According to the Local Reproductive Freedom Index, Charlotte scores a 1.5…out of 5 stars. This means it is one of the worst cities for reproductive rights in the entire United States. Some factors that were considered when ranking cities were protecting access to abortion clinics, providing funding for reproductive rights, supporting young peoples’ access to reproductive rights and advancing policy. Over the past couple of months, we launched a campaign in Charlotte to protect those seeking abortion care. Anti-abortion protesters gather outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte blocking access to the clinic driveway, flagging down cars and trying to convince them not to go to the clinic, recording patient’s license plates, lining the sidewalks with aggressive protesters and wearing scrubs to lure patients into anti-abortion buses parked outside of the clinic. This is nothing short of terrorism, which is why we have been fighting back. The clinic is currently fighting for “No Parking” signs outside of the clinic to prevent these protesters from blocking access to the clinic, which will be heard by the Charlotte City Council Safety Committee on November 2.
The NIRH Index concludes with encouragement for activists to get involved with one another and to “work in coalition to develop new ideas and evaluate existing plans,” building a stronger relationship with local officials and strengthening the bonds between government and residents. But if you’re a Democrat — or simply someone who votes Democrat for lack of other options — living in a Republican-controlled area, trying to forge bonds with officials can feel like shouting into the void. Here you may be, asking for basic sex education that’s more than “don’t have it,” and your GOP lawmaker may be more concerned about narrowing the number of weeks where people can have abortions than they are about recognizing that comprehensive sex education literally reduces the number of abortions.
Remember, you can disengage when you need to, but also remember that becoming knowledgeable, getting organized, and networking with your fellow advocates creates a support network as well as an activist force. And though it will sometimes feel like you’re not making waves, when you speak up loudly and often enough, local officials will take notice of you and the policies you support — because you’ll force them to.