Since the draft of the Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade leaked in early May, effectively foreshadowing the end of federally-protected abortion access, there has been an unmistakable, nationwide cry of what now? Reproductive rights advocate Sharmin Hossain, campaign director of Liberate Abortion, has ideas—a lot of them.
Hossain has been a champion of reproductive right since high school, she tells Well+Good. "I'm a queer Muslim woman who grew up in a very big immigrant community in Queens, New York—one of the most diverse places in the world. I grew up with young women who did not have access to sexual reproductive health resources," she says.
While in school, she witnessed many of her friends grapple with abusive relationships, and when one of them became pregnant, she helped her find abortion access. Planned Parenthood promised an anonymous procedure (one that would not provide parental permission), and in that moment, Hossain remembers feeling deeply moved by the trust and respect the clinic offered her friend.
"When I found out that information, I became one of the biggest proponents of going to Planned Parenthood. I would say, 'You have to go! They're free and your parents are never going to find out.' This was a huge determinant for young Muslim women in Queens, and my friend ended up getting care," says Hossain, who—years later—landed a job as the manager of organizing at Planned Parenthood of New York City.
That being said, Hossain knew the limitations of Planned Parenthood as an organization. "There was a lot of reckoning that needed to happen around Planned Parenthood's legacy, specifically Margaret Sanger and the ways in which white feminism was not allowing Black and brown reproductive justice leaders to fight for the bigger picture," she says.
"If 26 states are going to be criminalizing and outlawing abortion rights, that requires us to show up in a way that's unprecedented." —Sharmin Hossain, Campaign Director of Liberate Abortion
So what's next for Hossain? In June, Liberate Abortion—which is comprised of more than 150 reproductive justice and rights organizations, groups, and abortion providers—plans to take their coalition on the road with several events smattered across the Southeast United States (where the overturning of Roe v. Wade will have the most catastrophic effects).
The "tour" will travel through several states before culminating in Mississippi. "That's going to be our national day of action on the 17th, which is going to be a massive self-manage abortion training: Resources for people to get abortion access on their own terms," she says.
In describing her work, Hossain comes back again in again to the velocity of many small actions done well. The end goal, of course, is to liberate abortion; for everyone, everywhere to be given the space and resources to decide what's right for their own bodies. Whether you're helping one friend get an abortion, providing a ride to the clinic, or giving your time support the election of a liberal district judge, the idea is for one individual action to fuel the next one. And the next one. Until, eventually, we're living in a different world.
"We need to get local to the point where we realize that some of our old habits of organizing—like believe sending an email out is enough, or believing organizing a massive rally where millions of people show up—are no longer enough. Many of us are expecting this Roe decision to not be in our favor. If 26 states are going to be criminalizing and outlawing abortion rights, that requires us to show up in a way that's unprecedented," says Hossain.
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