Taking Up the Mantle of Reproductive Health

Recorded on June 21, 2023, 12PM ET

Join She Should Run and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice as we learn from some of the most notable women reproductive health advocates about the impact of local government and what that means for policy change. We’ll discuss how to sustain hope in an emotionally intense time, and how to build an inclusive local movement to ensure reproductive health remains a priority.

>> I’m going to get us started here. Just some reminders as we get going. The session is being recorded and it will be available on our website for a limited time. We have closed captioning available in the cc box and ASL interpreters that will be shown throughout the webinar. You’re welcome to use the chat to participate in the conversation. Make sure your chat session is to everyone so that panelists and staff can see and converse. We welcome you to use the Q&A box at the bottom of the screen to post any questions, as our speakers are talking and answering questions to guide the discussion. We will have some time at the end for you to have some answers to your questions as time permits. And we will have an evaluation sent to you at the conclusion of the webinar. We ask you to complete it; it will only take about three minutes and will be super helpful for our organization to continue to provide cutting edge and helpful programs like this. Miriam has posted that in the chat she can have it ready at the end.

The agenda we have for today is laid out here. After I wrap up the slides, I will hand it off to our CEO and founder Erin Loos Cutraro to talk about She Should Run and our issues. Then we’ll meet our speakers and have Erin moderate a robust discussion about reproductive health in America and the various lines of work that our speakers come from. They will answer questions from the audience at the end and then some next steps in the community and from She Should Run.

>> Hello everyone. Thank you for kicking us off. I am Erin Loos Cutraro, the founder and CEO of She Should Run. I will speak for a little bit before we turn it over to our incredible panelists to have our discussion. Before we get too far, I want to tell you who She Should Run is and where we sit in this space, and that will take us into the conversation. She Should Run is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit working to get more women into elected office. I will explain what that looks like when I explain this amazing funnel that you are looking at. But let’s jump into a little activity for you on what best describes you today when considering running for office. We just want to get a handle on where folks are in their interest or curiosity about running for office. It’s okay if the answer is ‘not interested’ and it’s okay if you are serving in office. The conversation is relevant to everyone! We will give everyone another minute to answer the question for us. Fun fact from She Should run, this is actually how we start everyone in the community to understand the mindset scores we discuss. ‘I’ve put some thought into running for office’ seems to be representing the bulk of you here, and that is She Should Run’s sweet spot, the low mindset scores. Obviously, we love the folks that have thought about it or are serving as well. However, our program mostly serves the women that are not there yet. The dialogue which you will see in the funnel on the screen is hopefully a visual that makes more sense. Many people think about the space of getting women to run or support them for running for office with what is at the bottom of the funnel, with ‘I am running now’, when in reality there is an invisible space we explore at She Should Run where women aren’t thinking about running at all, are curious about it but don’t know where to go, and won’t sign up for fundraising or media training yet because they don’t think it’s a good use of time. The reality is that the work of She Should Run is digging into the motivators and what it takes to run for office. We did research that dove deeply into what will motivate women that are not ready, and what will motivate them to step into the space? The takeaway here is there’s a whole host of things that will motivate women and it depends on background and experience. The through line was that if we can show up in conversations that women are having about the issues that matter most, that is how we are most likely going to engage a community that is not already in the space of running for office. What you see on the funnel on the left is reproductive health, gun violence, climate change, economy, and racism. These are the top issues identified as not the only issues women care about, but the top issues women are thinking about that happen to disproportionately affect women. There is a full report we did that Miriam posted on our chat called the ‘group chat issues report’ that you can read about.

