Feminist Conversations is a regular feature where we talk to activists from across the interwebs about what feminism means to them. Today we’re talking to Megan Smith, founder of the Repeal Hyde Art Project, a community-based art project to raise awareness of and increase dialogue about the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from covering abortion. In addition to the Repeal Hyde Art Project, Megan works at Ibis Reproductive Health and volunteers at the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (EMA Fund).
1. What was your inspiration for starting the Repeal Hyde Art Project?
I’m an artist passionate about reproductive health and abortion access, so I’m interested in ways to use art as a tool raise awareness and increase dialogue about issues like Hyde (the federal amendment banning Medicaid from covering abortion except under very limited circumstances.) My work prior to the Project had been successful but very one sided. In developing this project, I wanted to explore a way to use art to create a conversation made up of many voices. Instead of telling people what I thought, I wanted people to be able to participate, and in that way, to become more involved with the issue.
I designed the birds because I wanted to create a positive image. Hyde is a hard issue to keep talking about, because it’s invisible, politically complicated, and has been around for 35 years, so the challenge is to figure out ways to keep us talking about it. I also wanted an optimistic image because I think if we don’t have hope about Hyde being repealed than it’s not going to happen, and because the image honors the people who have struggled to pay for abortions.
The optimistic imagery also serves to bring more people into the conversation. We, as reproductive health, justice, and rights advocates and allies, often talk about abortion as a battle or an issue of life and death, and for us, that is what it feels like. But in describing abortion access in those terms we risk alienating people who aren’t as familiar, especially when talking about a controversial issue like Hyde. So I wanted to design something approachable that in its positivity would draw more people into the conversation. And I think that the Project has been successful in doing that thus far.
2. When did you get involved with the Eastern Massachusetts (EMA) Fund? And what was your motivation for becoming a volunteer?
From 2008 to 2010 I worked at Women’s Medical Fund in Philadelphia, which heavily influenced by career path and interest in working in abortion access; talking to people on the phones devastated by Hyde made me want to devote my time to raising visibility and awareness about abortion access. So, when I moved to Boston in 2010, I immediately wanted to volunteer with another fund. The EMA Fund is full of incredibly supportive and wonderful folks who are passionate about the same things that I am, and it was great for me to connect with that community so early while settling into a new city. Anyone who is interested in making on-the-ground change to increase abortion access should volunteer and/or donate to a fund.
3. What does the term “pro-choice” mean to you?
For me, it all comes down to equal access to reproductive health services for all people, free of stigma and social oppression.
4. What does “feminism” mean to you?
Tough question! I think it’s a more comprehensive definition of what it means to be pro-choice: Equal access to all services and opportunities for people of all gender identities and expressions, without placing more or less value on any identity.
5. When you’re not busy with the Repeal Hyde project and volunteering with EMA, how do you take care of yourself?
When I’m not working on abortion access, which is most of the time, I try to spend time making art, reading, watching TV, and hanging out with friends doing non-abortion-related activities. I’m also lucky to have the most amazing girlfriend in the world who keeps me grounded.
Be sure to visit the Repeal Hyde Art Project’s website to find out how you can get involved.
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.