A Message From Our New Director of Communications
My name is Meredith Forlenza. I am an actress, an activist, and the new Director of Communications at A is For. I am honored to be a part of this vital, progressive organization, and I believe that the work we do is more important now than ever before.
Like most of you, I watched the election results with a mixture of shock and disbelief. I spent the next few weeks berating myself for not doing more when I had the chance. I should have campaigned harder, joined more phone banks, taken buses to Philadelphia. I should have spent every free moment banging on doors and talking to voters in PA. Why hadn’t I done those things? I thought that common sense would win out in the end. I believed that the majority of Americans would not vote for a man who wanted to strip rights from women, immigrants, minorities, and members of the LGBTQIA community.
To make sense of this for myself, I started listening to Trump voters. I sought out articles and radio shows where Trump voters explained their decision, and what they expected from our new President. Hearing these stories over and over brought home just how many of these Americans had completely different narratives from those that informed my decision – different narratives of the election, of the candidates, and of the issues.
I began to narrow in on the many voters who voted for Trump because they believed he would put a “pro-life” judge on the Supreme Court. They spoke passionately about their beliefs, and I started to hear familiar phrases. Phrases like “right to life,” and “rights of the unborn.” It brought me back to my childhood when I too was adamantly “pro-life.”
As a child of Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, I was taught that abortion was murder. I wore the “pro-life” pin on my uniform every day. I wrote impassioned speeches for school debates about the rights of the unborn and the unbelievable cruelty of “partial-birth abortions.” At summer camp upstate after 8th grade, I spent hours arguing over the right to life with my fellow campers. I firmly believed that abortion was a sin and should be a crime.
It wasn’t until attending a Gender & Society class as an undergraduate at Northwestern University that I began to see a bigger picture. In that class, I engaged in discussions with professors and peers about their personal experiences. I learned that most women who have abortions are already mothers. I learned that “partial-birth abortion” is not a real medical procedure. I learned that late-term abortions account for less than 1% of abortions and that the vast majority are of wanted pregnancies. This class broadened my perspective because it began to change my narrative of what abortion is.
I graduated and moved to New York City, and my education continued. I learned more about income inequality, racial justice, and how important it is – politically, economically, and socially – for women to have the freedom to control their own bodies. I came to believe strongly that without complete reproductive rights, women would never be truly free or truly equal.
We live in a frightening political landscape: a country where elected officials introduce bills requiring funerals for fetal tissue, where politicians refer to women as “hosts” who are “irresponsible” with their bodies and need permission from men to access basic healthcare. We watched several Republican Presidential hopefuls lie outright about videos they had seen and medical procedures that do not exist.
We cannot allow these voices to create the abortion narrative for the American people, and that is why the work that A is For does to de-stigmatize abortion and provide support and visibility to providers and local abortion funds is more important now than ever before. In a world of ‘alternative facts,’ we need to be a strong, clear voice, cutting through the noise to tell the truth about abortion. While society teaches us to be silent and ashamed, we must create a space where women and men speak openly, freely, and truthfully about abortion, until it is no longer considered ‘brave’ to do so.
We must take control of our own narrative. And that is why I am thrilled to be joining this incredible organization at this pivotal time – to help do just that.