This is the second question we want to ask as we lead into this important conversation where it’s one year after the overturning of Roe V Wade. This is just a real-time polling, what direction do you think reproductive health in America is headed? Are we going backwards? Are we stalled? Are we making good progress? Not surprised to see that no one here thinks we are making good progress. We will talk about some progress that is being made later with our speakers. It is important to note that there are important actions being taken and steps moving us in the right direction. But I hear you on feeling like this, it’s such a challenging time around women’s reproductive rights. With that, let’s get to our amazing speakers to tell us more about the state of the issue and their work specifically. I will have each speaker come on camera. I will name who the speakers are and then turn it over to the speakers for a quick introduction of themselves. We have Ayesha Clarke, Executive Director of Health Equity Solutions in Connecticut. And we have Michigan State Representative Laurie Pohutsky. Lupe Rodriguez, the Executive Director of National Latina Institute of Reproductive Justice, who thankfully cohosted with us today, and we have some amazing supporters of that organization on the line. And a shout out to a panelist who had a last-minute emergency conflict this morning, Rochelle Garza, who was the Pres. Of the Texas civil rights Project. She was also the 2022 candidate for Texas Atty. Gen. We have more conversations to come with Rochelle, sadly she cannot join our conversation though. With that, why don’t start with Rep. Pohutsky to introduce yourself.

>> Hey there, everybody. My name is Laurie Pohutsky, I serve in the Michigan legislature; I’m in my third term and I currently serve as the speaker pro tempore, which means I am primarily the one presiding over session,which is the most fun and the most frustration I’ve probably ever had. I was previously a microbiologist and ran for office because I wanted to bring a scientific perspective to the legislature. It was something sorely lacking when we look at things like environmental policy and reproductive policy. Reproductive health was a huge reason why I ran. I was one of those folks who post-2016 had to reconsider my birth control plan because suddenly there were people who were not only taking a keen interest, as they always had, in my reproductive health choices, but they were giving themselves a lot more power. We saw the writing on the wall and I remember feeling incredibly violated that I was having to make a choice other than the one that I was comfortable with and was using for years because the birth control mandate was up for grabs now. I knew that I was far from alone in that position, so I ran for office because I thought that we needed younger leadership, more female identifying leadership and just people that were sharing in these concerns. I ran in what was thought to be a very anti-choice district and I think a lot of folks were surprised when it turned out: no, lo and behold this historically conservative district was very much in alignment with bodily autonomy and making their own choices over their bodies. It was a learning experience for a lot of folks in Michigan and obviously there’s been a lot of changes since then. I’m grateful to be here with everyone and excited to talk about this topic a little bit more.

>> Excellent, thank you representative. Lupe, can you go next?

>> Yes, thank you so much for having me today. I’m really excited to join you all and to be in the company of these incredible panelists. As mentioned, I am Lupe Rodriguez and I am the executive director of the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Justice. I have been working in the reproductive justice health and rights movements for 16 years now. Before my work here at Latina Institute, I worked with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which is the largest Planned Parenthood organization in the country, based in California and working in Nevada also. Before that I ran an abortion fund in California and worked as a volunteer and worked to house women who were coming from different parts of California to receive care in San Francisco and who needed support and practical care. I have a pretty wide breadth of experience. I come to this work as a trained scientist as well, so I’m happy to hear that, Representative Pohutsky. I trained as a neurobiologist and really feel and agree that bringing that perspective to our work and being data-driven in how we approach what we are doing is really important and I think a way to move forward and how to solve the problems we are confronting. In my experience in this movement, many people in my community have not had access to care, even before the fall of Roe versus Wade. I think the issue now and the goal now is to strive for a future that is different than what we have had before, something we have never seen and that really thinks about full access for everybody and confronts all the different barriers that too many people in our community have from gaining that care and access. I’m really excited to have this conversation with all of you and really excited to connect with you about how we can make change right now.

>> That reimagining is a beautiful thing to think about. Ayesha?

