Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Hero Origin Stories

 

This week we are doing things a little differently! We talked to a number of amazing SRHR heroes and heard their stories of how they got into working in the reproductive justice or sexual and reproductive health and rights space.


We talked with:


Bergen Cooper, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Jennie Wetter, rePROs Fight Back and Population Institute

Jonathan Rucks, PAI

Yesenia Chavez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Mimi Spalding, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Jaclyn Dean, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

Rebecca Dennis, PAI

Jamila Taylor, Center for American Progress

Jenny Vanyur, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Preston Mitchum, Advocates for Youth

Kirsten Sherk, ICRW (International Center for Research on Women)

Rachel Fey, Power to Decide

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Transcript

Jennie Wetter: Welcome to rePROs Fight Back a podcast on all things repro. I'm your host Jennie Wetter. In each episode, I'll be taking you to the front lines of the escalating fight over our sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad. Each episode, I will be speaking with leaders who are fighting to protect our reproductive health and rights to ensure that no one's reproductive health depends on where they live. It's time for repros to fight back.

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Jennie Wetter: Welcome to this week's episode of rePROs Fight Back everybody. I am so looking forward to sharing this episode with you, not just because it was a listener requested episode, but because I had so much fun recording it. And I think you're gonna have a lot of fun listening. We had a listener reach out and ask if we could do an episode where we told people stories, and we told how people got interested or began working in the field of sexual and reproductive health or how they got their current jobs. And so I talked to a bunch of great people to hear their stories and I had so much fun recording it and I think you're going to love hearing them. So without further ado, check out this week's episode.

Bergen Cooper: Hi, I'm Bergen Cooper. I'm the Director of Policy Research at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). And here is my sexual and reproductive health and rights researcher origin story. So I was 12 years old I think and Salt-N-Pepa's album "Very Necessary" had come out and it had the explicit content sticker on it and my parents got it for me for Christmas and I just felt like the coolest girl around. This is the album that has, you know, Shoop,What a man. It's a classic. So the last track on the album is called, and I might be getting this wrong now, was called, "I've got AIDs." And Salt-n-Pepa dedicated a track of their album to a adolescent group that was raising awareness about HIV and AIDs. And it's a sketch that now at this point in 2018 is quite dated. But at the time really messed me up. So you hear a young girl come in and tell her boyfriend that yes, Jennie's face right now.

Jennie Wetter: Sorry, I am here. I, yes, this album is classic and I had it and I'm like, I don't remember the...Oh, right, yes.

Bergen Cooper: I think you can find it on Youtube for all of your listeners. So a young woman, she comes in and she tells her boyfriend that she's been tested and that she's HIV positive and that they have HIV. And he starts yelling at her and he says, you cheated on me. And she said, I never cheated on you. I've never been with anybody else. And he kicked her out and he said, you're lying. And then you hear his inner monologue. And he said, I don't know what I'm doing. She didn't cheat on me. I know she didn't cheat on me. Damn, I've got AIDs. And that was the end of the sketch. And I went to my parents and I had the CD and I said, we have to do something about HIV. And they said, we have to do something about what you're listening to. [laughter] But it was from that point on and you know, knowing me probably before that, but from that point on, I really remember always and only wanting to talk about sexual health.

Jennie Wetter: That's awesome. Awesome. Um, so since it's nice to have another person here, I'll just go ahead and take a shot.

Bergen Cooper: Yes!

Jennie Wetter: Okay. So I'm Jennie Wetter the host of rePROs Fight Back, but also in my other hat, the Director of Public Policy at the Population Institute, um, and mine is in fits and starts. So, um, I think the biggest thing that I just have this really clear memory. I think I was in like fifth grade and again, um, I went to a Catholic Grade School, um, K through 8, and I had, um, a friend at the time asked me to go with her and her family to Madison, which was an hour away from where we lived to go save babies. And I was in fifth grade. I didn't really know like what any of that was or meant. And I just remember going home and talking to my mom and being like, hey mom, can I go with so and so to go save babies? And I remember my mom sitting me down in the sunroom, we had like a kitchen, like a, a bar level counter where we ate like breakfast and stuff. And I remember her sitting me down on the end in the seat that was always my dad's. Like, I just have this like really clear memory and having this conversation with me of, you know, we didn't go in like super deep, cause again, I was only in fifth grade, but she really kind of just asked like all these really basic kind of questions, like, well, have you thought about oh, women who have been raped or just kind of like walked me through the basic thought process that you would would for someone in fifth grade without going like too far, and like explaining what all of this meant, but just like kind of the basics. And, uh, and then she said, well, do you still want to go? And if you want to go, you can go. Um, and I just remember one, just being so grateful that she gave me the information I needed and okay, so maybe she might've been pushing me clearly one way or the other, but like giving me facts and then saying, think about them and make your own choices. And I think that's one of the things that has really shaped my life. Um, but that didn't push me into repro, but it did give me this base that when I started working in the field, it has been like, oh, it's always been there. It might not have been in the front. Mine is actually a much more roundabout story in that I went to college and I started working on, getting involved in the environment. And so my undergrad degree is in biological aspects of conservation, also known as environmental science. And I did a study abroad in Kenya, um, kind of near a Kilimanjaro, uh, so south and in the Bush, studying human wildlife conflict. And how, uh, that area was reliant on, uh, nature tourism, uh, for how, Kenya is reliant on nature tourism and that area is where they live. And people were trying to settle in farm and it was causing problems. Um, so that really started to make me look at environment through development lens versus a, uh, just purely environmental lens. And so that led me to refocus my studies and kind of looking at how environment and development come together. And going to grad school, again, still in environment for and global environmental policy and, uh, looking, actually writing my thesis on environmental peace building. Um, and so when I came graduated from college, it was not the best job market and I was kind of struggling to find a job and you know, trying to find like what fits, where can I use environment and development and um, you know, one place that environment development kind of come together as in Population. Um, so that's how I ended up at the Population Institute. And once I started working there, it became clear really quickly that, oh, actually my passion is reproductive health. Um, more so. I mean, I still talk, I can talk about population and environment and development, but, um, reproductive health and, um, sexual, reproductive health and rights really quickly became where all my energy and my time has been focused. Um, so that's my origin story. It's a little more roundabout.

Bergen Cooper: I love your origin story and I also have to give a shout out to all of our solid parents.

Jennie Wetter: Right?

Bergen Cooper: You know, laying a nice groundwork, supporting, supporting some of our interests at an early age. Yeah. Shout out to parents.

