Witnessing the Reality of Reproductive Justice
Reproductive Justice Tour Daily Blog: Day 4After a hiatus, we continue our reporting of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus and surrounding UU congregations Reproductive Justice learning trip, held the week of June 16–21. –Ed. Reflection from Thursday's Trip to Cleveland
Our day started off with a bang! Following a 2-hour drive to Cleveland and lots of coffee, we arrived at Preterm, Ohio's only non-profit abortion clinic. Preterm is a clinic that focuses on holistic care for women- meaning medical care alongside psychological and spiritual care. We heard from one of the women who works there as a patient advocate. She talked about the scope of what Preterm provides and some on the history of the clinic. She also talked about the clinic's commitment to environmental justice and reducing their carbon footprint. While we were meeting, the windows were being worked on to reduce resources used by the clinic for heating and cooling the building. One big learning in our initial talk is that abortion is the most common medical procedure for women in the United States- one in every three women has an abortion. Many of us hadn't realized abortion was that common.
Our group split into two and took a tour of the facility. We visited the client counseling area and got to see the comfortable room where women were initially interviewed about their decision to have an abortion. We also saw the examination rooms and recovery rooms, where procedures took place. Throughout the building, women's stories were posted about their experience of having an abortion at Preterm. These stories were touching and deep. We found out that after a preliminary interview about having an abortion, the women at Preterm reported their emotional, response was one of relief, sadness, and/or confidence. Preterm hosts a Reflection Room, where women are encouraged to meditate or pray at any point during their experience. Outside this room is a quilt that reads, “You are Safe Here.” Inside are benches and cushions as well as a book that holds stories from many of the women who have received care at Preterm. This space felt calming and serene.
We stuck around for a pizza lunch with Jessie Hill, a lawyer who represents Preterm and teaches constitutional law in the Cleveland area. Jessie offered us a history of reproductive rights laws leading up to Roe vs. Wade and brought us all the way through to the present. Her talk was both informative and kind of depressing. There has been such a long history of denying women rights. And there are many pieces of legislation in the works right now that are chipping away at women's right to choose what is best for their bodies and that are putting restrictions on family decision-making. We heard about recent legislation from Governor Kasich that has been threatening an abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, forcing the clinic to shut down. This makes it so women who need access to safe healthcare now have to travel even farther to Michigan to obtain an abortion.
Youth and adults from First UU Church of Columbus piled into our cars and headed over to the Dittrick Medical History Museum. We saw both their History of Contraception exhibit as well as their History of Childbirth exhibit. There were many surprising methods of contraception including using glass as a barrier, candy wrappers as barriers, and even using fecal matter from multiple animals. Yuck. It gave us a good perspective on just how persistent people had been over time in making decisions about whether or not to have a family. The childbirth exhibit showed the models doctors used to use to learn about delivering a baby, including models of women's bodies with miniature babies inside.
After a rousing game of telephone, we heard from a representation from the Cleveland Collaborative for School-Aged Health aka the Sex Education Collaborative. She talked about struggles in Cleveland to provide comprehensive health education beyond an abstinence-only model. The Sex Education Collaborative has been working with each school district to review the kinds of health education being offered in their schools and to work with key leaders to improve what is being taught, making sure it is fact-based, age-appropriate, and relevant.
Thursday was both inspiring and informative while also feeling really full. It was a day of learning and seeing some of the context where the stories we had been hearing had been taking place.