>> Good morning everyone. My name is Ayesha Clarke, I am the Executive Director for an organization called Health Equity Solutions, we’re located in the state of Connecticut. As shared, I am the executive director there. We are an organization that focuses on advancing health equity through antiracist policies and practices. We really strive in order to ensure we are making system-level changes within our state. One of the biggest things that we pride ourselves in is hearing from our community and some of their needs and hearing from them how we can solve some of the issues they encounter. We take that information and really do some advocacy work at the administrative and executive level. Prior to coming to health equity solutions, I did run; I was the “She Should Run” and ran for office myself. I started at a local level, I’m a local politics matter person and I ran for board of Ed. I ran on the same grounds with what we do at Health Equity Solutions is making sure that we are hearing from the community. I felt that I had the charge of filling in the gap for those that felt that they did not have a voice or the ability to run for office, whether it’s because of career tracks or they felt like they couldn’t be heard. I wanted to be the liaison between the community and shift policies. The work that we do here and that we are talking about here, I’m really excited to be amongst amazing panelists as well. And at Health Equity Solutions, we talk about making sure that individuals can have optimal health regardless of their race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. With that work, we know when it comes to reproductive health, it really affects black and brown individuals at the highest rate. So we are making sure we are reimagining what this looks like, but also dismantling a lot of systems in place and shifting them so that individuals can have access to optimal health.

>> I have chills! Truly, I think having the expertise that you all bring to this conversation is so important. And hearing too where we will go in this conversation is not only what we’re seeing in the energy but what we can all do and what we need to show up to do the thing we are talking about, which is not just holding on to what the past provided but to reimagine the future that provides for all. With that, I will turn to some questions. We had so many audience questions come in and we tried to do our best to take the questions that we got in advance and form the questions to the panelists, and know that you can still submit questions through the Q&A tab at the bottom of your zoom. We will do our best to get to as many as we can. But also hopefully honoring some of that in what you hear ahead. I’ll start with Representative. Representative, I’m curious, a lot of the conversation happening at the national level is charged, it can also often feel like we are at a point of paralysis, like you don’t even see potential for progress when in reality you see, at the state legislative level and even at the local level, actions being taken now and laws being changed now. I’m curious, in your role at the frontlines of this, what are you seeing in terms of energy for this and what are you most hopeful about?

>> I think that reproductive health and justice is one of the most energizing issues we have in Michigan state legislature now. One of the first bills that we got signed into law was the repeal of the 1931 abortion ban, we had one of those zombie bills on the books. And we are in a unique and fortunate place because, in 2022, we had a ballot initiative to provide a constitutional right to reproductive freedom in our state’s constitution. The grassroots organization and the folks who worked on that really did help us with a lot of the momentum around this. It also laid the groundwork for some conversations that we knew that we would need to have, but it also gave us our marching orders. We have this fantastic constitutional protection, but we also have track laws that limit access even within the framework of that constitutional right now. It gave us a really clear pathway to what we needed to do and also because we knew who worked on that amendment, it gave us resources to figure out how to best do this. What are the top priorities of things that we need to deal with? And it’s really helped keep the energy up in the legislature. And what I will say is when we go back home this is something that is discussed with me at virtually every coffee hour and town hall I have because this is not an issue where people are losing sight of it. It’s still a top of mind issue for people. It is easy to maintain that momentum and that energy when we are here at work because it is something that everyone is being reminded of constantly because they see what’s going on in other states and they saw what happened even here in Michigan with Roe V Wade. It’s an exciting time.

>> I will pass that to Lupe or Ayesha, if either of you wanna jump in on that. It’s a question we get often just in conversations like what’s at the national level, where is the energy for this issue? Here locally the energy is there and faced with what feels like paralysis at the national level. I’m curious if either of you want to weigh in on what you were seeing?

>> Yeah, I can share that I think it’s very clear and it’s been made clearer in different elections so far, since the fall of Roe V Wade, that communities are interested in protecting access to care. We have seen that through polling as well. The majority of people in this country support access to care and are interested and willing to go vote to protect that right. Specifically in the Latinx community, we know that there are myths on where the community stands that are untrue. Over 60% of Latinx voters support abortion access and have said that they would come out in support of candidates that support abortion access and ballot initiatives that would support it. I think certainly in terms of the voting public, the energy is to protect care, and I also think that folks on the ground are organizing around this and are motivated by it and are really thinking about how we also change hearts and minds and do culture shift within our communities to be able to not just again secure our legal right to this care but also to have lasting change around this that will never allow for us to have it taken away again.

