The New York Times had a story yesterday about the generational divide that exists in the pro-choice movement. Author Sheryl Stolberg argued that women who have come of age in a post-Roe world take their reproductive rights for granted.
“Here is a generation that has never known a time when abortion has been illegal,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who studies attitudes toward abortion. “For many of them, the daily experience is: It’s legal and if you really need one you can probably figure out how to get one. So when we send out e-mail alerts saying, ‘Oh my God, write to your senator,’ it’s hard for young people to have that same sense of urgency.”
Stolberg does go on to state that although Gen X and younger hasn’t lived in a world where abortion is illegal, they are active in the fight to protect reproductive rights. She quotes yours truly, and then gives an example of the Stop Stupak group on Facebook. Stolberg argues that the current generation of feminists is using the internet to change the face or organizing, but she neglected to mention that social networking and blogging has substantially changed the movement’s ability to efficiently mobilize its members.
For example, NARAL Pro-Choice America was able to collect 96,000 petition signatures in 3 days by utilizing Twitter, Facebook, and their e-mail alert system. It took over a year to organize and promote the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. This was in the days before Twitter and Facebook. In my own experience as a blogger, I’ve personally seen how both of these social networking mediums have changed the nature of blogging. When I first started to blog in 2005, I had to build site traffic one reader at a time. It was grueling and tedious work. Now with the wonders of Twitter, I can reach out to thousands of people at once without having to do much more than post a Tweet (which is totally automated for every blog post that I write). There is an anti-Stupak rally in DC on Wedensday, December 2nd. This was organized immediately after the House passed the health care reform bill that included the Stupak amendment. Without social networking tools, it would have been highly unlikely to collect thousands of petition signatures and get a rally organized in such a short amount of time.
Anyone who underestimates the passion of the current generation of pro-choice activists is seriously out of touch. Of course we understand how important reproductive rights are. We know how important it is to have access to birth control and abortion because we’re in what could be called our “child-bearing years.” Many of us work in low-paying jobs for nonprofits or social service agencies, because we’re dedicated to social justice issues. Many of us don’t have health care insurance. So we know that health care reform would have a substantial impact on our day to day lives. The members of Congress who voted for the Stupak amendment are seriously out of touch with their younger constituents if they think that we’ll accept health care reform without full access to women’s health. It’s our quality of life that’s on the line here, and we have to show them that we are unwilling to accept such a serious compromise.
I think that Stolberg certainly gives our generation the credit it deserves for getting involved in the pro-choice movement – she definitely didn’t paint us as unengaged. But I don’t think she took the analysis far enough when she brought up the issue of how we are organizing to get out the message. To use two more examples, think of flash mobs, or the rallies that happened last year in the wake of the passage of Prop 8 in California. Within hours of the election results, thousands of people showed up outside of the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, as well as media outlets in LA. Within a matter of weeks, there were hundreds of rallies held on the same day in cities all across the country, thanks entirely to the power of the internet and a dedicated band of bloggers and social networkers.
That’s just my opinion, though. What’s your take on the generational divide?