In a recent interview I conducted with Michele Sleighel, a Research Associate, Campus Organizer, and Internship Coordinator at FMF, she highlighted the incredible work FMF has carried out to support and advocate for the sustainability of abortion access in the United States, particularly for independent clinics. At the forefront of this initiative is duVerge Gaines, an accomplished lawyer and activist who has dedicated her life to feminist causes. “I hear duVergne talking to clinics and keeping clinics open day after day,” states Michele Sleighel, demonstrating the truly hands-on approach adopted by FMF. “I see that FMF is making a genuine on-the-ground impact” she continues, highlighting how FMF’s dedication to developing one-on-one partnerships with clinics has allowed them to be at the forefront of reproductive justice initiatives and remain the default support system for reproductive health care providers throughout the country. FMF’s work in reproductive justice is not only limited to efforts within the office, however, as employees, such as duVergne, frequently visit clinics to provide on-site support, in addition to pro-bono legal work and online monitoring of potential threats. This highlights the multiple approaches used by FMF to advocate for and work with clinics and physicians to protect valuable constitutional rights. What sets FMF’s success apart from other non-profits is its dedication to maintaining close partnerships and its reputation as a reliable source of support throughout decades of advocacy.
This continued devotion is also evidenced to me daily, in particular as the office gears up to advocate for increased diversity and female representation in the November elections. To accomplish this task, FMF will make use of an array of tools including phone banking, voter registration drives, awareness campaigns, and more to spearhead change in the future. In turn, one may see how FMF’s success is rooted in its use of effective grassroots approaches, which, coupled with a dedication to social justice causes and the individuals affected, enhances FMF’s local and global impact.
As is common with many non-profits, financial restrictions often pose a barrier to launching new initiatives and can at times limit the amount of resources available to employees and their existing projects. One noteworthy example is FMF’s internship program, which runs in the spring, summer, and fall. The internship program is unpaid, but offers interns 10 hours of paid administrative work a week to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with living in and around the Beverly Hills area. Interning at FMF in Beverly Hills is challenging for many students unless the students’ schools offer a funded internship or grant. This creates a filter within the recruitment process, as not every student can afford the high living costs around the expensive area where FMF is located. In turn, this leads to a predominantly white and predominantly wealthy cohort of interns, which limits the diversity of perspectives and experiences present in the office. This has been a common criticism of feminism in general, as many argue that it caters to the experiences of white, middle and upper class women. This is a shortcoming that FMF and its employees are very cognizant of and aim to remedy through the direct outreach to schools across the country that offer funded internship opportunities for students. This outreach takes place via email and phone communications with career centers, academic departments, professors, and students. Through this, FMF hopes that it can become more inclusive of diverse perspectives and advocate for issues that affect communities and individuals beyond their current scope.
In spite of the financial restrictions imposed by the non-profit nature of FMF, it makes use of a number of grassroots and low-budget initiatives to consistently push for social change. Whether it is calling clinics daily to ensure that their doors remain open or contacting elected officials for hours on end to ensure that our valuable constitutional rights are protected, FMF and its employees rely on long-term partnerships and ceaseless dedication to realize social change.
FMF is committed to advancing social justice issues regardless of the obstacles presented by finances or the current political climate. FMF’s success is rooted in the commitment and passion embodied by each of its employees and their relentless drive to secure a better future for feminists to come.