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The Repro Queen of D.C.

The quarantine edition...

Well, this has certainly been a whirlwind, folks. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but life as we know it has been completely turned upside-down. As of today, I will be on Day 17 of Distancing. I'm an extrovert and chronic hustler. I like to get things done and feel like I'm making a difference in my work and in the movement. So being home, unable to do my usual work in person has been harder than I thought it would be.

But today I am also on Day 28 of Big Girl Job! So while this month has been quite the year,  there are a lot of good things that happened, too. Check it: 

March started out strong. On the first, I was asked to shadow two coordinators from DAPSN (DMV Abortion Practical Support Network) for a training for the Sisterhood at Temple Sinai. It was an honor to be asked and I am thrilled to get the chance to potentially take on a new leadership role within the Network. I have long maintained that this kind of work is sacred to me, and it felt especially holy to be talking about driving abortion patients to and from clinics at a synagogue. 

On the third, D.C. passed the “Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019,” an amendment I had the privilege of testifying in support of back in December. 

The third was also my first day of work as the Special Projects Associate at the National Council of Jewish Women! My job is to take the lead on any project that doesn’t have a specific department that could take charge. I work directly for Sheila, the CEO, in the Executive Department. This means that I’m doing fast-pace, inter-departmental work that changes based on need--aka my dream job. A lot of the original projects I had been working on initially have shifted greatly since COVID-19, but that’s the point. More on this later! 

My second day of work, March 4, was a protest, which is extremely fitting. I spent my morning at the Supreme Court rallying during the oral arguments for June Medical Services v. Russo, a case that is IDENTICAL to Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas, which was my first-ever rally. That day was my first time volunteering, first time working with NARAL, first time canvassing. I was at the Supreme Court from 5 a.m. to noon and heard, for the first time, the wave of warriors who fight to keep abortion safe and legal. Two weeks later I became a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Major, and through a crazy chain of events ended up here, writing this newsletter. I felt that my career was coming full-circle. But the day also felt ominous. This case is the first abortion-related case that an explicitly anti-choice bench will hear, opening the door for the protections we won in Roe v. Wade back in 1973 to be gutted. 

These are pictures from the 2020 rally above pictures from the 2016 rally:

The ninth was Purim, an incredible Jewish holiday about resisting tyranny and oppression. That features the badass Esther. My girlfriend Hannah Ruth and I attended a shpiel at Adas Israel and a stellar HerTorah learning session with Yaffa Epstein--all about Esther as a hero. 

On March 14-15, I was supposed to finally train to become an abortion doula, a goal I have been talking about for months. It was my New Year’s resolution and the subject of an essay I wrote for Lilith. While canceling the training was the right decision--as it was going to be held at two different abortion clinics and had a happy hour after the last day--it’s still heartbreaking nonetheless. I am not sure when the training will take place this year, if at all. 

The evening of March 15 is when physical distancing began in earnest for me. I began teleworking the next day after having temporarily moved in with Hannah Ruth. I, of course, brought Goose along. 

Week one was tough. I had falsely assumed that it would feel like how I worked in college. Lots of free time during the day in which I had to structure my work. Turns out being able to leave your living room makes a big difference when scheduling your day. Who knew. Hannah Ruth still had to show up in person for work, so it was just me and the cats in the apartment all day. Not ideal. 

Week two was certainly better, since Hannah Ruth began teleworking. Not being alone in a two-room apartment with two cats has been nice, though being so extraverted is still difficult when everything feels like a meeting. 

It’s also been tough being trapped at home while lawmakers from around the country are hijacking this incredibly stressful and uncertain time with anti-choice legislation. Let me say it again: ABORTION IS ESSENTIAL HEALTHCARE! This is true for a lot of reasons, but for me the simplest reason why is that we know what happens when people can’t access safe abortion. They attempt to induce an unsafe abortion. Abortion is not an elective procedure, it cannot be delayed by 14, 20, 30 days, and it’s not up to cis, straight, ancient male politicians to decide. 

The day that the Texas Attorney General used COVID-19 as an excuse to shut down clinics, 150 appointments were canceled. That’s 150 people whose constitutional right to an abortion has been violated. 

D.C., in particular, will be hit hard by this. On March 19, for Rewire News, I outlined all the ways that this pandemic could be a disaster for the thousands of patients that flock to D.C. each year for abortions later in pregnancy. I had this written over a week before it was published, knowing that it would become more and more relevant. By the time it was published, clinic escorting has been deeply affected as well as practical support efforts. Truth be told, my original draft was twice as long and included a more national outlook because I knew that this would impact the whole country. Unfortunately, I was right. 

I am a Full Steam Ahead kind of woman and one of the ways that I cope with being home is stress-making graphics. Here are a few I made in the wake of this news. Please feel free to download and use and let me know if you would like different dimensions! 

Good things happened too, this month. I was elected to WACDTF’s (Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force) steering committee during their Annual Meeting on March 21. It was my first time attending (virtually, of course) and they had the highest turnout of any previous meeting. The next day I had volunteer training for DCAF, the DC Abortion Fund. I was part of the first round of volunteers who had to apply to join the 400-strong cohort. Stay tuned for updates! 

And on the 28th, I participated in a training on self-managed abortion with SASS (Self-Managed Abortion; Safe and Supported). This is a training on how to effectively disseminate information on how a person can self-manage their abortion using World Health Organization guidelines. Now, under Corona-lockdown, knowing how to access telemedicine and safely manage an abortion from home is crucial. If someone you know might need this information, or want to know how to share this information too, please let me know, I am very happy to share what I know. This can be done virtually, too!

NCJW Updates

I started at the National Council of Jewish Women almost one month ago, and while most of my initial projects I was working on have changed or been put on hold, I am THRILLED to see my timely webinar series, NCJWebinars, launch today. I'm really proud to have seen this come almost full circle:

"Grab your beverage or snack of choice and join National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) advocates and allies from around the country for NCJWebinar, a new weekly online series to educate, inspire, and build a virtual sisterhood. All are welcome."

Definitely sign up to attend these webinars, you seriously won't want to miss our packed lineup of experts on topics such as protecting the vote during a pandemic, abortion access amid COVID, and doing direct service from home. And even if you can't make it, signing up makes sure you have access to the recordings after.

That's it for this month. Please reach out if you want to light Shabbat candles, have a virtual happy hour, or play Words With Friends. Shoot me an email at hi@stephblack.blog
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The Repro Queen of DC · 829 Quincy St NW Apt 101 · Washington, DC 20011-5812 · USA

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