Welcome to our second annual Judicial Bypass Week at If/When/How! We’re highlighting the excellent work of attorneys, advocates, academics, and youth around the country who are working to make mandatory parental involvement laws a thing of the past, ensuring that young people who can’t involve their parents in their abortion decisions are able to access the care they need swiftly and without shame or stigma.
Jordyn Close, Ohio State Coordinator at URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity and member of the Youth Testify abortion storytelling program, talks with If/When/How about the power of young people in the reproductive justice movement. At URGE, Jordyn works on integrated voter education campaigns, sustainable organizing, building young leaders, and these days, “on comprehensive sex ed in Columbus city schools, because Ohio is on fire right now.”
Read on to learn more about Jordyn’s work and “shake the table” approach to organizing.
If/When/How: How did you come to work in reproductive justice?
Jordyn Close: Completely by accident. When I moved to Columbus, Ohio about a year and a half ago, my best friend dragged me to a comedy event that I didn’t want to go to. It was our Stand Up For Choice event benefitting one of the orgs in Columbus, and that night happened to be WHO Ohio, our abortion fund. The executive director, Stephanie Craddock Sherwood, was there handing out Bowl-a-Thon flyers, and she was super excited. I thought, “That sounds dumb, I’m not going to that event,” but again my best friend dragged me to it and it was dope. It really pulled me in. So I was like you know what, I can do a [Bowl-a-Thon] fundraiser. And that was that! Here we are! A year and a half later. I got dragged in and discovered this is actually super dope, and I don’t know why I didn’t want to do this at first.
If/When/How: What draws you to reproductive justice work?
JC: I just stumbled into the perfect community for me. I don’t know that I have an answer for what draws me, it just needs be done. It needs to be done. I love my every day work. Today I got to pause our staff meeting because someone messaged me and needed to find a clinic, and we stopped and and took care of that and then got back to what we were doing. The people we are working for are always first, and I haven’t seen that in other movements. It’s amazing.
If/When/How: Why is it important to center young people in reproductive rights, health, and justice work?
JC: I may be biased because I’m only 22, but I think young people in this movement are the fucking movement. That is true in every movement, but specifically in repro. I’m 22 and the people that are younger than me are a breath a fresh air. Every conversation I have with them, I’m like, “Why haven’t we been doing this already?” They know what they need. They just need the tools to do it.
I think that especially starting my career and being elevated so quickly in my career at a very young age, I also see it’s a double-edged sword. Everybody wants young people at the table, but then when a young person is correcting people, no one takes it seriously. But it’s needed. I think the movement at a whole is at a tipping point, and these young leaders coming into movement positions are about to shake the table. I’m excited about it.
“Everybody wants young people at the table, but then when a young person is correcting people, no one takes it seriously. But it’s needed.”
If/When/How: What’s it like to be a young person trying to access abortion care?
JC: Take literally the same barriers that anyone else would face, and imagine if you had to get your parents’ permission for doing all those things. Or what if you don’t have parents, to get permission from? Or if you don’t even know where to look for those things? It’s a completely different layer that most people don’t consider at all.
If/When/How: How can adult advocates support young people who need abortion care?
JC: Don’t be patronizing. Young people know what they need. They know what they want. They know what to do for themselves. They’re not toddlers walking around. They are very capable of taking care of themselves and knowing what they need. They do not need another parent. They need an advocate.
Just like any other movement, we need to be centering people most impacted. It seems like being young is often left out of that conversation. We’re focusing on marginalized groups, people of color, trans, and LGBTQIA folks, and it’s like yes those communities but what are we doing for the young people in those communities?
If/When/How: What does a future where reproductive justice is a reality look like to you?
JC: People having the tools to be able to make the choice about if, when, how, why they want to start a family. Or if, when, how, why they don’t. That they can keep that family safe. That they can provide for those kids. That they can have health care for those children. The easiest way to explain it is just: freedom. Actually. Not the Americanized bullshit, respectability version of it. We’re not here for respectability politics. We’re here to shake the table. That’s what young people do.
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