Jennie Wetter: And one of the things that I had told this to Bergen before we actually recorded was that this is something that that conversation with my mom is like something that I think about and like really made a huge difference in my life. And when I've like gone back and like said something to her, she's like, I don't, I don't remember this at all and I'm, I, so it was nothing to her. Like it was just her parenting and her philosophy of like, give you information and let you make decisions. Um, and uh, yeah. And I also find it a little bit funny that my origin story starts with this super pro-life person who is still super, really pro-life, now spawning someone who is actively fighting for reproductive health and rights and that hosting a podcast on reproductive health and rights. So good job.

Bergen Cooper: It's a good story.

Jonathan Rucks: My Name's Jonathan rucks and I'm the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy at PAI. And PAI is a global sexual and reproductive health and rights organization. We fight against bad policies so that birth control stays on shelves so that doctors can do their jobs and women reach the care they want and need. We know at Pai that a bad policy can cut off access just as easily as a bad road or a closed clinic. And I think for me the belief that everyone has a right to quality, affordable health care was instilled in me at an, at a very early age. Um, my mom is a nurse in rural Minnesota. She's selfless. She always goes above and beyond the call of duty. And I would be remiss if I didn't say that she made me into the man I am today, the man who cares about access rights and quality, um, in particular sexual reproductive health care because she never gave me a free pass. And I think for a long time when I was growing up, I thought this meant that I had to become a doctor. Um, not that I wasn't excited about it, I just didn't see any other path. But then my senior year of high school, I went to Washington DC and everything changed. I remember sitting in the House gallery cause we were on a tour of the Capitol and I was watching the debate on the floor. Not that the debate was particularly memorable, but I wanted to be that staffer who was sitting down there working for those members. I wanted to do that. I wanted to work on policy, I wanted to work on health care policy. And it opened a whole new door for me. I remember as soon as I got back home from that trip, I called the registrar's office at St John's and I changed my entire freshman year course load. I dropped all of the chemistry and physics classes that, you know, is what was going to happen for premed. And I loaded up with political science and English, and I never looked back. Um, I studied abroad my junior year in South Africa. Um, and I, as part of that program, I taught English in one of the townships outside Port Elizabeth. And towards the end of my time teaching there, one of the teachers died and she died because she had an asthma attack and she couldn't afford an inhaler. And I just remember being so angry and upset about how that, that that didn't register. It just didn't make any sense to me and I needed to do something. And I knew that I couldn't go home from South Africa and spend the summer in Belle Plain and I finagled an internship in Washington DC and my parents supported me. Um, and I was lucky enough to intern with Congressman Jim Oberstar and I spent the summer getting to do this thing that I had been dreaming about, which was working on policy writing, probably more constituent mail than working on policy. But it still gave me a taste of, of what I wanted to do.

Jonathan Rucks: And when I graduated from college, they had a job for me and I packed up my bags and I moved to Washington DC. And like every fresh faced health care or um, congressional staffer. I wanted to make my mark and I wanted to own an issue, but I was 24 and what did I know? Um, but I still fought to like work in health care and thankfully the legislative director at that time, um, who handled health care made space for me to work with him. And at the same time he was like, look, this issue, uh, a for foreign affairs, it's uncovered and within foreign affairs there's a lot you can do with health care and maybe you can do something with international family planning. And that really opened a whole new door for me. And I was lucky enough as a congressional staffer to be invited on this trip, um, to Ethiopia in 2008 and PAI was actually leading that trip. And what's important about this trip in 2008 is that it was right at the time that uh, the legislation for PEPFAR, the president's emergency plan for aids relief was being reauthorized. It had been passed in 2003 and it was up in 2008 to be extended. And one of the big pushes at that time, um, from the family planning community in particular was around making sure that family planning was integrated with HIV. And you can have all of these conversations in the Rayburn House office building and get the best picture that you can. But there's something to be said about actually being on the ground and seeing it. And that trip to Ethiopia really for me, exposed so much, right? Like I, everything clicked because you're at a clinic and you see the importance of ensuring that women, girls, the men who are accessing services in that clinic, that they're getting tested for HIV, they're getting their drugs for treatment, but at the same time they're being counseled on family planning and they have access to those contraceptives, all of those things in one place. And how important that is. Um, not for access, but also ensuring that like it's convenient for those individuals who are accessing those services. And it was just such an incredible experience and made me a much better advocate within the congressional office in which I was working. And as part of that trip, we stopped at a fistula clinic and I think, I haven't forgotten that part of the trip all these years later. It was so powerful because the young women who were telling their stories, there were my sisters age and they had such grace and poise talking about being forced into early marriage, getting pregnant before their bodies could even carry a pregnancy to term suffering through these little laborious labor that ended in death for the child, but then also resulted in fistula for them. And I remember asking questions about why no one would, no one in their family would help them because a number of these women were shoved outside of the house and you know, forced to live in a shed for months without any help. Thankfully the NGO who was operating the clinic was doing outreach and that's how these women found services and were able to be healed. But I just remember talking to them and continuing to ask like, why would no one help you? And never being satisfied with that answer. And coming back and telling that story to my boss, Congressman Oberstar who himself was a pro-life Democrat, but he recognize the importance of family planning and that that family planning isn't about abortion and family planning is important to allow women and girls to decide when, if and how many children they want to have. And together along with a lot of support from the lobbyist at PAI at the time, we led a pretty big effort around getting more conservative Democrats to support family planning. And that was a fun, that was a fun fight and fun to work with these offices to get them on board and to support family planning, um, and make the case for something that they didn't really, weren't pressured to, to support or didn't have a reason to support before.

Jonathan Rucks: And like all good things. My time on the hill came to an end and when I was ready to leave the hill, I think it only made sense that I would move over to the nonprofit world and eventually I landed here at PAI, where now I get to direct and strategize and lead policy both here with the US government but also working with partners around the world and I'm taking a lot of energy at getting a lot of energy from the work with the partners, but also these fights that we're engaged in fights like pushing back against the global gag rule and exposing this terrible decision that providers have to make between between receiving US global health assistance or providing comprehensive services. Working with partners in Uganda who are holding their governments accountable for commitments they've made to Family Planning 2020 to ensure that this commitment they made to ensure that women and girls have access to contraceptives, that they actually deliver on it. Working in part with partners in Zambia who are engaged in universal health care movements, but making sure that sexual and reproductive health is part of that agenda. Working with partners in India who are pushing back against child marriage, making sure that women and girls, um, are able to talk about menstrual hygiene management. All of these things, um, are, are what I'm excited about and what keeps me moving and keeps me fighting every day. And I think I thought a lot about what I was going to say today. And in thinking through that, I've always thought that all of these things were sort of an accident, right? Like I just sort of ended up in sexual reproductive health and rights as an accident. I ended up at PAI now as an accident, but when I think back and I add all these things together, there really were no happy accidents. They were all quite purposeful and this is where I was meant to be. And I think a lot of that I owe back to my mom who always pushed these issues. And without her, this wouldn't have been an issue that I care so deeply about. So I guess I better go back and call my mom.