>> And if I just might add to that, the only thing, especially in the state of Connecticut, what we have seen is a local growth for individuals to do advocacy work and then some state laws specifically to help support and protect access to care. Once the overturn came, Connecticut became a safe harbor place. It was important for the state of Connecticut to understand that we are not going to deny care and if individuals were coming to the state of Connecticut, that they would be safe here. That was a push from the public. It was definitely that obviously our legislatures understood the importance, but they take pride in listening to their community. We do hear from the local and state level as well in Connecticut.

>> So helpful to hear that the organization and the fight has to happen, but it’s also so important to continue elevating the many stories of individuals who are stepping up to take action. Ayesha, I want to ask a follow-up question for you. Much of the conversation about reproductive health, especially at the national level, specifically around abortion, and what’s not talked about enough is that when those reproductive health clinics close, women cannot get cancer screenings or prenatal healthcare, or gender affirming care because that’s especially true for women of color and from low income communities. What do you think we need to do or what is your vantage point on that to bring attention to those ripple effects?

>> Thank you for that wonderful question. I also want to add to that point, like you said, gender affirming and transmen and all those things are important as well on the ripple effect. The best way to bring attention and what we have seen is that, and I am sure that the state Representative will say this, is to make some noise. I mean making sure you are working together with the campaign to really identify what the issue is and then come up with solutions, and make sure it is community driven. It’s one thing to go in and say ‘what would you like’ and another thing to make them feel like they are part of the process. One of the things that we found out is that when you move from transactional work to transformational work and make sure it’s community driven then you can see substantial changes. Bringing awareness is making sure there is a true campaign around that. Bringing organizations and individuals together with lived experiences and valuing those live experiences will have an effect. Making sure they are in a space of going ahead and making calls and talking to legislators and telling them ‘here are some things that are happening, with the closing of clinics, I’m not having access to clinical screenings, Pap smears, cervical cancer screenings’. Especially in our black and brown communities, we know access to care, especially in Connecticut, is at its lowest rate. The state of Connecticut is identified as one of the healthiest states in the nation. However, if you pull back the onion, we also have a lot of challenges when it comes to access to care for black, brown and intersectionality of trans and all the other things. Making sure we address those issues by hearing from those who are impacted and allowing them to talk about their experience and what happens. When that happens, we are able to bring attention to those who can make system-level changes. The other identification we have to use, and we’re now in a world – I didn’t grow up in the world of social media, but it does have an impact. But making sure we are sharing and talking about things that are relevant, and so it’s best on what we say is ‘check the facts and making sure it’s right’, but making sure that we’re sharing information to all levels whether it’s on social media, making phone calls, billboards, and signs, but making sure it’s community driven to initial change and have system-level changes are some things that I would recommend.

>> I’m curious if either of the other panelists want to speak to the importance of that community driven change? And just to add a point to that, knowing that for a lot of folks listening, the number one question we got is what can I do? And understanding how to connect the dots with how important that community driven change is in the folks asking what they can do?

>> I want to echo everything that Ayesha said about ensuring that we lift up the stories for folks who have the lived experiences of these injustices. It’s also incredibly important to think about transforming the systems that we have, so looking beyond how we work with what we have and think about and dream about transforming those futures. Being able to support and cultivate storytelling and supporting folks in telling their own stories is really important, but it should also come with training and other kinds of support for folks to build their power. We have inherent power, but many of us for various reasons don’t have access to systems of power or access to develop that. I think programs like She Should Run and folks doing training and support on the ground to connect people with how to make change are really important as well, in terms of being able to channel that energy.

>> Absolutely! And from a legislative perspective, I don’t think we are doing our job fully if we are not consulting with people that are doing the work and are impacted by the laws we are trying to create. That is giving ourselves lip service and patting ourselves on the back without actually addressing the problem. One of the things that I talked about, repealing the criminal abortion ban, that’s fine, but we still have communities across the state that cannot access the care that is now constitutionally protected for them in this state, be that because they are in rural Michigan and they can’t get to a clinic, whether it’s for abortion care or other forms of reproductive care, or because we require 24 hour waiting periods. If you are someone who has to take time off work and not get paid for that or that doesn’t have transportation because we have horrendous public transportation here in Michigan, we have made this a two day process for you.

