I recently attended the Civil Liberties Public Policy Conference in Amherst, Massachusetts. Living in Boston and going to Amherst felt like entering a whole different world. There is so much land and open space, perfect for my 2.9 year old to run, get dirty and be a kid but since he did not travel with me, I took this time as a learning experience/mommy time )
Besides the nice red barns and cows we saw, the conference itself was incredible! Let me start off by talking about the registration fees. If you are a student, it’s free and there is a sliding scale where you pay what you can. It was really nice to know that you do not have to be the wealthiest person to attend the conference. This is nice because many people have the opportunity to learn about the reproductive justice movement and attend workshops of topics of interest at the even if they do not have the resources or money to prioritize.
The purpose of the CLPP conference is moving towards reproductive freedom, by discussing everything from abortion rights to social justice. This is a huge deal and very powerful because very often peoples basic human rights get abused and social/reproductive rights fall between them. To better understand that you must realize what reproductive freedom means or have a good understanding of it. To make it easy for myself, in my head I say, “The right to parent at any age is reproductive freedom.” On the other hand, reproductive rights means being able to make decisions about your body and not getting stigmatized for them, the right to parent or not to parent, the right to parent a child in a safe environment, the right to equitable access to healthcare and respect. Most beneficial to parents in the movement was that CLPP also offered childcare. Why is this helpful? This is helpful because not everyone has easy access, or access at all to child care and this gives the parents the opportunity to attend the conference.
At CLPP, I learned how to do thorough reproductive exams. This is helpful because I can get comfortable with my anatomy and know what is normal for my body. I also learned about abortion in some states in the south, how pleasure based sex education is not given anywhere and how teen pregnancy fits in the reproductive justice lens. There was also an abortion speak-out. The space was open for people to share their stories and it was all in complete silence. It was my first one.
I think the most important piece of this conference is the fact that you can be who you define yourself as in a space that is judgment–free. This space matters because people encounter shame everyday for being “non-traditional”. CLPP was a world where being a teen parent or having an abortion at a young age doesn’t make you a whore, where black lives matter, trans lives matter, gay lives matter, and that we matter.
Loretta Ross, co-founder and the former National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, spoke at the closing plenary. This woman is very powerful and passionate about the work revolving reproductive justice. She mentioned how we are the bridge to this cross movement work, and how it will take us all to win this fight for reproductive justice. We are doing this to change the world and not for us to feel the need to be recognized.
I left CLPP feeling really knowledgeable and empowered on being comfortable in my own body and not being ashamed of my reproductive decisions. Overall, I am very happy and thankful that we had the opportunity to attend the conference this year and know that this will not be our last! I hope to attend CLPP every year and see it grow. I want people to be aware of this space and see a national movement towards reproductive freedom.