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Why We Must Put Our Bodies on the Line to Fight Against the Right-Wing War on Women's Rights

Is it time for a reproductive rights revolution? We've done it before; the climate may be right again for occupations and actions to save our bodies from state control.

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Nicole, another mom, suggests "a mom campaign -- women speaking up for reproductive rights for their daughters.” 

Public sex ed. Many women I spoke to liked the idea of rogue clinics or networks that were an homage to the "Ask Jane" networks in the pre-Roe era--or even a day in which feminists distributed Plan B at low cost, in public, to demonstrate how it should be available.

Nancy Schwartzmann, a feminist filmmaker, suggests parents and children coming together to advocate education and access to contraception, pushing against Obama’s “As the father of two daughters” line and emphasizing, in her words, “this is not teens 'sneaking around' behind their parents' backs: this is about basic science, basic public health, basic harm reduction and basic rights. Maybe a massive sex-ed sit-in?”

Leah Berkenwald, a feminist writer and public health student in Boston says, “I think the key is occupying rather than marching or organizing a one-time protest event. I just screened Left on Pearl, an almost-finished documentary about the 1970 occupation of 888 Memorial Drive in Cambridge by feminists to create a women's center. Let's physically occupy some spaces and teach sex-ed out in public!”

Our version of mic-checking officials: 'coat-hangering' them. Linda Hirshman, who is working on a book on the history of the gay rights movement, had two ideas inspired by that movement. One is to for women to hang coat hangers on the White House fence along the lines of Dan Choi and his allies; fight for the repeal of DADT.

Hirshman also suggests, ”Get [HHS secretary] Sebelius' schedule and coat-hanger her at every appearance” in the spirit of glitter-bombing, the constant gay-rights advocates who are dogging Michele Bachmann, and the new tradition of mic checking Newt Gingrich and other politicians. She notes: “Gays are driving Michele Bachmann insane. They send their children to ask her why she wants to ‘fix' their mommy. Why are we not doing that every time Sebelius leaves home?”

Occupations. As Leah Berkenwald noted, the power of a physical occupation or sit-in, even a short-term one, is hard to overstate. Some of the women who contacted me suggested, in the style and spirit of ACT UP, feminist stage occupations of the HHS offices or the FDA to demand cheaper and better access to contraception. Or that we maintain a presence at courtrooms or legislative offices where these decisions are being made to make decision-makers aware of the people they're affecting.

The idea of a constant presence is crucial, because when we leave, our opponents come back. They have been occupying our clinic entrances for years.

Build the support network. Several women responding to my request for ideas discussed coordinating personal, social media and Internet actions to go along with any massive mobilization, so that people can participate from afar and those who witness the actions can go home and look them up.

Web sites, Twitter hashtags, petitions, talking points for the dinner table, a kind of mass declaration like the OccupyWriters.com Web site, gathering names and support: these kinds of virtual and at-home actions would support any direct actions we undertake.

Occupy our wombs. None of these ideas are new--civil disobedience has been part of this conversation since the beginning.

I was inspired recently to read Merle Hoffman's account of what she calls " the first pro-choice disobedience action in history"--particularly its parallels to both ACT UP and OWS.:

Cheering exuberantly and waving coat hangers, hundreds of pro-choice supporters who had been waiting across the street surged to the steps of the cathedral. They began chanting slogans in support of our proclamation.

I made my way up the church steps with the six-foot hanger I had commissioned for the occasion. It was a symbol of potential terror and aggression against all women, but it was also the symbol of our future. And taking my place in front of the doors to the cathedral, I knew that it was also the ultimate symbol of both defiance and gentle desecration.