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The Repro Queen of D.C.

The edition of a thousand links...

Welcome to the first edition of my brand-spanking-new newsletter! As you can see, this is a special bonus edition because I didn’t gather the courage to launch this until the second month of the year, BUT so much happened in January that I wanted to include it anyway. Luckily for you, you get a very special extra-long edition this month. I promise that, from here on out, these editions will be a shorter length. 

This is my first time running a newsletter since my student activism days. I ran newsletters for AU’s chapter of Students to End Abortion Stigma, the American Association of University Women and more. This has me feeling super nostalgic (#postgradlife) and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things, this time just for me. 

Let's dive in...

The last two months have been BUSY! While this is fairly par-for-the-course for me, considering I’ve been searching for a full-time job, I was pretty surprised when I looked back at my notes and found so much to talk about. (Those of you who scroll to the end will get a big update on the job front!)

First and foremost, I am excited to have officially made Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington my primary care! I haven’t had a real primary care doctor (or physical exam) in about three years, so to have a place as affirming and forward-thinking as Planned Parenthood as my home for regular care is really comforting. Plus, the building is gorgeous.

I am also stoked to once again work for NARAL Pro-Choice America as a phone canvasser on their in-house paid phone bank team. I interned in the office last summer and it’s been great to work once again on a mission I care so deeply about. And we’re still hiring, so give me a shout if you want to apply! NARAL is unique because they have one of the largest on-the-ground bases of any non-profit. Their grassroots are absolutely incredible and if you ever get the chance to attend an event of theirs, let me know — especially since I am still a part of their Volunteer Action Council. This month we hosted a phone bank in support of Marie Newman and Jessica Cisneros, two incredible NARAL-endorsed, pro-choice badasses who are running very important races for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

In other exciting personal news, I was accepted into the D.C. Doulas for Choice Collective. I applied last year and made it my New Year’s resolution to finally become an abortion doula, something I’ve been desperate to do for years. Fingers crossed for my upcoming training! 

I am also very pleased to serve on Motivote’s Young Voter Advisory Committee. D.C. is a very transient city, with about 70% of the folks here calling some other place home. D.C. also has nineteen colleges here, and two HBCUs, meaning there is a HUGE student population here. These are folks that need to vote absentee, but it can be extremely tough to reach these voters. Requesting a form, knowing who to vote for down the ballot, finding stamps and places to mail, and keeping track of deadlines are often overwhelming for students. Being part of the Motivote team, which encourages community involvement in voting, is a great way to make sure that young folks are supported during this very important election cycle. Stay tuned for more! 

And lastly, I launched this newsletter! I want to give major props to Chelsea, the Caffeine Queen of D.C., for sitting down with me and working through some of the details for this newsletter. She is a beautiful human and talented journalist so subscribe to her newsletter too! Second, a HUGE thank you to Haley, my former roommate and editor of AU’s student newspaper, The Eagle (otherwise known as deag), for being my editor once again. She will edit each edition of this newsletter so any typos are 1000% her fault. Just kidding. She’s brilliant and would never let a typo slip through. Love ya, Haley! 

News and events: 

1) Women’s March! My fourth time attending (check out my recent writings below for more of my thoughts on the event). 
2) I protested the week of the annual March for Life in D.C., first at the Save the Storks Gala with Abortion Access Front with my friend Mike and again at the March for Life with my bud Em. Each year, the march serves as a heartbreaking reminder that while D.C. is a pro-choice city, some of the vilest anti-choicers can descend upon us in an attempt to take those rights away. 

3) The Adas Israel Mikvah, where I serve as a mikvah educator and guide, hosted another monthly WellBodies session, this time on mikvah use and sexual and domestic violence. Our session leaders from JCADA educated us on sacred boundaries and how to use mikvah as a site of healing. We also hosted a Bodies of Water program for a group of pre- Bar/Bat/B’nei Mitzvah students from Congregation Rodef Shalom! This beautiful program is all about body positivity and can be adapted for folks of all ages. This session included some mindfulness meditation, yoga, a discussion, a mikvah immersion demonstration, and a conversation about mikvah ceremonies and reasons to immerse (led by me!). These kids were so engaged and interested in finding ways to make mikvah relevant to their lives. 

