Sisterhood Blog

If Young Women Aren’t MIA On Abortion Rights, Where Are They?

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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I read Sarah Seltzer’s recent Sisterhood blog post, “An Intergenerational Battle Over Abortion,” with interest. And I’m wondering if there’s any evidence to support her supposition that young women do support abortion rights, and their contributions to the movement are unappreciated. Aside from citing one young woman frustrated with not being appreciated at a NARAL Pro Choice America conference, Sarah doesn’t offer information to back her claim that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Do NARAL or Planned Parenthood have a breakdown, by age, of their volunteers or donors? Do the numbers back Sarah’s point?

The strongest, and most unfortunate, evidence that I see that young women are not very interested in activism to keep abortion legal is that, according to this article on Feministing, a leading organization in the reproductive justice movement, The Pro Choice Public Education Project has closed its doors for lack of funding. The organization’s primary constituency? Young women.

Now, I don’t think that the federally protected right to have an abortion faces imminent overturning, but is that what it would take that to rally young women to be more vocal about the issue?

Perhaps it’s time to re-think how the abortion is framed by pro-choice advocates in the public debate. After all, much that’s relevant has changed in the last decade alone.

I wonder how the availability of over-the-counter “morning-after” contraception has changed the way young women think about abortion. After all, it’s only been since 1999 that “Plan B” has been available, and just since 2006 that it’s been available without a prescription.

With the advent of pee-stick pregnancy tests available at every drug store, and Plan B to use even before a pregnancy test could be positive, much of the anxiety that older women faced in the past, as they waited to see if they’d get their period and then to decide what to do about an unwanted pregnancy, is now gone. Perhaps that anxiety fueled some of the activism.

The idea of a woman’s right to privacy on this most personal of decisions — the principal on which the majority decision on Roe v. Wade is based — also seems at odds with the current culture. Few people under the age of 30 seem to want privacy anymore. Rather many Tweet and update their Facebook status about every aspect of their lives. (I know someone, who I’m considering de-friending on FB, who posted what seemed like hourly updates after she had her wisdom teeth removed — and then put up a picture of her bruised healing face. It was TMI!)

Perhaps it’s time to come up with ways to re-frame the abortion issue in a way that will more successfully resonate with 20- and 30-something women. It’s definitely time for them to step up to the plate and put their energy and money into supporting the cause.


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