Since 2021, hard-won women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy have been rolled back in the US in an alarming fashion.
With state bans on abortion past as little as six weeks – as was passed in Texas on September 1, 2021 – and now the Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, it is easy to imagine that we have slipped and fallen into a Handmaid’s Tale-style dystopia.
As such misogynist ideology becomes entrenched, it is natural to feel hopeless. A recent surge in activist TikToks suggests, however, a way forward. People have been pairing a sample from the song Paris by US electro duo The Chainsmokers with the hashtag #ifwegodownthenwegodowntogether, messages of solidarity and crucial information.
My research shows that people often think that activism requires a certain type of direct action. But such narrow definitions of activism prevent people from taking part. They also typically harm those who face the biggest structural disadvantages and related barriers to getting involved in direct action.
Instead, remembering that doing something is always better than doing nothing – and widening our definition of what activism can be – is helpful.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of ideas of how we can support our sisters and further the global fight for women’s reproductive rights.
1. Raise awareness
Research shows that the more people are informed about an issue, the more it is possible to shift dominant perspectives.
The idea is to destigmatise talking about abortion, so that it becomes normalised as an issue relating to women’s health and reproductive rights. This reduces the stigma around abortion and keeps the issue in the public sphere, demonstrating how “the personal is political”.
Social media has repeatedly been shown to be a good way of sharing information, whether that is via memes that distil key philosophical arguments for abortion into bite-size graphics and words or through linking to news articles, petitions, feminist charities and campaigns.
Having conversations with friends and family can be just as instrumental. Raising awareness and destigmatising abortion enables us to better fight for women’s reproductive rights so that they are not hidden out of sight and easier to attack.
2. Join a local pro-choice group or set up your own
I was part of a pro-choice group in Nottingham, UK, which counters anti-abortion activism outside of hospitals and clinics. We positioned our bodies to block out the anti-abortion messages and provided a friendly face and chaperone for any woman seeking an abortion. We also provided leaflets, directing women to neutral pregnancy and abortion advice services such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
Social media can be a good place to look for such local groups but if you don’t find one, team up with some friends and start it yourself. That’s how the Nottingham group began ten years ago and it is still going strong with nearly 1,000 local members.
Grassroots campaigning – from social housing activist group Focus E15 Mothers to the New Era Tenants Association, which fought to keep tenants’ homes – has a direct impact on individuals and can mobilise the wider public, having a significant impact on society and politics.