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The Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute: A Pro-Choice Weekend in Kansas

This weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Kansas Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute (RJLI), and I am, for lack of a better term, shook. The event is run by URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity) and took place at Emporia State University, where I study. About twenty pro-choice folks around Kansas met up to discuss reproductive justice and intersectionality. It was a welcoming environment that understood and respected everyone’s identities and backgrounds. I have taken so much knowledge from this event and I want to share it with the world.

The mission of reproductive justice (RJ) as defined by URGE is to allow everyone the necessary tools to be in control of their body. And we mean everyone. URGE and the RJ movement are intersectional and support all people of all backgrounds, abilities and identities. What this means is essentially that each individual knows their body best and should have the resources to be able to make decisions for their body. Everyone should be allowed to decide if, when and how they want to procreate. Unfortunately, there are laws in place and proposals made that disallow this bodily autonomy. We received information on canvassing and spreading the movement to our communities. It is tedious and tireless work. It will never be easy and it can be dangerous. The movement starts on a small scale, with these institutes. It starts with educating our peers and getting people on the fence completely on board. It can be as simple as asking your friends if they are abortion-positive and giving them information on the movement and resources available and teaching them intersectional language. We have to reach out to the people around us to make real change. Revolutions start with going door to door.

A misconception of the reproductive justice movement is that it’s all about abortion. While that is part of it and we do believe that individuals should have access to abortions, we focus on so much more. Things like access to birth control and other contraceptives, general health care access and assistance for those in low-income families are huge aspects of the movement. Again, we emphasize intersectionality and make sure that we are fighting for all people. We want affordable or free health care. We understand that not everyone can pay for health insurance or trips to the hospital. We understand that there are racial issues that limit access to basic care. We understand that the movement is not gender specific because – newsflash – transgender folks exist. This movement is worth fighting for and dying for. People have died before us and are still dying and we need to fight for everyone’s rights in terms of both reproductive health and general health. RJLI gave me a taste of the battle I am preparing myself to fight. This is life and death. We must stand up for what we believe in so that change to occur. If you are interested in reproductive justice, find out where your local URGE chapter meets. Talk to the people close to you about these issues. Each individual in this movement is crucial.

Photo: Danielle Hurd

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Mesa Weidenbach
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I'm Mesa, an 18 year old queer kid from Kansas. My passions are social justice, writing, and makeup. I have two betta fish named Finn and Rey, and my favorite lipstick is Colourpop's "Marshmallow." I am currently a freshman political science major at ESU.

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