So, we cannot sit back and applaud ourselves for the bare minimum, but we need to talk to those impacted most by the situation created by the Dobbs decision. What we are doing here is crucial because the voices are so important and so are their stories.

>> It makes me think that it is the same issue we see as women are thinking about running for office, is that fire in your belly, if it’s around reproductive health, making sure that even in your exploration phase that you are connected with communities that maybe don’t look like you for different lived experience so you can be that stronger advocates in that position of power.

>> Just one other thing that Representative Pohutsky had me think about. It’s a space of shared power, and there are times when shared power does not happen. While we listen to communities, it’s important to make sure that when we are setting tables to hear from those impacted, we are enabling them and giving them the opportunity to not feel intimidated by who is at the table, but creating a space just for them so they can be heard and provide the training and support to get there. It is one thing to have workgroups and say they are helping and informing. It’s another to have a workgroup with shared visions and shared goals and shared responsibilities so that the power can be there and then change can happen. It’s pushing the activity-driven part, so I just wanted to emphasize that shared power as well.

>> It’s so important. Lupe I would love to turn with you. I was struck by the enormity of this number, that close to 6.5 million Latinx people between the ages of 15 and 49 live in the top states that have banned or are likely to ban abortions. I’m curious when the conversation is happening and the dominant conversation doesn’t bring attention to the disproportionate effect on the Latinx community, what are some immediate low-barrier actions that folks should be taking to change that reality?

>> Thank you for this question. I’m always excited to talk about ways to take action, but I’ll sit back a little bit and share that this study came about with the national partnership with women and families because we wanted to get a sense of what is happening with people. There wasn’t a lot of information and data, so I think to start, that effort to ensure we are getting the information on what’s happening on the ground is really important. And at the Latina Institute, our focus is working at the federal and state levels to advocate for federal legislation and policy change. But we couple that with deep organizing that we do based out of Texas, Florida, Virginia and New York and virtual organizing to train activists to build their power as advocates and leaders and one day maybe even run for office, so the folks that will change the systems that we have. But our work to be able to do that and lift the impact of this really started with finding out what was happening. Now that we have the information, we’ve been talking about it widely and trying to lift it up with community members and officials. First thing folks can do right now is talk about this, to lift up the information that exists and share with your networks and to really amplify it whenever you can. I think in all of what we are talking about it is critically important to share individual stories and what’s happening across the country. There are so many stories about the impact on this, but it is also important to not lose who is most impacted and where is most impacted to ensure that resources and support and information are going there. The second, it’s really easy for folks to get in touch with their local Representatives as I’m sure the Representative on the call can attest to. You can go to USA.Gov, enter your address, and find out who your Representative is to speak up, and the contact info is there on a local level. And is critically important for folks to be in touch with them and to tell them about the issues they care about and lift these things up and they take notice. They hear their constituents. One of the things that we often don’t do once we’ve elected someone into office is actually keep in touch with them and tell them what we care about, but it is a critical part of being able to see change and hold our elected officials accountable for what we value and want. And the third, join us at the Latina Institute. We have a Solidarity pledge you can find on our website, you can follow us on social media. We are organizing with folks right now around ways to raise these issues and to get the attention they need, to advocate with our federal legislatures, and we have many events over the summer for folks to get involved. But I think those are key things about this issue, of course with the addition of looking at your local community and how you can help. I would be remiss, as a former leader of an abortion clinic, not to mention being connected with abortion funds and connecting with the resources to help grow the resources for those communities to get the care they need.

>> So many good actionable tips. I will add for folks, I know we have advocates participating today. Please feel free to drop in any links. If there’s something you want to draw people to take action in the chat, I encourage you to do that. I think the most important point is not to assume that someone else will do the work. The reality is that you are that someone. It’s on you, big or small, to take the action. This morning, I saw the headline, I think in the Chronicle of philanthropy, calling on donors to switch their mindsets from short-term to long-term thinking around work around reproductive care. Those of us who work in the reproductive health space know that this has always been the case, but there is a need. The work is hard and long-game and it’s difficult to see the wins. And I’m curious, Representative, you shared at the start the massive win with the appealing of the state’s 1931 abortion ban. What smaller wins do you feel like you lean on? It could be that in previous conversations you shared with others. What keeps you going? Sometimes it’s not a big thing and it might be that one small conversation with someone.