4) Speaking of mikvah, Naomi Malka, the director of the Adas Israel Mikvah, just finished leading a three-part webinar series called Into the Depths: Exploring Ritual Immersion in the Mikveh. Through RitualWell, she brought together folks across the country to educate us on all things mikvah. I created this short video about the connections between sexual and domestic violence and mikvah use. I also discussed my ritual c0-creation worksheet, which participants filled out as homework between sessions.
Participants filled out this worksheet (that Rabbi Sarah Tasman and I created together for an earlier mikvah guide training session and WellBodies session) as if they were going to use it to immerse and shared their work in the third session.

5) I signed up for my first shift as an escort for the DMV Practical Abortion Support Network (DAPSN). DAPSN is an all-volunteer network of folks who provide rides and walks to patients to and from various abortion clinics. Some folks even provide housing. This network was created to serve the large population of people who travel to D.C. because the city is one of the very, very few places in the country offering clinics that will provide abortion all throughout pregnancy, meaning into the second and sometimes third trimester. These procedures are expensive so folks will travel a long way using abortion funds like the DC Abortion Fund and practical support networks like DAPSN.

It may not seem like a big deal, but a lot of these patients have to travel alone because of how expensive it is to travel or take off work. Some even have to bring their kids with them because they can’t find child care. Plus, abortions later in pregnancy are a multi-day procedure and folks are legally not allowed to leave ANY medical practice — not just abortion clinics — if they have been induced or are under anesthesia. This creates the need for someone to pick them up from the clinic and get them to their hotel. I am extremely lucky to have a car in D.C. so I am able to use it to give rides to folks to and from the clinics around here. It’s been an incredibly powerful experience so far, especially because I know it’s not my job to ask. It doesn’t matter to me why someone is getting this procedure. It matters to me that they are able to make this choice. Being pro-”choice” is bullshit if the choice to have an abortion is completely inaccessible. That’s why it’s so necessary to have folks like DAPSN and DCAF volunteers (and donors!!) who make these choices possible. 

7) Speaking of abortion access, I spent two Saturdays this month clinic escorting at the Falls Church Health Care Center with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF). Anti-choice protesters love to hang outside clinics all across the country and harass and intimidate the folks who are just trying to get the healthcare they need and deserve. As such, clinic escorts literally help get folks from their vehicles into the clinic. I’ve been trained since this summer and love the Falls Church crew who show up at 6:45 am each Saturday. One day, the clinic staff even brought us valentines!
D.C. Happenings: D.C. Statehood + Lobbying Congress

1) For the first time in 25 years, D.C. is getting a vote on statehood. Over 700,000 people are legally disenfranchised in the city. We don’t have representation in the House or Senate and don’t have control over our own budget. Congress, without input from actual D.C. citizens, gets to decide how much to tax us and what we can spend it on. Sound familiar? We fought the revolutionary war about this. And it’s an issue of reproductive justice. Each year, Congress tacks on the Dornan Amendment to our budget, which says we can’t spend D.C.-raised tax dollars on funding abortion through Medicaid, even though a majority of D.C. residents would almost definitely support this. Coupled with the fact that there are zero birthing centers in Wards 7 and 8 (the poorest and Blackest parts of the city) and a higher Black maternal mortality rate than the rest of the country, Black women are being coerced into giving birth where they are statistically more likely to die. It’s racist, classist and sexist. D.C. statehood is reproductive justice. 

2) On February 12, the House of Representatives held a hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act. Last summer, I had the honor of lobbying Congress in support of WHPA, which aims to codify the protections won in Roe v. Wade and led a group of incredible young folks who had never lobbied before. Lobbying is one of my favorite direct actions to take and I believe that everyone should lobby at least once if they can. My experience lobbying Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) is why. 

Rep. Lynch is one of the last remaining anti-choice Democrats in office (and may their days be few, tbh). He has often quoted his Catholic beliefs when denying women the right to abortion care. However, he supports Roe and protects the law of the land. This means that while he is anti-choice personally, he understands that abortion is legal but will not vote for any legislation to expand abortion access in the country or state of Massachusetts. When my team and I lobbied his office, we met with a staffer who made sure to emphasize this. By chance, on our way out of the office, Rep. Lynch stopped by to speak with our group. I managed to get in a few words with him, explaining that WHPA is not about expanding access — it’s simply about codifying the law of the land. I explained how much I, and other young folks, depend on these protections in an increasingly hostile reproductive landscape. We had a very productive conversation, going back and forth a few times. I left him with extra materials and educational pamphlets on WHPA and promised to be in touch. In November, Rep. Lynch officially became a co-sponsor for the Women’s Health Protection Act. I could not be more proud. Lobbying works. Sharing your story works. Don’t give up, folks. Change is possible.

