Since November, Backline has received an incredible outpouring of support from our community. Each donation, note of thanks, and referral to our Talkline and All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center has served as an important reminder that we’re a mighty, and constantly expanding, crew of people who know and trust that all-options counseling and open-hearted support are integral components to reproductive justice.
In early January, we received a donation from Abby Minor, a poet and activist in central Pennsylvania, who was motivated by the election outcome to put her creativity to good use. In hopes of starting a dialogue with her community about abortion stigma and access, Abby designed a number of reproductive rights-themed buttons and sold them at local craft fairs as a fundraiser for Backline. We’re so honored to have Abby cheerleading our work and to be the recipient of her generous fundraising efforts – so much so, that we wanted to share her story with you!
We chatted with Abby last week about her fundraiser, why she supports Backline, and about what keeps her encouraged in dark times. Read on for the full interview – it’s not to be missed!
1. How and when did you first hear about Backline?
Well, I’m a poet, and I live in a very rural area in central Pennsylvania. A few years ago I started working on a book of lyric and documentary poetry about contraception and abortion, and, because of my location and also of course because of widespread stigma, that work at first felt lonely. Thinking through my own abortion experience, too, sometimes felt like I was trying to reinvent the wheel, so I started looking for ways to connect with others who care about shifting abortion stigma and who are already doing and thinking about that work, and I came across–and joined–the Abortion Care Network. At first I was just like a thirsty person, so grateful to find all these people talking, thinking, sharing ideas–and then sometimes I’d reach out to the network when I had an idea I wanted to think through.
One particular thing was that I wanted to put up flyers in my area which would make information about abortion-care more public, that could serve as an antidote to the anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” flyers which are all over public bulletin boards in my region. And when I reached out to the ACN to ask about ideas in that vein, I learned about Backline and started putting Backline flyers up in my area–some of which are now permanent in my local public libraries
2. What stands out to you about Backline? What makes us unique to you as a supporter?
I love that Backline approaches the whole spectrum of reproductive experiences as part of one cloth, one life. Particularly when it comes to abortion, I’ve always been struck by ghettoization: the ghettoization not only of abortion care, but even within the way people talk about abortion. Even people who identify as pro-abortion, and who themselves have had abortions, kids, miscarriages, will suddenly seem to forget all that and will talk about abortion as though it’s something that only happens in the lives of young people, people who aren’t parents, people who aren’t partnered…so Backline’s work is just this wonderful reminder that pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption are not things that happen in the lives of totally disparate people–all of these experiences can happen, and often do, in one person’s life.
3. What inspired your button campaign? Why did you want to raise money for reproductive justice?
I’ve found over and over again that the best way to deal with my own fear–fear of stigma, fear caused by stigma–is to speak out, to make a sound, to act, to create art that says the thing you want to hear in your world, and so becomes something that can assuage loneliness and keep you company. I was feeling, as I said, kind of alone in my desire to speak out about abortion access and its place in the framework of reproductive justice, and of course the presidential election tipped that feeling into overdrive. So I thought, “How can I invite other people to speak? How can I make the sound I want to hear?”
I decided to make these buttons to sell at a handmade holiday craft market that happens in the nearby rural town of Millheim, PA (pop. 800) every December. I made buttons that said a variety of things: “good women have abortions,” “hillbillies for reproductive justice,” “grandmas/grandpas for reproductive justice,” “HAG” and “Crone” (to invite folks to celebrate the third stage of feminine reproductive experience) and, for sassier tastes, “I pledge allegiance to my CUNTry.” I printed handouts to introduce people to the framework of Reproductive Justice, and also sold baby bibs to raise money for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and my friend Genny sold handmade cloth menstrual pads. We wanted to literally gather together all these things on one table, to invite people to think about the connections between the whole spectrum of reproductive experiences.
4. What was the response to your buttons? You wrote in the letter you sent that “this donation really comes from my whole community.” Can you expand on that?
In truth I had a lot of fear about “coming out” in my community as someone who believes that “good women have abortions,” etc. I didn’t know where many people in my community stand when it comes to reproductive justice (particularly reproductive control). I was very nervous before the craft sale and talked endlessly with my close friends and my sweetheart about whether it was a good idea…and then on the day of, I almost didn’t put the buttons out!
But then once I did, a variety of wonderful conversations and interactions ensued. A lot of folks were taken aback by the fact that there were baby bibs and buttons advocating for abortion-care on one table, but when I shared some information and invited them to think about the fact that people who have children and people who have abortions are not two separate sets of people, you could feel a shift. That also provided an opportunity for me to share a little bit about Backline with them, and the idea of a spectrum of options and experiences. Some folks shared stories with me, and it was quite fun and surprising to see which buttons resonated with which people–the “hillbillies for reproductive justice” buttons sold out; one young man bought a “just say no to abortion stigma” button for his mom for Christmas (“Is that something that your mom feels?” I asked, “We’ll see!” he said); and the first person to buy a “good women have abortions” button was a man with whom I’m good friends, a 40-year-old master carpenter. Knowing that he’s walking around with that button on just makes me beam. Everyone put their button right on their coat, and everyone got a Backline flyer and business card with their button. Many people are still walking around town with their buttons on.
As always, I feel that the whole experience was well worth the fear and the risk: now there is a cadre of support, a whole bunch of people making noise and speaking. And, of course, now there are lots more people who have and are maybe sharing information about Backline
5. In these very fraught days, especially in terms of reproductive rights and justice, what keeps you inspired and motivated?
I’m motivated by the awareness that there are lots of people doing lots of brave work everywhere. I’m motivated by the freedom and joy I feel when I take a risk–even a small risk like leaving stanzas of poetry in a public place–and am rewarded with an enlarged sense of what the world can be. I’m motivated by the moments when a tiny crack appears in what had previously seemed completely closed.