun. Our major community partner in this endeavor was Jaime Miracle from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and our primary youth leader was Eliza Steffen.
The beginning of the week brought learning about the definition of reproductive justice. Our youth created opinion statements when they first arrived- without having learned anything just yet. We handed around a bowl filled with definitions and read them aloud to one another. A panel of invited guests joined us, including young adults from the area, a UU woman from Akron, and a woman from Cleveland who later presented a program with us on the intersection of identities with reproductive justice.
We learned that the scope of this issue spans beyond pro-choice issues relating to abortion- it encompasses all decisions whether or not to have families and the access we have to raising families in healthy and happy ways. This includes a larger systemic framework in looking at who has access to healthcare, where resources are available, confronting our broken foster care system, challenging stereotypes of who chooses whether or not to have children. Choice is a complicated issue in the midst of structures that want to make decisions for us: family, culture, societal norms, identities, communities.
Our youth collected stories from the congregation for a video project. They spent hours listening, opening their hearts, and creating safe space for people to share. Each morning we would open with a worship moment, where we lit candles. One morning, we shared things we were grateful for and so many youth expressed gratitude for the courageous folks who came to share their stories with us. I echo their gratitude. In order to overcome reproductive injustice, we have to begin speaking out to heal ourselves from the shame and stigma associated with abortion, adoption, infertility, birth control, and the list goes on. The people who shared their stories took a big step forward towards creating healing in our world. When we tell our stories, chances are we are telling the stories of the people in the room.
Thursday, we traveled to Cleveland to learn about to women’s clinic Preterm. This clinic focuses on care for the whole patient, providing medical services alongside mental, emotional, and spiritual care. As we took a tour of the facility, we not only saw rooms where abortion procedures are performed, but also had a chance to see their Reflection Room where women are invited to take time to meditate and pray and take part in practices that sustain them. We heard from a constitutional law attorney about the history of reproductive laws in the United States. And then it was on to the Dittrick Medical History Museum, which currently features an exhibit detailing the history of contraception and will soon expand their portion on the history of childbirth practices. It was an extremely full day.
During Columbus PRIDE at the end of the week, our group of 12 youth had the opportunity to march with First UU’s group and then moved on to tabling for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. We asked people to sign postcards telling Governor Kasich to stop legislating our bodies by limiting access to reproductive services. Our youth collected over 200 postcards to send along.
This project was both multi-generational and helped our congregation learn more about what reproductive justice means.
Our next Justice Week is June 15th through 19th, where we will be learning about economic justice and racial justice in our local community. If you are interested in participating, please contact Lane Campbell, Director of Religious Education, at [email protected]
Videos produced in the 2014 Justice week are below!
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