Yesenia Chavez: Hi, my name is Yesenia Chavez and I am the Immigrant Women's Health and Rights Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. I joined the organization and the Reproductive Justice Movement because it encompasses all sorts of backgrounds including immigration statuses, um, in their efforts to protect women and um, access, affordable health care rights and um, all in the mindset of health, dignity and justice for the population. And um, for me this is huge because, um, my background, uh, I come from uh, Houston, Texas where I was raised by two immigrants from Mexico. My parents are, uh, come from humble backgrounds. My mother is a domestic worker and my father is a construction worker and I've grown up seeing how their work, um, has had health, um...they've had health implications due to their work. And it's important for me to work in a space where I can advocate for their rights and to advocate for their, um, to, for, for them to have justice, um, due to their, um, work and not having anything be based on what their immigrant status is. That's super important to me. So I feel very lucky to be a part of the movement and am really honored to be a part of the coalition that collaborates with so many great, um, other communities of color, which is really critical to moving the movement forward is it's really growing our efforts and making sure we're all fighting collectively together for the greater good.

Mimi Spalding: Alright. So my name is Mimi Spalding and I am currently a Medicaid Policy Analyst at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Um, I've been here for two years, so, um, if you do the math, I joined right like a month after the election. Um, and I thought I would be joining this organization under a different administration, but, um, it's definitely been exciting. Um, so I think the, I was trying to think about, okay, how did I get to where I am? And I think the, the word that comes to mind for me is kismet or destiny or fate. Um, so till rewind a little bit, I'm born and raised in Arizona, so I'm a Southwest girl to the core. Um, my mother hails from the Midwest or the South. She's from Kentucky, but was raised in Ohio and she is really like a figure head in my, my life. She, um, was a single mom, raised me and my sister. Um, she was a social worker for a years and years and um, I think she really infused in, in me and my sister, like a value of, um, health and equity and rights. Um, the first memory that I can really have in the health sphere was, um, in high school I've volunteered at a, uh, at a crisis nursery, uh, crisis nursery. And that was like my first foray into health and, uh, young folks and kids. Um, so when I went to college at the University of Arizona, I really thought that I wanted to be a doctor. I want it to be a neonatologist. And, um, yeah, I just thought like, oh, I can really help people by being a doctor. But of course, organic chemistry weeded me out. Yeah. So...

Jennie Wetter: Mine was, um, chemistry, like the intro one, oh, but like organic made sense to me, the stuff before it that I was like, I don't know...

Mimi Spalding: That is solid backwards. Organic chemistry, I pro, that's the worst grade I ever got. Like I don't even know it was on the scale. But, um, so I, I changed my major because I was like, I need to graduate in four years to keep my scholarship and I just need something that I have a lot of credits for. So I went for Family Studies and Human Development with a minor in African American studies. My minor was just a, it was so life changing for me to like learn about African American history. I was also part of, or I am part of a, um, historically black sorority, Zeta Phi Beta sorority. So, um, my college experience was really one of my first experiences where I was in meshed in like the black community and surrounded by black people. Especially being from Arizona, I was often the only black girl in the room. So I right before I was going to graduate, my mother, she still had the doctor like hope. And so she was like, well, a lot of doctors, um, are now doing their masters in public health. So maybe that is something you can pursue while you like prepare to apply for finish your prerecs for medical school. And I was like, sure mom, like that's a good idea. I have no idea what public health was at that point. But I was like, okay, I love school. Let me do it. So I applied, I got into the um, master's program at the University of Arizona in a concentration in maternal and child health. And um, those two years I always tell people that they were transformative. I think in particular because of the populations that are in Arizona, I had a really unique experience because when I first started the master's program, we did a rural health field course. Yeah. And we went on tours of many of the Native American reservations in Arizona. So we went to the Navajo Nation, the Hopi nation, other tribes, and we learned about maternal and child health issues that impacted those communities and some of the programs that were used to address those disparities, I would say maternal child health disparities. Um, and that just really opened my eyes to some of the issues that women and children face, particularly marginalized populations and communities of color. So, one of the classes I remember being particularly powerful was a maternal and child health epidemiology class. And one of our assignments was to per, um, to select a health indicator that impacted one population and like research it throughout the year, et cetera. So I chose breast cancer because I have a family history of it. And that was really the first time. I know it sounds like perhaps simple at this point, but that was the first time I can remember where I learned that, um, although white women have a higher prevalence of breast cancer, black women have a higher mortality rate, which is indicative of disparities in terms of access to and quality of care. And that just reached me at my core. It just made me so sad for, um, you know, just like so yeah, so many people, women of color, black women that, um, that was how our system was structured. And, um, I really think that started a fire in me.

Mimi Spalding: And one of the other really powerful experiences I had in my master's program that kind of contributed to where I arrived at is I'm, so Dr. Richard Carmona, he was a 17th, Surgeon General of the United States, and he was a graduate of the MPH program that I attended. And he, um, was a guest lecture and he talked about how health is one of the greatest sources of human capital and how as public health professionals, we have a legal and moral obligation to protect and advance people's health and um, and promote health. And so, uh, he also said that as public health professionals, we can't just understand the health issues of today, but we must be politically and legally astute in order to serve a public health agenda. And I just remember being so, um, empowered by those words. And it was at that moment, like that class where I was like, I'm not going to go to medical school because I feel like that's not where I can have the greatest impact among the communities that I'm most passionate about. And I was like, I'm going to go to law school. So, and that was literally like spring '07 or something and that fall I took the LSAT, I applied to the programs and I was like, I'm really just like passionate about using health and or law and policy as tools to um, dismantle health inequities and disparities and racism in the health system. And that's, I just felt like that was the way I could serve as the greatest change for our black women, black communities. Um, maternal health, child health. Those were just kind of all balled in one for me. Yeah. But when I started law school, I will tell you if anyone ever says that they enjoy law school, like kind of question who that that person is. Cause I didn't enjoy law school and I was like, why did I make this decision? And really in law school I was like, well what am I going to do? I guess I just reconsidered my whole decision to, you know, come to law school and I just wasn't sure what my direction would be with law. I thought I was going to work at a hospital to be honest. Like, yeah, I like, Oh, I'll do health law that way. But I guess I just didn't, I just didn't know. So kismet. Um, so one of my colleagues or my classmates, she was in law students for reproductive justice, LSRJ at the time. Now it's If/When/How, and she told me about their fellowship and she was like, you should apply for it. Maybe like you have an interest in maternal and child health health disparities. I'm like, you should apply. And I was a little intimidated because I was like, I don't even know what reproductive justice is. Like, you know, it's just one of those terms where I was like, I don't, I don't even know what this is like, am I qualified? But I remember talking to my mom and she was like, you know, what's the harm of applying?

