Teen Organizers for Choice: Fired Up and Ready to Go

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Teen Organizers for Choice: Fired Up and Ready to Go

Max Kamin-Cross

At Planned Parenthood’s Organizing and Policy Summit 2010 in Washington, DC., hundreds of teens and young adults planned our outreach to youth and men, and our campaign to beat back the Administration's new restrictions.

Some of you may have read my past article on the role of teens at my school in the pro-choice movement; if not, you can check it out here.  It outlined an event I organized at my school and how young adults stood up and took action on an issue we believe in: reproductive rights.   Young adults really do care about issues like abortion and reproductive rights. Sometimes they just need someone else to help them show it. 

I recently returned from Planned Parenthood’s Organizing and Policy Summit (OPS) 2010 in Washington, DC.  Before I go on, can I just say….WOW!  Five hundred youth and adult advisors from around the country of every gender, age, and economic background all converging on Washington, DC for three days.  It was an amazing thing to see and to be a part of.  This just continues to prove my point – teens do care but just need someone to take the first step.  At the Organizing and Policy Summit in 2009, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, issued a challenged to increase the attendance for 2010’s conference.  We succeeded. Over 100 more people attended OPS 2010 than 2009; almost 300 of them were youth.   

The amazing thing about the whole experience was the unfathomable difference of attitudes about sex, in comparison to what attitudes are where I live.  At anytime I could walk into a room and hear three or four discussions about birth control, emergency contraception, abortion, or a variety of other topics occurring at the same time.  This was a complete change from living in Pittsford, NY where anything relating to sex is a taboo topic.  Having these discussions with other teens was a different experience. For the first time in quite a while I wasn’t told anything along the lines of how God would hate me for being pro-choice.  At first the only thing I could think of was The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy’s house lands in Oz and she exclaims to her dog: “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”  That was exactly how I felt, except not being in Kansas was a good thing, and my journey didn’t include any witches or flying monkeys. 

One new addition at this conference was the first meeting of Planned Parenthood’s Young Leaders Advisory Board.  Twenty of Planned Parenthood’s most visionary young adults (including me!) from 14 different states were selected to take part in this new initiative.  I can’t go into the specifics, but be prepared for some fantastic new Planned Parenthood campaigns and initiatives.  Having 500 pro-choice youth and Planned Parenthood affiliate staff all together was great, but there was something, or should I say someone, missing.  One youth put it best when, in an open forum at the conference, he said: “Where the heck are all the guys?!” 

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He is completely right.  The reproductive rights world as a whole is overwhelmingly dominated by women.  This is probably because reproductive rights are thought of, by some, as a women’s issue.  They are wrong.  Reproductive rights are human rights.  With the new Stupak-like health care decision, that bans women with certain pre-existing medical conditions from receiving coverage for abortions, now is the time for men and women alike stand up for human rights.  Tell the Obama administration, who put this ban in place (yes, the same one run by the Obama we elected because of his pro-choice beliefs), to reverse that decision here.

Throughout the conference I learned so much and met many inspirational people, including a couple of the amazing people who run Rewire.  The entire experience continues to make me feel optimistic about the future of our movement in the long run, but fearful for the next several weeks.  In these coming weeks it will be decided if the decision by the Obama administration to ban abortion coverage for women in high risk pools will be upheld or not.  It is vital that the pro-choice community as a whole mobilizes and makes sure the Obama administration knows our thoughts by signing the petition.  No matter what happens, rest assured today’s teens will be ready to continue the movement when the time comes, I am confident of this.

Please help me with my next article:  Did you have a terrible experience in a sex-ed class as a child, or an awesome one?  Are you a health teacher who teaches sex-ed?  Do you or a teacher you know refuse to teach sex-ed?  I want to know about your experiences for an upcoming story on the fate of sex-ed in American schools.  Send your story to [email protected] and be sure to include your name and location.