Writings: 

This was a busy few writing months! I linked some things up top, but here’s a quick summary of what’s been published. 

  1. More Women’s March. This year was my fourth time participating in the Women’s March on Washington. As you can probably guess, I had a lot of complicated feelings on participating as a lefty Jewish woman. This year, I organized a contingent of other progressive Jews as a Chapter Leader for D.C. and wrote about it for Washington Jewish Week. The piece actually made it to print, my first time being printed in a (non-student) newspaper! 

  2. I wrote about the Equal Rights Amendment finally reaching the 38-state threshold it needs to officially amend the constitution for Alma. Specifically, this piece focused on (just some) of the Jewish women who made this happen, from the time it was drafted to now. 

  3. Tu B’Shevat! One of my favorite quirky Jewish holidays, this festival celebrates New Years for the Trees. In this Jewish Women’s Archive article, I tied my position as a mikvah guide and my work in climate justice to the eco-themes of this holiday. I used it as a ritual guide. 

  4. My New Year’s resolution to become an abortion doula made it into Lilith Magazine’s print edition, alongside some absolute BADASSES and heroes of mine. I wrote this follow-up for Lilith’s blog as an explainer for what the heck it actually means to become a doula. 

I think Goose is proud

Recommendations: 

Somehow, in the midst of everything I’ve been doing these two months, I found time to read. First, I devoured Maid by Stephanie Land. In her gripping memoir, she shares her story of single motherhood while living well below the poverty line. It’s a story of survival and struggle in a world that wants to see her fail. I finished this book in about a day and a half. Land writes with such deep emotion that I can only aspire to. I highly recommend checking this one out. 

And, in honor of Black History Month, I finally got to reading You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson. It was (unsurprisingly) hilarious. Robinson penned a series of personal essays about her experiences as a Black woman who does what she pleases and her interactions with whiteness, white people, and white culture. This is not just a book for Black History Month, so make sure to add this to your March reading list. 

Lastly, I finally finished A Handbook for a Post-Roe America by Robin Marty. It’s a must-read. When Roe falls, which is likely given the Supreme Court case being heard on March 4 and the proclaimed views of anti-choice justices, abortion clinics will close and women will suffer the consequences. This book is the primer for how to respond. If you need a copy, let me know.

And for those dedicated readers who made it all the way to the bottom...

YA GIRL IS EMPLOOOOOYED! 

I am absolutely thrilled to have been offered a job with the National Council of Jewish Women. I was asked to apply for a completely different position back in October by the CEO, Sheila Katz, who I’ve known since she was at Hillel International. While they eventually went with another candidate with slightly more experience, the folks I interviewed with immediately began brainstorming a way to bring me on the team. This week, I got a call from Sheila asking me to work with her personally. Kindly saying she had wanted me at NCJW for a long time, Sheila said she created a position for me as the council’s Special Projects Manager. I will work very closely with her, with my first task focusing on reproductive rights: 

“This new position will help respond to the most pressing issues of our time by having the flexibility and creativity to work with NCJW’s CEO and all departments to create a plan that mobilizes our base. Currently, we’d like to respond to the issue of reproductive health, rights, and justice, with the understanding that the landscape of access to abortion is changing. Through a series of informational meetings with experts, partner organizations, and NCJW professionals, the Special Projects Manager will implement a plan that expands our impact and mobilizes our base.”

This is, of course, a dream. To have been asked to do this work and given the freedom to manifest my big ideas/hopes/dreams is beyond words. I’m thrilled and can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned to follow what my work will be in the coming months, and what this newsletter will hold.

You made it to the end! Wow! Have thoughts on content? Questions about anything you read? Want to get involved???? Shoot me an email at hi@stephblack.blog and I promise to get back to you! 
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The Repro Queen of DC · 829 Quincy St NW Apt 101 · Washington, DC 20011-5812 · USA

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