Feminist Conversations is a regular feature at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to different activists to find out what feminism means to them. This month we’re spotlighting the Feminists for Choice writing team as a way of showing our gratitude for such amazing team members.
Sarah Erdreich joined the Feminists for Choice writing team in the Fall of 2010. (That’s her adorable pooch Hugo in the photo.) Sarah reached out to us after she read an article in the New York Times that examined the perceived generational gap in the feminist movement. When she’s not busy blogging, Sarah is putting the finishing touches on her book Generation Roe.
1. When did you first call yourself a feminist? What influenced your decision?
Pretty much from the time that I knew what a feminist was, I called myself one. My family definitely influenced my decision –my parents were, and still are, socially and politically progressive, and they weren’t shy about sharing their beliefs with my sister and me. I remember a button that my mom had when I was a kid, that said “Pro-Family, Pro-Child, Pro-Choice,” and just thinking yeah, that makes sense. I guess to me, being a feminist was just so natural, I never gave it a second thought.
2. What motivated you to write your book Generation Roe?
A 2009 New York Times article – that ran in the Sunday Style section, of all places – called “Where to Pass the Torch.” It was about how older abortion providers and clinic directors and counselors were starting to retire, and discussed not just who might take their place, but the shortage of women and men entering the abortion field, particularly as providers.
I was working for a pro-choice organization at the time, and I was surrounded by all of these passionate and intelligent young women and men that were absolutely 100% committed to safeguarding reproductive rights. I thought that they deserved to have their voices heard, and after a lot of hesitation – I had never written a non-fiction book before – I decided to write this book.
3. What were some challenges you met while you were researching the book?
The first major challenge was just finding people to interview. I had my “dream list” of people that I wanted to meet, but those early days when I was just leaving voicemails and sending out emails, and not hearing anything back, were so nerve-wracking. I remember thinking, “what if no one else thinks this is a good idea?”
Once I actually started writing the book, the biggest challenge was realizing just how much I didn’t know about the legal history of abortion. My husband is an attorney and so are a number of my friends, and I definitely pestered them with endless questions about what different terms meant, how to properly cite a Supreme Court case, and why certain arguments revolved around certain amendments. I also gave myself a crash course in constitutional law and read a lot about abortion law and relevant cases.
4. Who was your favorite person to interview for Generation Roe? Why?
Oh, such a tough question! I talked with such amazing people all over the country. That said, two women really stand out. The first is June Ayers, the owner and director of Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama. She offered great insights into how her field has changed over the thirty years she’d been at the clinic and what both the state and local politics were like. Not to mention that she was just so warm and open – I could have talked with her all day.
The other woman is Emily Lyons, who was severely injured when a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic was bombed by Eric Rudolph in 1998. Emily’s life has been so profoundly affected by the bombing, and her courage and determination are so inspirational. When she talked about facing Eric Rudolph in court, and giving him the finger, I just about wanted to applaud.
5. What does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism is a way of life that honors equality and choice, and believes that everyone deserves to live in a society where the individual is what matters, not gender, race, or class.
6. When you’re not busy writing, blogging, and rabble-rousing, how do you like to take care of yourself?
Not to take anything away from my husband, friends, and family, but one of the best things that I’ve found is volunteering at my local animal shelter. I help socialize dogs that have been in particularly stressful or neglectful situations, and it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Not to mention that the amount of cuteness per square foot in that place is just ridiculous!
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.