Keeping the Door Open to Reproductive Justice

The small, grassroots nature of a non-profit like the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) supports the continued success of a number of long-term projects through the cultivation of close-knit partnerships, while at times limiting the reach of certain initiatives and the resources that can be employed. One of FMF’s most successful programs has been the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP), which is focused on monitoring anti-abortion extremism and providing the necessary tools and advocacy to protect communities’ access to vital reproductive health services. Much of NCAP’s success lies in FMF’s continued dedication to clinics around the country and the relationships of trust that have emerged through this ceaseless commitment. However, FMF’s status as a non-profit has posed numerous challenges, as it has limited the financial resources available to employees to expand on existing projects or launch new initiatives. Despite this significant challenge, FMF continues to spearhead social change, making use of diverse tools ranging from surveys to in-person visits to ensure the representation of clinics, physicians, and minority groups in local and global conversations. This multifaceted approach coupled with FMF’s dedication to social justice has and will allow for the continued success of projects such as NCAP for decades to come.

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.

Source: Jerry Kiesewetter https://unsplash.com/photos/wGyc1S_Rooc

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.

Source: Elliot Stallion https://unsplash.com/photos/1UY8UuUkids

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.

Uniting to Amplify Feminist Voices

“Mama, look! Those girls have signs, too!” And those girls were just as excited as she was when we asked for a group photo. The future is female and the future is in our hands. Source: Nicole Adams https://unsplash.com/photos/mKw4eamvjKA

hat stood out to me most after my first week at the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) is the importance that FMF and its employees place on locating and amplifying the voices of those most affected by pressing social issues and its goal to act as a bridge between affected communities and policy change. This approach starkly contrasts with many current political, media, and advocacy efforts to effect change, which often place politicians and celebrities at the forefront of social issues rather than hearing directly about the experiences of the individuals and communities truly affected.

According to a Newsweek/Gallup public opinion poll, the majority of women in the United States self-identify as feminists, and subsequent polls have shown that most men, and in particular younger men, support women’s rights movements. FMF’s goal is to showcase this majority and create meaningful ties between feminist communities throughout the nation. This way, FMF amplifies these voices, while using a strong research-based approach to underscore the need for social change. Furthermore, FMF integrates a valuable educational component within its programs that helps young feminists remain informed on important social issues, and provides them with the necessary tools and partnerships to facilitate meaningful change within their communities.

Summer 2018 FMF interns protesting against family separation at the Los Angeles Federal Building. Source: Samantha Caracciolo


As stated, FMF adopts a strongly research-based approach to social change, making use of local community and campus partnerships to identify and make visible systems that contribute to the marginalization of minorities and their needs. One of FMF’s primary summer intern projects involves the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP), which aims to track and highlight anti-abortion violence and harassment against clinics and providers. A major component of NCAP is the NCAP survey, which is “one of the most comprehensive studies of anti-abortion violence and harassment directed at clinics, patients, health care workers and volunteers in the United States.” (“National Clinic” 2018)

The goal of the survey is to shed light on the reality of anti-abortion violence in the U.S. and bring to the foreground the truly horrific reality of abortion access in certain communities. Moreover, it explores the often tense relationship between law enforcement and clinics due to misinformation and prejudice. In turn, the survey helps underscore the need for the increased dissemination of accurate information regarding abortion procedures and providers. Using this tool, FMF is able to highlight the pressing nature of this issue and help make the experiences of abortion providers heard and recognized. The results of the annual survey are subsequently published, allowing for accurate and reliable comparisons to be made from year to year.

Research carried out by FMF serves as the foundation for a number of its projects, as it identifies the areas of the country that are most vulnerable to oppressive systems and social norms. This then allows FMF and its partners to assist through education and advocacy rather than through direct representation.

Another fundamental aspect of FMF’s approach to social change focuses on the creation of grassroots movements throughout the country. Perhaps one of the most notable examples of this approach is FMF’s initiative entitled “Feminist Campus.” Feminist Campus aims to “inform young feminists about the very real threats to abortion access, women’s rights, affirmative action, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights posed by right-wing extremists.” (“Who We Are” 2018) FMF does so by helping launch feminist groups on college campuses called Feminist Majority Leadership Alliances as well as by working with existing college groups who want to partner with FMF. These alliances are completely student-run, thereby allowing students to be at the forefront of social change to discuss key issues within their community. FMF is able to support students across the country by providing them with the knowledge and resources to demand and evoke change around them.

FMF strongly believes in the power of collective action, which is demonstrated by its ceaseless dedication to motivate, educate, and encourage the creation of these student alliances. Again, FMF emphasizes the need for students to be at the center of this initiative, because it believes that those most affected should be those proposing and implementing change.

Using the research results garnered from projects such as the NCAP survey, FMF provides campus alliances and other partners with factual information that can fuel social change in their communities. Furthermore, FMF acts as a stepping stone for feminist alliances to initiate their own projects using the partnerships and skills provided to them through their work with FMF.

Ultimately, I believe FMF’s goal is to showcase and support the voices and experiences of those who have previously been ignored, and provide the necessary tools and resources to allow these voices to be better heard, understood, and recognized. By adopting a research-based approach, FMF provides an analytical look into the reality of feminist issues in the U.S. and leverages these findings to prompt social and political action. Furthermore, FMF places great value in empowering feminist voices and providing them with the necessary support to initiate action within their communities and beyond.

Works Cited

“National Clinic Access Project.” Feminist Majority Foundation , 2018, www.feminist.org/rrights/clinicsurvey.html.

“Who We Are.” Feminist Campus, 2018, feministcampus.org/about/.