A Young College Student and Future Doctor’s Journey to Activism
By: Kaibrea Schoning
As a Women’s and Gender Studies major on a pre-medicine track with plans to attend medical school and later specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, I spend a lot of time thinking about reproductive health care in Iowa.
But between working full time and going to school, the last place I expected to be on a Thursday morning in March was talking with Vice President Kamala Harris about reproductive rights in Iowa.
Countdown to meeting the Vice President of the United States
Less than 24 hours before the roundtable, I received a text message from Carolina Ramos, Planned Parenthood's Advocacy Strategist, asking if I would "be available from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. for a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris to represent student leadership."
Assuming I was not being invited to meet the vice president of the United States, I asked Carolina to forward me the Zoom link and explained I'd do my best to sit in on the roundtable while at work.
But I wouldn’t be meeting Vice President Harris on a screen via a zoom call. I would be meeting her face-to-face.
Hours later, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.
I assumed I'd be placed in the audience to listen to the conversation and *maybe* a close physical encounter in a photo line.
I promptly explained to my full-time job that I would be taking advantage of paid time off the next day and, with that, expected nothing more.
After work, I decided to go to the mall to shop for the kind of professional attire you buy if you’re meeting the vice president. While rummaging through the racks, I received a call from the Office of the Vice President. They wanted to gauge my work towards reproductive justice so far. Though completely unexpected, I ended the call feeling confident that I had created a sense of urgency within my voice to hopefully translate my call to action.
Later that night, I received yet another phone call from the same office informing me that there was a chance for me to speak at the roundtable and to come prepared.
I flung myself out of bed, grabbed my laptop, rapidly worked to put my thoughts on paper, and drafted my declaration.
Reproductive Health Roundtable
Though my experience meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris was both sudden and unanticipated, it was nothing short of transformative. There were state legislators, local doctors, and reproductive rights advocates at the roundtable to discuss Iowa’s role in protecting access to abortion.
Vice President Harris immediately eased the high tension of the event with her soothing, calm voice, and ensured that each claim from participants was addressed.
“The vice president looked me in the eye and specifically explained to me that historical female figures before me paved way for future women such as myself.”
When my time to speak came, I told the Vice President that I felt as if I'd run out of options despite my continued efforts towards justice.
Following my turn to talk, the vice president looked me in the eye and specifically explained to me that historical female figures before me paved way for future women such as myself. Her sense of priority towards these issues assured me that attentive, humane politicians still exist.
The Future of Abortion Access in Iowa
While abortion remains legal in the state of Iowa today, our rights are at risk. During the roundtable, Vice President Harris displayed what she called a “patchwork” map. The map displayed the medley of states and their respective status for abortion access. For the most part, states were either on one end of the spectrum or another. That specific map pointed to Iowa as at risk, with abortion at risk of becoming banned within our state. It reaffirmed all that I feared about the future of abortion as an Iowan and a future OB-GYN.
“This will, in turn, prove to patriarchal lawmakers that we will not back down until our entitlement to health care is completely protected.”
This year alone, several bills were introduced in the legislature attacking our right to choose when and how to start a family. And several court decisions are awaiting action concerning our bodily autonomy.
It is critical that we display our fierce advocacy in this moment.
This will, in turn, prove to patriarchal lawmakers that we will not back down until our entitlement to health care is completely protected.
This fight is not easy. Instead, it is brutal, hostile, and ongoing. That is why you matter. As a young Iowan, you can raise your voice for those who cannot and create change that impacts generations.
Get involved, take action!
I felt this urgency for action earlier this year when I attended a Planned Parenthood event and listened to Drake University's Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGen) chapter President speak on behalf of the organization's advocacy for reproductive rights.
I left wondering why a group like this didn't exist on my campus at Iowa State. So, that night, I made it my personal goal to initiate a PPGen chapter on ISU's campus before graduating in 2024. I did it in 22 days.
We are just getting started at Iowa State. Alongside other members of our chapter, we will not stop until Cyclone students are educated on their options and understand they are not alone.
It can be disheartening to be in a constant fight for our fundamental rights, but every contribution in this work is empowering and purposeful. If you haven't already done so, I guarantee you will find your voice and your people when you get involved.
Generation Action is a network of young activists across the country who organize events on their campuses and in their communities. Harnessing the power, energy, and enthusiasm of young people to fight for reproductive freedom and for fundamental justice for all.