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Shift continues for cultural climate

As we approach what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v Wade, a landmark decision that secured the right to safe and legal abortions, the echoes of its impact resonate in the ongoing struggle for reproductive justice.

This year, the commemoration takes on added significance, coinciding with the theme of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service: “Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence.” In this reflection, we delve into the ongoing consequences of the overturning Roe v Wade, the transformative power of Kingian Nonviolence and crucial work of organizations like WRRAP in navigating the complex landscape of reproductive freedom.

Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v Wade decision, recognizing an individual’s constitutional right to choose abortion. This groundbreaking ruling marked a crucial step toward reproductive justice, empowering individuals to make decisions about their bodies and lives. Yet, as we stand on the precipice of its anniversary, we continue to see devastating consequences particularly impacting marginalized communities that also existed prior to Roe.

The right to access safe and legal abortion has continued to erode, disproportionately affecting BIPOC individuals and those with limited economic means. The consequences continue to manifest as a grave injustice in the lives of those denied the autonomy to make choices about their bodies. Yet, through recent elections we see how individuals are committed to making sure that people have the right to make decisions about their reproductive health care without interference from politicians.

The theme for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service “Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence” was an opportunity to get involved. Kingian Nonviolence, rooted in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., emphasizes understanding, empathy and strategic action in the pursuit of justice in our communities. As we continue to confront fallout from overturning Roe v Wade, incorporating these principles becomes paramount since we need to continue down a path of change bigger than Roe to safeguard our human rights.

Kingian Nonviolence challenges us to engage in open and respectful dialogue, fostering understanding even in the face of differing opinions. It calls for strategic, purposeful action that addresses systemic issues without resorting to violence. Applying these principles to the fight for reproductive justice enables us to create lasting change, promoting a culture that respects the autonomy and dignity of every individual.

Organizations like WRRAP, or Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, stand at the forefront of the struggle for reproductive justice. Founded in 1991, WRRAP focuses on providing financial assistance to individuals who are unable to afford safe, legal abortions or emergency contraceptives. Our commitment to inclusivity extends to all ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds.

WRRAP’s work is emblematic of Kingian Nonviolence in action. By addressing the financial barriers that impede access to reproductive healthcare, WRRAP empowers individuals to make choices about their bodies without judgment or discrimination. This strategic and compassionate approach aligns with the principles of Kingian Nonviolence, fostering a culture of justice and equality.

On the day of service, we are called to action to remember that it all starts with you. To honor the legacy of Dr. King and the fight for reproductive justice, we can:

• Educate and Advocate. That means: spread awareness about the consequences since the overturning of Roe v Wade; and advocate for inclusive policies that prioritize reproductive freedom for all.

• Support Organizations like WRRAP. Contribute to organizations that work tirelessly to eliminate financial barriers to reproductive healthcare; and volunteer time or resources to amplify the impact of these organizations.

• Engage in Dialogue. Foster open conversations within communities to break down stigmas and misinformation surrounding abortion; and practice empathy and understanding to work towards sustainable long term solutions to all forms of injustice.

As we head into this new year, let us all think bigger than Roe and heed the call to shift the cultural climate through the study and practice of Kingian Nonviolence. By incorporating these principles into our advocacy and supporting organizations like WRRAP, we can contribute to a future where reproductive justice is not just a legal right but a lived reality for all. In doing so, we honor Dr. King’s vision of a just and equitable society.

Sylvia Ghazarian is executive director of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, WRRAP. Content made available through American Forum, a production of American University’s School of Communication.

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