>> Yeah, Exactly. Look, there are legislative wins that we can go back and look at, but in some ways I feel like those are almost personally more short-lived because you come to work today and it’s horrendous day and you deal with all kinds of stuff, but the more one-on-one things are way more impactful in keeping you going on the bad days. When I first ran into 2018, that was the year that, I hate using this term, we had the pink wave and there were lots more women that ran and won. My objection to this term has always been that, pardon my language, we worked our asses off. We were interrogated and assumed not to know what we were talking about. I think there were a lot of reasons that more women won that year, but I don’t think it was just because we were women. The following year, we did legislative doors in my district, which is where we just show up on people’s doorstep and say ‘what’s on your mind? Here is what we are working on. What are you mad about? What questions do you have and what concerns? What have you seen on the news?’ And a woman stopped me and said ‘can you stay right here?’ I said ‘yeah, absolutely’. She came back with a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about me and the State senator and the governor and all these other women who ran for office and won. She said ‘I want you to know that I cut these out and I keep them to show my granddaughters because I want them to know that they can do anything in this world that they want to’.

Thinking about that and the fact that those granddaughters are never going to think about ‘oh, she had a really bad committee hearing that one day’ or ‘she could have answered a question better’. They are going to remember that their grandmother felt compelled enough to save these clippings about people that were overcoming adversity and staring sexism in the face and doing the thing anyway. That’s what’s going to matter to them and that’s the big picture, and that’s what’s helpful on those days.

>> I feel like I just have to stay on the joy for a minute, Lupe and Ayesha, do you have any small or big stories that you want to share that help keep you going?

>> I think that’s so real that when you are confronted with the avalanche of legislative setbacks that my team and I have experienced like in Florida and Texas in the last year alone. When you feel like you are pushing against an immovable wall, it’s incredible to think about the everyday stories of those who are coming through for our programs and are able to advocate for more streetlights in their neighborhoods and small wins like that. We have the saying here at the Latina Institute that was started by one of our activists in Texas, ‘here we breathe resistance’. And it was born from the idea that they face so many barriers and issues, even before the fall of Roe V Wade, so many inequities. There still is a fight and spirit and energy around making change and a belief in the end that we will get there. I get a little emotional when I think about that because that’s the spirit that we have an optimism in the future that I think will be better than what we had with Roe V Wade protection and beyond. There’s so many issues around health equity as Ayesha was saying about really ensuring folks have access to care that helps them set themselves up and their families and communities for health, dignity and justice. I feel that energy every day from the folks that we work with and I think that’s part of the joy and spirit that keeps me going.

>> I will say for sentiments, we’ve had some big wins over the last few years as an organization and with our community partners. We declared, as a state, racism a public health crisis and formed a commission to really look at all the disparities that are in our state and then come to a place of setting policies and practices that shift that. Just knowing that our state is willing to make a change, knowing that there is systemic racism that has impacted our state, and looking at ways to support that and ensure individuals have access to care. Another big win that ties to Roe V Wade is that this year we helped other members to pass that community health workers be reimbursed through Medicaid. That is a huge win for us and it pushes us to understand that health is not just one thing, it’s not just about going to the doctor or seeing a physician. It’s so much more than that. And addressing those social determinants to health is a big thing we are fighting for, so to have that big win of knowing that we can have community health workers be addressed and be certified in all those things is pushing us towards a more equitable health system. It’s a win that brings me and our team and community members joy really knowing that their voice and advocacy can really have some change.

>> Yes. It is so powerful to see how things change when you are in the room. It’s truly what the conversation is about. I will switch gears to questions coming in. Our team is sharing them with me. One of the questions we got in advance is around the issue of how reproductive health doesn’t just affect ciswomen but also affects trans men and individuals on all sides of the gender and sexuality spectrum. How can we make the fight for reproductive justice accessible and available to those that don’t fit neatly into the cisgender and heterosexual bucket?