Jennie Wetter: What's the worst that could happen now?

Mimi Spalding: Yeah, exactly. And so like the week before I was like, okay, let me get my writing sample and letters of rec. And I did. And like the rest is history. Like I interviewed, I got one of the fellowships, um, at the Black Women's Health Imperative, which meant that I moved to DC and I got entree into like a whole world of reproductive justice health policy. And it was just, it was just, it was something I couldn't have foreseen or anticipated because I didn't even know that was like a possibility. Do you know what I'm saying? Yeah. So that I really credit like where I am today with that experience. Um, and with Law Students for Reproductive Justice, IF/When/How? Because, um, they were able to help me, like find footing in a place I never knew existed. Um, so I came out here, I worked at the Black Women's Health Imperative and was able to do some maternal health work there with some amazing people. Um, and then after that I got a job at Physicians for Reproductive Health, which is a phenomenal organization. I have so much love for the doctors and the staff at PRH. Um, and I spent three years there, almost three years. And then I just started to have this itch, like I need to, you know, use a new muscle. And at that precise time I wasn't even really looking. But at that precise time, a position at the National Health Law Program opened up and it was a health disparities position. And I was like, this is perfect for me. Like I've got to apply. And I did. And that, um, the muscle, I think that that taught me is like Medicaid and how like amazing a program it is and how powerful and influential Medicaid can be in advancing health equity. Um, so I stayed there for a year and learned so much, but then like my dream organization position in my dream organization, which is Planned Parenthood opened up and it was merging basically everything that I've done before. Yeah. Working with providers, working on health equity and Medicaid and I was just like, this is, and like reproductive health and rights. Um, so there's just like a perfect fit and that's where I am now. It's been like a really interesting journey. And I think one of the things I try to impress on young people or just people in general is that you don't always have to necessarily have a clear vision or plan for where you're going to go. You just kind of have to be open to like what the universe like offers you, you know what I'm saying? I think that's like the greatest lesson that I've learned is just being kind of open to the ride.

Jennie Wetter: Absolutely. I kind of always say the same thing, like with our interns and stuff, it's like you're getting your degree, but don't let that determine what you're going to do. Because mine was in environmental science and then global environmental policy and now I can't imagine going back and working on strictly enviro issues. I'm like, you just have to be open and you never know. You might stumble into something and be like, oh wait, this is where my passion is and that's what I get to do everyday now is work on something I am so much more passionate about than I thought I would have been when I first took the job.

Mimi Spalding: Yeah, that's, so I think it's just really important and the word you use stumble like, and that's okay. Some people I think think of stumbling as being like a bad verb or whatever, but I actually think it can be really powerful to like be open to the stumbling.

Jaclyn Dean: My name's Jaclyn Dean. I'm the Policy Manager at the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum or NAPAWF. I've been in this role for almost a year and a half, but I've always been a feminist since I was a child. I am the daughter of two Taiwanese immigrants and I grew up in a pretty patriarchal household where, uh, traditional gender norms, um, was what I saw all the time. And I, I, I think I was angry about it all the time and I didn't realize that I was angry about it until I was older and I went into college and at that time, um, when I was in college, I grew up in Texas as well. And uh, when I was college was around the time that a lot of restrictions on abortion access were being implemented in the state of Texas. And it made me really angry, but at the same time, it also, I also started thinking about what this meant for my community and for the Asian American community and the immigrant community and what access to health care looks like for, you know, for the people that I grew up with in, um, you know, the Taiwanese community that I was around. And so, um, after being abroad for a few years and also seeing what, um, reproductive health and access to health care for women looks like abroad, I, it really strengthened my commitment to, um, work on reproductive health at home in the US and specifically for the AAPI community. So that's how I joined NAPAWF. And, um, I, I love my job and that I get to be a voice for my community. I, I, um, bring hope to bring a lot of visibility to AAPI people, um, especially in spaces where I think people sometimes think that we are less active in politics or less active and in reproductive health and women's rights. And so, um, this has been really fun for me and I hope to continue doing it.

Rebecca Dennis: My name is Rebecca Dennis and I'm the Senior Legislative Policy Analyst at PAI. At PAI, I work to lobby Congress on international family planning and reproductive health funding and policy, which is really the core of PAI's US government relations work. I also though work on a number of linkage issues like child marriage, gender based violence and reproductive health in humanitarian settings. In retrospect, where I ended up in what I'm doing today is in no way surprising, but it's definitely been quite a path to get here. When I started college at Michigan State when I was 17, I knew that I cared a lot about human rights and that ultimately I wanted to one day do something where I'd get a chance to influence international policy. But honestly otherwise I was a little all over the place. My focus was really on conflict and humanitarian disasters, so most of my academic work focused on refugee issues and conflict resolution with bits of international development and environmental policy thrown in since those were not only interest areas of mine, but were often in my mind, clear intersections between all those issues in college. I also got super involved in the advocacy that was happening in the mid 2000's around the genocide in Darfur Sudan. The thing that really struck me about that situation was the stories that we would hear or would read about how the conflict was impacting women on the ground and the horrific gender based violence that so many of them experienced. So I began noticing that more and more of that was influencing the way that I was picking my classes, the way that I was thinking about approaching my my coursework. So I started looking at how does conflict and displacement uniquely and quite frankly, disproportionately impact women and girls. How do environmental policies or international development programs impact women? These are questions that I still find myself coming back to often in my work today. When I graduated in 2009 and moved to DC, I actually got a job working for the organization I'd been involved with as a student activist. My job became organizing grassroots activists around the country dedicated to ending and preventing mass atrocities like those in Sudan. And I finally got to start actually doing some lobbying for the first time. It was great work and I absolutely loved doing it, but I always felt like I was never getting to really tackle the gender issues that I had become so passionate about or at least not getting to do enough on them. So we would do small things here and there, but it was never a primary focus for the organization. Quite honestly, the mass atrocities prevention space had really strong bipartisan support and I don't know for sure, but it always felt like maybe there was a little bit of hesitation that if we waded into issues on women's rights that that might jeopardize some of that bipartisanship and we might start to be seen as being too controversial, particularly with a lot of the debates that were happening in the US around reproductive health care at that time.

