social movements + innovation lab


The Movement in the Mirror

This blog is our unveiling of the process, an unvarnished offering to you. It is the place where we will share our musings, explorations and sometimes-painful growth spurts in our collective fight to win resources, rights and respect for all people’s sexual and reproductive decision making. We are hopeful these posts will spark as much introspection and action for you – our friends and allies – as your own candor and work does for us.

In August 2010, Tracy Weitz, the director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, and I spent a day with brilliant leaders from both the reproductive justice and disability rights movements examining the ways our messages on abortions access and fetal diagnosis sometimes work together but, more often, pull in such contrasting directions that we often end up hurting each other. With every half-formed thought spoken on this sensitive topic, all of us risked offending a friend and colleague in the room. In other words, it was the kind of honest, hard to have, desperately needed conversation our movements require if we are serious about seismic shifts in thinking, action and political positioning.

As we were cataloging all the ways in which conservatives lie about abortion and disability, Tracy said, “And what about the lies we tell ourselves in our movement?” Her question, like an unexpected mirror, forced me to take a totally different look at myself. What were the ways that I ignored, glossed over or pretended not to see the dissonance in advocacy for reproductive autonomy and disability? Or the ways I overstated and exaggerated the harms anti-abortion advocates caused us as an excuse to not be more rigorous in my own strategizing? If this group of smart women could be so out of alignment on those two issues, where else were our values not truly directing our words, thoughts and actions?
And what potentially valuable information could we be throwing out in the badly wrapped gift of feedback that the world was giving our movements as a whole?

After that meeting I found myself yearning again for that space – a place to hold up a mirror to my own and our collective successes and failures, to have risky but potentially paradigm shifting conversations, a place to hear different, even opposing perspectives and to explore tough ideas and translate them into action.

A few weeks later when Tracy and I met again she asked me if I was interested in starting a reproductive justice think tank. I pushed instead for a “think and do tank” for the whole reproductive health, rights and justice movement, not just for one sector. A place to have risky conversations across perspectives and worldviews, to honestly evaluate our victories and defeats, and most importantly, to craft a collective long-term plan for winning on the issues both of us had spent forty years living and breathing. And that was the beginning of CoreAlign.