Letter from NARAL Pro – Choice America
by Kaylie Hanson Long, @NARAL

Me Too– started in 1997 by activist Tarana Burke – has transformed the national conversation about sexual harassment and assault, transcending industries from politics to business to Hollywood. Women and survivors from all corners are using their collective voices to force the epidemic into the spotlight, igniting a fire that helps fan the flames of the Resistance today.

The outpouring of #MeToo stories by people all over the country, from iconic celebrities to women in the workplace, to friends on our Facebook feeds, is simultaneously tragic and cathartic. America is finally having the difficult conversations about how women are treated in the workplace and public life, and the disparities that come to light are a sobering reminder of how much work we still have to do.

The pervasive culture of misogyny, finally in the spotlight but still rampant, perpetuates the notion that women are less than men– that we are vessels, and not much more. One manifestation of this objectification is sexual harassment and assault. Another is the notion that women’s reproductive rights are somehow negotiable. But women cannot be true equals in society without autonomy over our bodies, and without reproductive freedom — the basic freedom to make decisions about our own bodies and determine our own destiny is inextricably linked with the notion of equality. This truth guides our work every day at NARAL.

And let’s be clear: these days, attacks on reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and gender equality are coming fast and furious from Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

There is no question about it, Donald Trump has a long and well-documented history of objectifying, deriding, and trying to silence women. He was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and has been accused of this crime by multiple women. No Donald Trump, misogynists have a platform and a reinforcer at the highest level.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence lives and breathes an anti-choice agenda that is rooted in restricting women from making our own decisions about our bodies, lives, and futures. He recently declared that abortion will end “in our time,” and yet actively undermines access to contraception, which is key in reducing the number of abortions in this country. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed draconian legislation limiting women’s access to abortion and penalizing doctors who provide this healthcare service. His attacks directly jeopardized the health and lives of women in Indiana. Now, he’s taken his cause to the national stage.

Attempts to control women’s choices are one step removed from attempts to actually punish women for the choices they make. Anti-choice politicians have passed legislation that mandates waiting periods for abortion care (implying we can’t be trusted to think things through for ourselves), ultrasounds not for medical purposes, for shaming a woman for considering all her options, and the endless, medically unnecessary, laws aimed at regulating abortion clinics out of existence.

In Illinois and all over the country, NARAL members are out there in force, fighting for reproductive rights, access to health care, and paid family leave, as part of the broader push by women and allies everywhere for a more equal society. We are mobilizing, knocking doors and making phone calls to help elect candidates that we know will stand up for these values, not work to undermine them.

This fight for reproductive freedom, gender equality, and autonomy isn’t easy and it’s far from over. But it’s a fight worth fighting every single day, and we’re in it to win it.