Rebecca Dennis: So eventually the organization shifted their strategies around and made the decision to actually eliminate our entire grassroots advocacy team, which was unfortunate to say the least. And as I think anyone who's found themselves suddenly without a job knows extremely stressful. The one positive all of that though was that it gave me the chance and honestly the push that I needed to pursue the specific work that I was really most interested in. So a former colleague knew that I wanted to branch out into the reproductive health space and was aware of PAI and their work and suggested that maybe that was an organization that I wanted to keep an eye on. So I think it has to have been fate that a few weeks later PAI posted a position for a lobbyist to not only work on their core family planning issues, but also to help build out a new piece of work on reproductive health in humanitarian settings and gender based violence. I literally don't think I could have written a better job description for myself and I think I probably had four or five friends who as soon as they saw it posted on job boards, sent it my way saying this is absolutely the job for you. This has to be what you do. And thank God PAI apparently felt the same way and decided to take a chance on the fact that I had a solid enough background on the gender based violence and humanitarian side and a strong enough interest in learning the reproductive health piece. So now it's almost I guess six years later, which is absolutely mind blowing to me. But it's been fantastic. Not only have I been able to build my knowledge on reproductive health, I've had the opportunity to help create this whole new area of work for the organization. So for example, I was able to bring PAI on as a founding partner of a global initiative, the call to action on protection from gender based violence and emergencies that's really working to transform how the entire humanitarian system addresses gender based violence in crises. That's given me the chance to meet work, meet with and work with a whole new collection of colleagues from all over the world who are working in different governments and UN agencies, a lot of other NGOs, all of whom are really dedicated to tackling this issue and I'm finally in a place where I can make sure that reproductive health isn't being left out of the conversation. We've also been able to plug into a lot of work that's fascinating to me around the development and updating of a lot of the international humanitarian response standards that exist where we've really been able to push and advocate for the inclusion of strong language on reproductive health and gender based violence and gender equality language. So I'm really proud of the work that we've been able to do in those spaces and that I've been able to be a part of for the past six years, as well as all of the work that we've done with Congress on international family planning issues more broadly in the coalitions that so many of us work in. But it still just feels like there's so much work that we need to be doing. I'm excited to see what will be coming up next. We know for sure we're going to do some work for the 16 days of activism against gender based violence this year that takes place at the end of November and early December, which I'm really excited for. This all just feels awesome to me because although there's been a couple bumps and jumps along the way and certainly some additions of some new things that I wasn't expecting to have as much interest in as I ultimately did. It really feels like for me, everything's come full circle and then some. So I'm, I'm interested to see in where it all goes from here with PAI.

Jamila Taylor: Hi. So my name is Jamila Taylor. I am a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. And I think I want to start this conversation off by saying that working on women's issues and reproductive health rights and justice gets me up in the morning. Um, this is one issue that I am incredibly passionate about. Um, and I don't see myself stopping until we ensure that all women and young women and girls have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health and rights and can live their lives fully and thrive. So I first started working on these issues a long time ago now. Um, I started my career working in politics and policy on Capitol Hill in the late 1990s. I supported the office of um, a representative from Virginia, um, who was great on these issues and at the time, um, I ended up having to support, a constituent of that member, um, who was in need of AIDs drugs through the AIDs drug assistance program, also known as AIDAP. And part of that process, um, I got to know this person. Um, not only the fact that they needed the AIDs drugs, but also some of the challenges that they had endured as a person of color. You know, just trying to access the meds that they needed to live a healthy and full life. At the same time, I was also a student at Howard University working on my phd in political science, taking a seminar on black feminism. So I got to read some of the most amazing books on this issue, including "Killing the Black Body" by Dorothy Roberts. And from there I didn't want to work on anything else and Killing the Black Body to this day sits on my desk at my office here at CAP and I look to it for inspiration and motivation all the time. Um, part of the process in studying through that class and then my work on the hill, I recognize the history, I think particularly of black women, um, when it comes to reproductive freedom and how that sort of intersects and translates into the current issues that we're seeing um, in terms of, you know, black women, um, lacking access to adequate reproductive health care. Um, but also some other issues that intersect with that, including violence against women, economic security, access to mental health care. And now I think here recently we're seeing, um, more in the media around maternal health care. And so that is really how I ended up here. You know, from the hill, I held a lot of different positions, um, in reproductive health and rights spaces, working for the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the AIDS institute and a host of other organizations. And then transitioned to, um, Ipas, which is a global reproductive rights organization and then to the Center for American Progress. And I think now I'm able to, not only focus on the policy and political pieces, but also, um, the writing and research component of the work. Um, and central to that, at least how I do the work is also lifting up women's stories and making sure that anything that I write or the products that are produced, um, really center the lives of women of color. And so that's why I'm here. I'm going to continue to be here and you know, just really grateful for the opportunity to help support women.

Jenny Vanyur: I'm Jenny Vayur. I'm the manager of Global Advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. So I work on global health and foreign policy within the US government to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. My story in some ways is a little unusual. Um, I actually started out pursuing a degree and a career in social work. Um, so in college I worked as a hotline counselor for a sexual assault crisis center. That was really formative for me in terms of thinking about different ways to advance women's rights, whether it was through direct service or also using that experience to do, um, local organizing and engagement around efforts to combat sexual violence in my college community. And I decided to pursue a master's in social work right after college because it's a really versatile degree. Um, and I knew that if I was going straight into graduate school, I would want something that gave me some flexibility in my career since I didn't totally have a clear path of what I wanted to do. In social work programs, most of the time everyone focuses their first year on a clinical setting and clinical social work practice. And then in your second year you can choose more of a specific focus or specialty. And my first year of my program, my field placement was working as a social worker in a hospital in North Philadelphia. The community that we were placed in, um, had a lot of people who either were on Medicaid or Medicare, um, or didn't have any health insurance at all since this was long before the Affordable Care Act. And it was really interesting to me, um, to work in the healthcare system because I see health as such an essential part of what helps any of us lead the lives we want to live. And it was really difficult to work in that setting because the hospital was often more about their bottom line and getting people in and out of their beds as quickly as possible, rather than really looking holistically what they need as an individual, how we could be supporting them and really supporting their health and the full range of services they might need to live healthy lives and not end up coming back to the hospital frequently. And that really shed light on for me on a system that wasn't working for the people it was meant to serve. Um, and really highlighted a lot of the issues in the health care system that we often hear so much about.

