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Babes Want Rights

A few weeks ago I heard the news of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade and I felt a whirlwind of emotions – fear, grief, anger, and a whole lot of helplessness. The heaviness of exhaustion quickly set in, because as a woman in this country, I am tired.

After a few days of scrolling Instagram, reading the same horrifying statistics and infographics incessantly, I was approached by Lauren Van Haaren, J’adore Detroit’s Marketing and Communications Manager. Lauren invited me to co-host an event, panel or anything to feel like we were doing something. Of course I agreed, and we quickly came up with the concept for the Babes Want Rights panel and community event.

J’adore Detroit offered to host the event at their venue space, The Loft, in Eastern Market and Lauren and I got to work. The goal of the event was to provide our community with the information, resources, and support to take action and make informed choices toward protecting our fundamental rights and marginalized groups. We secured three incredibly accomplished experts in their fields to share insights and resources.

Bonsitu Kitaba, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, helped shed light on A. Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the landmark decision in which the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion, and overruled both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). She shared with us that her initial reaction to the news was “gutted”, which I couldn’t relate to more. She also shared that there were some glimmers of hope for the people of Michigan. We should be inspired and motivated by the 753,759 signatures collected in support of the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative.

Bonsitu states, “this is an opportunity to take democracy back into our own hands, because that is where the responsibility will now lie. We can no longer trust those in power to do this for us.” As daunting as her proclamation sounds, she left us on a high note. She encouraged the audience to continue having these tough conversations, to make a voting plan for upcoming elections, and to support candidates whose values support bodily autonomy and our right to choose.

Weighing in on the medical side of this issue, we were graced by Dr. Audrey Lance, MD, an OB-GYN, from Northland Family Planning Center. Dr. Lance shared the immense burden clinics are feeling right now, as they’ve had an influx of patients traveling from Ohio and other states where women no longer have proper access to healthcare. A candid speaker, she reminded us, although we have access to more options than the pre-Roe era of women did, people will die because of this decision. Dr. Lance urged us to donate to small independent clinics and local abortion funds and to even consider becoming a clinic escort, a volunteer position desperately needed during these dark times.

Finally, we know all of this grief associated with the attack on women’s rights is trying to hearts and souls, so we invited mental health expert, Dr. Brooke Buys MSW, PhD - CEO & Founder of BLND Health. Dr. Brooke discussed ways in which we carry grief and trauma in our bodies. She advised that we monitor and observe our bodies reactions during triggering times, and lean on healthy coping methods and community. Dr. Brooke drove home the idea that our brains and bodies are connected, and provided advice and resources to cope holistically.

Although the conversation was emotional and bleak at times, our moderator Stephanie McClung found ways to keep our spirits high. She fearlessly led us through some tough topics, complicated jargon, emotional stories, and Q&A from community members. Stephanie started the event by declaring “I don’t want to be terrified anymore… I want to be terrifying!”. I think by the end of Babes Want Rights, the scales for most attendees are officially tipped towards being more terrifying than terrified and as Bonsitu said during the panel discussion, “we are not alone”.

The fact is, 50+ women and a few brave men showed up on Tuesday afternoon ready to take action. We listened and we learned. It does not stop there; it can’t. Michigan’s Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative and amendment is essential to ensuring bodily autonomy. Small clinics are overburdened and underfunded. Our collective grief is weighing on us as individuals. But together we are powerful.

I left the event on Tuesday filled with more joy and hope than grief and helplessness. The work has just begun. J’adore Detroit, Roots to Rise Detroit, and our amazing panelists have compiled resources and action items to share with event attendees, followers, networks, and the community at large.

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