>> I will jump in. It’s making sure they are at the table. One of the biggest things we talk about with the collaboration of individuals, it’s making sure and looking: who are we missing? Who is impacted by these changes? And making sure that their voices are a part of the solution and understanding how they are marginalized as well. That’s a quick answer to your question. Just making sure we share that power.

>> Yes, yes, yes.

>> I think that, working in the movement, ensuring that we are using inclusive language in how we are talking about these issues and making sure that we are not excluding folks because of that, that simple act of how we use the language. And really rethinking our own structures in a movement that has always been centered around cisgendered women and not talked about the specific experience of folks who are trans and are LGBTQ+. We have a lot of internal work to do as well, and I think that is another part of how we make this a better experience. And not only that, how we can advocate strongly. And one additional thing: recognizing the intersectionality with the attacks on LGBTQ+ folks in the states. Those issues aren’t just issues, and they should be a part of what we care about and what we think about for reproductive change.

>> Thank you for that. Here’s another one: I understand the power that states have in enacting change within the reproductive health sphere, but not so much the power of cities, schools, or counties. What are some elected positions that can allow me to take part in the fight? How do I get involved if I decide not to run?

>> Obviously, school boards are a huge topic of conversation right now because in many areas, certainly here in Michigan, they have frankly been taken over by people who are anti-reproductive rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti- social emotional learning. School boards are a really tough place right now, but they are so, so necessary for us to keep in mind. Opponents for all of those things are paying attention and they are loading them up with candidates. And just using this as an example, there is anti abortion language in the boilerplate for our school aid budget, so having advocates on the school boards is helpful to make sure we can deal with how the state-level policies do end up impacting places like our schools. City Council. We had a clinic open up in part of my district and City Council made opening statements about ‘zoning wise, they are following the rules, there’s nothing we can do to prevent it, but we encourage everyone to protest them constantly’. And people did. It’s been awful for patients trying to access basic healthcare. Having a city Council that would never say something like that is hugely transformational. There are certainly roles for local government, whether it be not trying to enact some policies because local governments do in fact enact local policies that are anti-reproductive rights, or just trying to intersect with the state-level policies as well.

>> I will just add one other thing. There are also boards and commissions that you can join, whether at the local state-level, where you can have an impact if you’re not comfortable running. But making sure that that is a space to have your voice heard, and then attending. As the Representative said, if you are ready to run for the office, but in attending the City Council meetings, you are able to share for three minutes in most places to talk about what’s happening.

>> Absolutely! It’s an interesting segway. We had a few questions from folks in states like Texas which are hostile right now around this issue and you can hear in the comments if somebody is not an expert, how can they be effective when something is highly partisan and highly hostile? That could be the hesitation there. I’m curious what advice you have for somebody, I know a lot of our community members think this, that if they care deeply about an issue and are under informed can question if they are the voice? Whether their voice should be the one that shows up because are they an expert enough, especially when things are so charged?

>> So, I hesitate to even uplift any thought that you are not qualified enough to talk about any of this because I think we doubt ourselves so, so, so much about that. And the fact that there are folks on this meeting right now indicates to me that you are qualified enough. When I was knocking doors for the constitutional amendment proposal last year, I had a man tell me about how the gestation time for human pregnancy was a solid year and he did not once stop to think about whether or not he was qualified to make that wrong statement, so I worry we judge ourselves too harshly. The fact of the matter is that you don’t have to be an expert on something to advocate with the person whose job it is to represent you. And I know that it is super partisan and can be very, very difficult. But emails and calls are all ways to make your voice heard. Coffee hours, town halls. It doesn’t have to be aggressive. If you go in level headed, you don’t have to know everything because I guarantee the person you are talking to doesn’t either. Going in in person is sometimes really impactful because it’s much harder to ignore someone sitting in front of you and has taken time out of their day to tell you that this matters to them that it is to delete an email or not listen to a voicemail. That’s one way we can be impactful and advocate.