Jenny Vanyur: And that was the experience that really made me, um, start getting an interest in policy because I saw policy as a way to change some of the systems that we often have to work within and that affect our lives and the lives of the communities that we live in every day. And also that with system change, you can change things hopefully for the better for a large number of people rather than, uh, working individual by individual. There's certainly a place for all of that work. But to me it was really fascinating to think about how one policy could touch so many people's lives and hopefully improve it. So from there I ended up deciding to pursue, um, a policy focus in the second year of my social work program. And that made a huge difference for me because that meant my field placement my second year was focused on public policy and I had the privilege of working in my field placement with the ACLU of Pennsylvania on their reproductive freedom project that I ended up going on to work with them, for another year after I finished my graduate degree. And that was where I started working on reproductive health policy. And from there, my career like totally took a turn. I, it's hard to imagine even thinking about working on anything that doesn't, at least in some way touch reproductive health and rights um, because right now it just seems so critical for me, for my friends, my family, the communities I care about are all being touched by the attacks that we're seeing now. And now that I've been working in this field for nearly a decade, um, it's hard to imagine doing anything else.

Jennie Wetter: It's so funny. Um, mine's kind of similar in that I was environment and environment and development and then I started working on repro and I was like, oh, I can't imagine working on anything else now.

Jenny Vanyur: Yeah, absolutely. And I think about this a lot when I think about where I might go next in my career. I've been with PPFA for over seven years. Um, and I have loved it. And whether it's here or whether it's anywhere else, I think I will always need to work at a place, maybe reproductive rights won't be the central piece of what I do, but having an organization that's dedicated to expanding health care access and promoting human rights, I think will always be something that's deeply important to me. Whether I'm pursuing it professionally or even in my personal life.

Preston Mitchum: Hi, my name is Preston Mitchum. I'm the Senior Legal and International Policy Analysts with Advocates for Youth. Advocates for Youth champions policies and programs that are related to young people's access to sexual reproductive health and rights. So we do the gamut of work from HIV acquisition to maternal health policies to abortion, access to sex ed to contraception. So we do the range. That being said, these past couple of years have obviously been hard, uh, working, you know, against and alongside what's happening with administrative control over young people's bodies and their autonomy and their access to sexual reproductive health and rights. How I got started, it's really interesting, and I think a little different than some people, at least who I've had these conversations with. Um, I grew up in Ohio and to be transparent, I was very pro-life up until high school. Um, in fact, when I was a sophomore in high school, I took a speech communications class and our final speech was a persuasive speech and I did one on why abortion is murder. And I remember looking at people's facial expressions because the last thing I did was pass around a poster board of aborted fetuses. And I said, see, abortion is murder. You know, just being as ridiculous as possible. And I was also 15 and I thought I knew everything, of course. And so I remember one black girl's response as she was looking at the poster board and it was, oh my God, this really is murder. And that stuck with me for a long time because I feel I changed someone's mind to in a way about abortion that I completely don't agree with now. Um, and I realized that I stopped agreeing with that when a couple of years after that my oldest sister called me and told me that she had an abortion. So it really made me start thinking about, you know, what does it mean for people's moral rights, their autonomy, their bodily integrity. And a couple of years before all of this, I will say that what I realized about myself is that I started to really go through kind motion like notions of what my sexuality was. Um, I've told my story many times, but I'm a survivor of sexual assault. And I think the one thing that connected all of those experiences was I didn't feel I had access to my own body and I ended up going to law school. Um, and I thought I was going to be a death penalty attorney to overturn death penalty across the entire country. Um, and I couldn't stomach it anymore after I did a couple of externships. But the one thing that, again, that stuck and I was like, why am I so interested in death penalty work? What fascinates me about this? And I realized it was because the state was limiting and restricting people's access to their own bodies. Speaker 9: And so the one thing that I really thought about was wow, I think like reproductive justice is the thing that connects people as bodily autonomy and integrity. And that's when I just really started to like research more, do more of a soul searching, really realizing that, you know, most reproductive justice work is for people of reproductive capacity and as a cisgender man, I had to kind of figure out what my space was in that fight. And, and so it really taught me a what solidarity and allyship look like, really taught me what not not centering myself, look like and centering the most margin, uh, the people who experienced the most marginalizations. Uh, so I started working at um, right after law school, the Center for American Progress. I specifically did work there on racial justice and LGBTQ justice, mostly around employment discrimination. I loved it, but it still wasn't enough. I really wanted one, a more small organization, a smaller organization and then work with young people. Um, and then I kinda took my talents to the Center for Health and Gender Equity where I did more work on more research based work. Um, I traveled a bit and that was a beautiful time, but it still limited my, in my personal interactions with young people unless I was doing research and traveling and, you know, I was like, no, I really need to get back to this. Which then eventually led to a position at Advocates for Youth where I work with about 130 young people throughout the country help build off their campaigns. The two I work closest with are the International Youth Leadership Council and a Muslim Youth Leadership Council. Both amazing cohorts of young people working to, um, really teach people that there's a such thing as queer Muslims, a and transgender Muslims who are working to, you know, de-stigmatize and dismantle white supremacy every day. And then the International Youth Leadership Council, which is college students working on a US foreign policy work within the DMV or the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, and they're working on things like abortion, access, HIV, et cetera. All in the context of US foreign policy. I will say when I was between 18 and 22, there was no way I was that smart or to have a, yeah, like every time I talk to I'm like, they're like, I love lobbying and I'm like, what? Like I don't think I really found a joy of lobbying. And so maybe my mid twenties and so it was, and even now I'm like, oh, do I want to go to the hill today? So they, but they love it. I mean, at 18, 19 they're just like, so what are we going to lobby when is our next lobby? I've had a pretty interesting honestly, time with really realizing that sexual and reproductive health and rights is the work for me is the work that I want to do is the way I truly think will lead to a better world is by having and teaching young people, especially at a younger age, what their body means to them, that no one has a right to steal someone's access to their own bodies and that we should work a with and against agencies and administrators and executive offices and the judiciary, um, in ways that protects people's rights. And so that's really my career and I'm excited to see where it goes, but I definitely know it's going to stay in the realm of reproductive health, rights and justice.

