Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice Week: Educate, Elevate, Act!

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SisterSong: The National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines reproductive justice as the “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Many organizations and individuals in our community already are working to address the variety of issues at stake in this framework, addressing food security, Black maternal health, abortion access, workers’ rights, gender-affirming care, affordable housing, and more. The inaugural Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice (UCRJ) Week, April 23–30, 2023, will bring these many strands of action together to educate our community about these issues, elevate the work being done locally, and offer a variety of ways each of us can act to ensure reproductive justice for all.

Confirmed Event Highlights

On Monday, April 24, facilitators from the Unitarian Universalist churches of Urbana-Champaign and Indianapolis and Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!) will lead Heart-to-Heart Abortion Conversations. During this virtual event, participants will share in open-hearted discussion about pregnancy decision making and abortion access, moving beyond debate and rhetoric by centering lived experiences and grounding in empathy and curiosity, rather than shame and hopelessness.

Join local activists at Channing-Murray Foundation on Tuesday, April 25, for a lunch-and-learn session about the rampant misinformation distributed in our community through anti-abortion centers (AACs) (a.k.a. crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs). We will deepen our understanding of AAC misinformation campaigns, identify local AACs, and make a plan to take action(s) against this dangerous, biased healthcare. Reproductive options exist!

The Literary bookbar in Champaign is hosting two events for UCRJ Week. On Wednesday, April 26, meet Kate Clancy, professor of anthropology at UIUC, who will discuss her book Period: The Real Story of Menstruation, which blends history, personal experience, and science to challenge many of the myths and false assumptions that have defined the study of the uterus. Then meet up on Saturday, April 29 at The Literary for a happy-hour book-group discussion of Professor Krystale Littlejohn’s Just Get on the Pill: The Uneven Burden of Reproductive Politics. Littlejohn’s work uncovers how parents, peers, partners, and providers draw on narratives of male and female birth-control methods to socialize cisgender women into sex and ultimately into shouldering the burden for preventing pregnancy.

Thursday, April 27, features two marquee events at the Spurlock Museum. At 4 p.m., a panel of experts, including Ameri Klafeta, the director of the ACLU of Illinois Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project, will discuss “Legal Issues in Reproductive Justice: Illinois and Beyond.” That night at 7 p.m., join Isis Rose from BIPOC for Better Birth and Tuyet Mai Hoang, Assistant Professor of Social Work, for a screening and discussion of the documentary Aftershock, which follows two Black families in the wake of maternal deaths. According to the filmmakers, “Through their collective journeys, we find ourselves on the front lines of the growing birth justice movement that is demanding systemic change within our medical system and government.”

Uniting Pride of Champaign County and the University YMCA are co-hosting a lunch-and-learn session on Friday, April 28, led by health educator and advocate Len Meyer. This training will help participants increase their understanding of reproductive justice for and how to create safe and supportive healthcare environments for the 2SLGBTQIA+ population.

And finally, join us at the Rose Bowl Tavern from 3–9 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, for an incredible event to close out the Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice Week, with live music by local band favorites like Modern Drugs, Emily Anne Band, New Souls, and more. All funds raised will go to Midwest Access Coalition and Elevated Access. We hope to see you there to celebrate the work we’ve done so far and gather in community to build strength for the continued work ahead!

Keep an eye on our website, ucrj.org, for more UCRJ Week events in development with partner organizations including the IMC, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, the Women’s Resources Center, McKinley Sexual Health Peers, and BIPOC for Better Birth.

Want to help make this week a success? We are looking for volunteers! Contact julie@ucrj.org.

Dr. Julie Laut has been a progressive community activist for nearly 30 years, guided at all times by a passion for learning and a desire to build strong, healthy communities.

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