>> So helpful and so true. On that note, we are going to transition to quick closing statements. Before we do that, just two housekeeping items. We ask that you take two minutes to do the quick survey. This is new programming for She Should Run and we would love to hear your thoughts about it. Miriam is putting the link in the chat there. And we will continue the conversations on issues, not only what we discussed today but others throughout the summer and beyond. Please follow that link for the ones we know are already scheduled, which trigger for us to know about the ones we should create in the future. With that, I would like to turn to Lupe to share your closing remarks.

>> I think what I will say is I want to echo a little bit about what Representative mentioned about being qualified or feeling qualified and being connected to this work. We are all experts in our stories and we should and can be sharing those. I think it’s incredibly important talking about storytelling to talk to family members and friends about our lived experiences with these issues. To encourage others to have these same conversations and that’s how we move to destigmatize these issues, how we move to lift them up, and how we make change. I think it’s an important thing that folks can do right now. No action is too small. Signing up for the listserve to receive information and for these webinars, it’s a step of getting involved in driving forward for change. And there’s ways to be more deeply involved. I encourage folks to join us and get involved at the Latina Institute and at She Should Run and to look at ways to get involved in your communities. This is the moment, if there ever was a time you’ve been thinking about it for a while’ I want to get involved and jump in, this is the time. If you are feeling moved right now, please join us. We need our communities to come together now and we know that to make change, we just need to step up and speak out.

>> Thanks! Ayesha?

>> I would say, research shows that women and those identifying as women don’t run for office because they don’t feel like they qualify and/or they feel like they have not been asked. So, I am going to say to everyone on this call, I’m asking you to go ahead and step up and be that change. There are many mediocre people out here that run for office and win. And you, more than them, have that shared experience and are capable and qualified to run, so I am doing that ask, and you can never say that you haven’t been asked. The other thing is making sure that you go out and educate yourself about different issues, specifically when it comes to running. Volunteer for a campaign. Sign up for advocacy training, campaign training. Those are important. It is a space for you to learn more and I see myself as a political social worker as I mentioned before. There are many organizations and institutions that have training on how you can run for office and/or how you can just be part of a person running. You can be a treasurer, a campaign manager, you can be all of these other things as you are deciding to run for office. Make sure you get yourself involved in some form or fashion whether at the local, state, federal level. Joint commission or join a board. And lastly, if you are looking for any training opportunities when it comes to campaign building, coalition building, and advocacy work feel free to reach out to us at HES CT.gov. Thank you so much.

>> Representative?

>> I just want to thank Ayesha so much for that initial ask for people. As someone who was never asked by anyone to run for office, but felt compelled, I would sit in rooms where people would say ‘on average it takes women seven times of being asked’. I thought I was out of my depth because no one had asked me. And having that call is so important. Thank you for that, Ayesha. I am also asking you, so count that as two. If you are someone who feels the need to count to seven, you got two asks right here. I’m so grateful for all the panelists for bringing their expertise and for She Should Run for bringing us together. We are in such a pivotal moment in history, and the whole point of government is that it is represented by the people, for the people. There is no box that anyone needs to fit in to run for office. I think that government is best when it is more diverse and when it has a variety of people from different backgrounds, with different careers and living situations and different races and sexualities. All of that, it is so, so important. Trust me, from experience, I can understand getting stuck in our own heads of thinking we’re too much of this and not enough of something else. We need you and the fact that you are on this webinar right now asking these very important and thoughtful questions means you are exactly the kind of person that we need to step up, whether officially running for office or just getting more involved in grassroots efforts. Regardless, it is so crucial right now. This is such a pivotal moment. Thank you for joining us and having me.

>> I want to box up that energy. I hope everyone can take that into your day. Lupe, Ayesha, Representative. Thank you all so much for your time. Thank you to our audience members. So much more to come. If you are left with one thing today, it is you have been asked. You have been asked to consider your role in this. Thank you everyone and have a wonderful day.

Got a question? Send us an email at [email protected].