Kirsten Sherk: I'm Kirsten Sherk. I'm the director of global communications at the International Center for Research on Women. I've been here in this job for about three years, but I've actually been in this field for 25. I literally grew up in reproductive health and rights. It was not really, I think like many people. My first job out of college was my first job out of college. It was the one that I could get. I didn't set out to end up in a reproductive health field. I was really lucky that my first job out of college was at the Population Reference Bureau, which is not only a lovely place to work, but also really educational place to work. So I didn't just, I didn't just learn how to be a professional. Um, it gave me the foundations of my work in communications, but also gave me a foundation in reproductive health that had previously just been an activist interest. So when I was thinking about how I ended up here, there's sort of three different pieces pre professional life versus my own personal experience growing up. Second is my foundation in human rights and activism in my episcopal school. And then third is my personal activism in college and HIV and, and reproductive rights. And from my personal experience, I experienced puberty a very early age, which is more common now. But in 1977 was a relatively new phenomenon. I had breasts and my period years before any of my peers. And as a result, I started having to have kind of conversation with my parents and health care providers that other eight year olds don't have to have. So yeah. You learn when you learn a lot about your period before you even had your first sex ed class, it really changed, I think for me it gave me a sort of frank attitude towards sex. I was really lucky that my parents were very open and nonjudgmental and really made it a point of making sure I understood what was happening and didn't feel ashamed or frightened even when it was, you know, even whether you're 9 or 15 your first period is frightening and shameful. But they're very good about driving to get past that. My mother, I don't think appreciated my candor so much when I told her I was having sex, but she had laid that groundwork, so yay. But what it meant is that, you know, I, when I got to college and realized that I had friends, it was still the eighties, it's not like we were all talking about the joys of sex and our high school sex ed class, still very clinical, but I came to college with a lot of knowledge and I mean even, yeah, I came to college with knowledge that some of my peers didn't have and adding, you know, I grew up sort of free of the you know like, yes there is of course you should have sex with the person that you love, but it wasn't a, you should never have sex before marriage attitude. It was very different.

Jennie Wetter: Yeah. Mine was Catholic school sex ed so it was very different.

Kirsten Sherk: No, like we did tell you that. Yeah, that's the difference. We actually talked about birth control. We didn't talk about it for very long. I don't think sex ed lasted for longer than a week. But there was like, here's how the periods work. This is a penis, this is the vas deferens. You know, like I didn't actually remember what the parts were later on, but, but at least I knew what an IUD looked like. Scary. But it was, it was, you know, that was a lot of knowledge. And then when I got to college, Oberlin College, so Episcopal School, progressive college, we had a student run sexual information center where again, you know, would you like to see what lube feels like? Here it is. Here's how you use a diaphragm, very hands on approach to sex ed. It really just sort of changes your, therefore when you get out of college it's sort of like, oh, you don't all talk about this? The other piece of that, you know, in terms of my...Growing up in the episcopal church in the 80s, um, and this isn't so much about reproductive rights per se, but um, but by human rights, the episcopal church and particularly my diocese and the Bishop of Washington was very active in human rights movements around the world, particularly very concerned about human rights violations taking place in Central America and South Africa. So I had this, this educating, like not only did my parents were my parents Democrats, but really like we had this sort of moral obligation, um, centered around human rights. That was very, it was part of my religious upbringing. I watched, I was protested at the South African embassy and watched the bishop of Washington get arrested for knocking at the door and that's where it sticks with you. It really changes, sort of focuses your, your moral center. And then that leads to my activism in college. Both of those pieces, I was a reproductive rights and sexual rights advocate, an HIV act activist. I've died-in on the steps of the HHS building, you know, as you do. My father used to joke that if it's, you know, a lovely weekend in September, she, he's looking for me gaggle of friends coming to protest something. But it was, that was her, you know, that was what really drove me throughout my college in terms of activism.

Kirsten Sherk: So those all came together in this job that I happened to get at the Population Reference Bureau and the biggest lesson I took away from PRB was that the issues that I'd been concerned about at the United States, I, you know, in the 80s we weren't thinking about AIDs in Africa at that point so much. But by the time we got out of college, obviously HIV was becoming a very serious health care issue for Africa. Maternal health, maternal deaths still were, yeah. Were much higher than they are now. And as I talked to, you know, one of my best friends who at that time was working in AID services organization, the Bronx, we realized that the obstacles to care that people were facing were the same whether you were in Kenya or the Bronx, that whether it was literal lack of access, lack of services on the ground, lack of knowledge, high stigma, that there are these barriers to care that were similar either way. And the longer that I've been in this field, the more that just continues to be reinforced, that, you know, there continues to be a huge lack of access to HIV services in parts of this country, mostly in the rural south, but and mostly rural areas, period. We're seeing an increasing lack of access to safe abortion care and that's just going to get worse. And I just, you know, it's the most compelling thing there is, you know, sex and death are the most profound issues that there are in our lives. And so that would be the, the other base lesson that I got out of Population Reference Bureau, I became a huge demography nerd. And I think that's what made this a career was the demography aspect to it. That when you take very personal decisions that people make on a huge scale, it changes the face of nations and whole planets. Obviously, as you know, going from the environment, like we've, we've talked about this with the population world when you come from a population perspective, you know, but these are all very personal decisions. And so I just found that incredibly compelling and I have, you know, 25 years later I keep finding it compelling and and in fact I, I sort of got to the point where I, I distilled it. The longer that I was in the feeling and what started out working in population and reproductive health. Then really focused more on women's issues. Then focused more on reproductive health and till I really felt like I needed to work specifically on abortion, which is when I moved to Ipas.

Kirsten Sherk: I've admired ICRW,where I work now, the International Center for Research on Women for a long time. I have used their resources, I have sent their resources to journalists in other countries. I have loved their work for years and I honestly didn't realize they did more than reproductive health until, until I applied here because their work on this issue is so strong and has been so long lasting. I'm really excited that I get to learn more about other women's rights issues. Now apparently there are other women's rights issues besides how we reproduce and the work we do on energy use and renewable energy that sustains a household and access to each other economic resources and gender based violence is, is really amazing. But I think even among our own, you know, discussions, a lot of it does come back to do you have access? You know, can you truly make a business and make a go at a business, a small business as a woman, if he can't have access to birth control, if you can't control your own reproduction?

Jennie Wetter: If you can't time your pregnancies in the most convenient time for you, it makes it hard to get an education. It makes it hard to have a job. All of these things.

Kirsten Sherk: And you know, there are other issues that we see through our reproductive justice work in the United States. There's intersections between, you know, you can raise children, but if you can't feed them or if they face danger in walking to school, you know, that's a, that's a reproductive justice issue that women face all over the world and we don't call it that, but a lot of the issues that we work on at ICRW are those issues. So it just seems like this is, this is the next step. I don't know what I do next now. Like I feel like I've gotten, I've been so lucky I've gotten to work for Planned Parenthood, which will just forever be one of my favorite experiences. Um, my father, actually, I always like to tell this story, when I went to work for, so when I was 25, 26, my career goal that I thought I was supposed to have would be to be a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. So I did. So that was awesome. But what was really awesome was when I got the job. My parents are proud of me for taking the next step in my career, but they're also fundamentally really proud of me because of what an important institution Planned Parenthood is and how it it has, you know, my sister got her health care through Planned Parenthood when she was out of college. My Dad, my dad got very emotional. My Dad said, you know, when you guys were teenagers and, and I knew it was likely that you wouldn't come to us for, with questions about sex, I knew there was a resource out there for you and that's what Planned Parenthood is. And it just, I still get sort of weepy thinking about how much it meant to my father as a parent, that he knew that, that, that he had this source of safety that he would do the best he could, but there was another source of reason of another resource for us that was really important. So that's it.

Rachel Fey: Hi, I'm Rachel Fey. I'm the Director of Public Policy at Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Uh, I've been doing this for a really long time and if you count how long I've been passionate about it, basically most of my life. I got into this movement depending on when you count, either in high school or in my first job after college. But in high school I was looking for a meeting of the student newspaper and I walked into the wrong room and it was the women's issues club, but I really liked what they were talking about. And they were in this heated debate about whether or not a firefighter should be subjected to the same standard of physical limits regardless and whether there should be some sort of quota for female firefighters. And I was hooked on the issue of gender and, um, women's equity. The next time that I really felt passionately about it other than spending, you know, my years in high school, handing out condoms outside high schools with high teen pregnancy rates and volunteering for Ms. Foundation events and things like that. But the next time I really encountered it was my first job after college when I worked at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on a program that was funded by USAID, which is the agency for international development. And as a lot of you probably know if you listen to this podcast, often the global gag rule is a terrible policy but it's not a new one. And it existed during the Bush administration when I first graduated college and what I was and was not allowed to share with developing country health professionals was severely limited based on the global gag rule. I had a four page memo on what I was and was not allowed to say about abortion. And I saw clinics that closed because they couldn't meet the restrictions of the global gag rule. And when they closed, the only place for women to go to get HIV testing or prenatal care or other basic public health services went away for communities that had no alternative. So, um, I was watching Meet the Press, cause I'm a big nerd and you should watch too. And John Kerry was being interviewed and this was probably in the spring of 2003 and he was asked what the first thing he'd do as president would be. And he said, I would repeal the global gag rule. And so that's how I got excited about politics and policy. And I marched down to John Kerry's office and I said I wanted to volunteer. And um, there weren't a lot of volunteers at the time because Howard Dean was way up in the polls and they were very surprised to see me but happy. And they said, well, you know what, we need mostias phone banking. And I said, what's phone banking? And by the end of the day I'd called a lot of people in Iowa and I couldn't believe how nice they all were.

Rachel Fey: And from there I took a job in Washington working for a group that helped train providers, uh, on the latest techniques when it came to birth control, uh, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. And um, then went onto NARAL where I did really fun things, helping candidates talk about these issues. I got to travel the country and, you know, work on a ballot initiative in South Dakota. I turned 27 while asking people to sign a petition to put the abortion ban on the ballot at a biker rally in South Dakota. That was, that was a highlight. I did have to dress up as a Statue of Liberty several times during that job to get on CNN. And um, there's photographic proof of that, but it was, it was wonderful. And when Barack Obama was elected, I really wanted to move over from the politics side to the policy side. Because yes, it is absolutely important to elect people who are going to protect your reproductive rights. And by the way, go vote. Please. I know this may be airing after the election, but I'm just going to send a little bit. Oh, on election day, get out to the polls. If you're online before the polls close, they have to let you vote. If you're not on the rolls, ask for provisional ballot. Demand a provisional ballot there. There's your a PSA. So I wanted to work on the policy side because once you have that better set of policymakers, what are you going to do with that? And Obama was very, um, forthright in his goal to reform the American healthcare system. And I was really excited to work on that. And I spent about a year and a half representing Title 10 family planning providers while working on the Affordable Care Act. And that was kind of like when you think back to college the best of times, but then when you're asked would you do it again? Oh God. The sleepless nights, the 2:00 AM coalition calls to divvy up how we would respond to different amendments that were going to be filed the next day. A lot of my good friendships in this movement were forged during those really tough times. And a lot of the mentors who I turned to as I was learning this really helped me through that time.

Rachel Fey: And then I came to Power to Decide and I'm what drew me to the job was a real desire on the part of this organization to find some bipartisan support, particularly around birth control, um, while not sacrificing where we stand on policy issues. And uh, I like a good challenge in talking to Republicans about birth control. In a time when it was becoming an increasingly controversial issue seemed like an interesting challenge to me and the secret I would say is that, you know, politics aside, there's lots of well meaning people on both sides of the aisle who really do care about these issues and want to make sure women have access to birth control. I know sometimes that's hard to believe and and sometimes it gets overshadowed by the politics of an issue, but it is there, and I hope that one day we can return to the place where we work in that bipartisan way to advance these goals. Power to Decide, one of the really cool things that we do, one of the things I love the most that we do here is something called thanks, Birth Control Day, and we joke that it's thanks, birth control date every day of the year. But once a year we like to do a big social media event to draw attention to the importance of birth control and people's lives. Me, personally, I don't think I would have a degree or the job or the career I have in this movement if I didn't have the ability to plan and space pregnancies. Right? So I think that's almost every woman has a story, something like that. They wouldn't have been able to maintain their health. They wouldn't be where they are professionally. Um, they wouldn't have, um, certain symptoms of a medical condition under control if they didn't have access to the birth control they need and want. Um, so once a year and this year it's on November 13th. So mark your calendars. That's a Tuesday, Tuesday, November 13th. Use the Hashtag t h x birth control and shout out what makes birth control important to you, important to women generally, whatever you want to tell us. I think it's a day to, to remind the world how important and how integral birth control is to everyone's lives. Not even just women's lives, to everyone's lives. So that's my, that's my little bit of take action and I would just stay to the younger people listening to this, thinking about a career in this movement. I've been doing this for, I realized 18 years and it is the most special place to be. Every time I think about a job that's not in this movement, I just can't do it. I love the people I work with, not just in my organization but in this movement. I love our passion. I love our humor under incredibly difficult circumstances. Cause if you don't laugh, you will cry. So laugh. And I love our perseverance, especially in the last few years. I love every woman out there fighting like hell and I just, I hope we all keep it up. So go vote. And on November 13th say thanks Birth control. Thank you.

Jennie Wetter: I hope you enjoyed listening to everybody's stories. I know I had a great time hearing them and just a reminder that you know, if you really enjoyed this episode, please always feel free to send in listener suggestions. I want to make sure that I am recording content that is something that you all want to listen to. So if you have another thing that you would like me to go and talk to professionals and hear their stories, I would love to do it. Um, or if there's a topic you would love to have us cover, always feel free to reach out. You can reach me at Jennie, that's jennie@reprotsfightback.com or you can reach out to us on social media. Thanks for listening.

Jennie Wetter: For more information, including show notes from this episode and previous episodes, please visit our website reprosfightback.com you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at rePROs Fight Back. If you like our show, please help others find it by sharing it with your friends and subscribing, rating and reviewing us on iTunes. Thanks for listening.

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