by Sabrina Andrus, LSRJ Executive Director and Mariko Miki, LSRJ Director of Academic & Professional Programs
Here we go again. In a recent interview with Salon, out-going NARAL President Nancy Keenan discusses her concern for the future of abortion rights, calling out the Millennial generation’s seeming inability to “connect the personal to the political” on the issue. These critiques pop up again and again: we all remember the Newsweek piece from 2010 that pitted Boomers against Millennials. While recognizing that many Millennials have made advocating for reproductive rights and justice their career, much hand-wringing ensues over the remainder of the generation. Of the 76 million people born post-1980, we’re told, “They are pro-choice, but they don’t put the issue of protecting this decision at the top of their list.” But does refusing to put abortion rights at the top of some mythical list truly mean that abortion rights aren’t important (or even paramount) to a generation? To state as much fails to account for the complexity that confronts young people coming of age in a time of social media saturation and diminishing rewards for higher education. Moreover, it is shortsighted and dangerous; such rhetoric shackles an entire generation to a way of thinking that may not even be accurate.
At Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), we work with Millennials everyday – they are our law student members and recently graduated alumni across the country making their way as legal advocates. What we see is that the Millennial generation experiences, engages with, and views reproductive health, rights, and justice issues in a completely different way than previous generations: abortion rights and the lack of access to said rights are but one piece in a much larger puzzle that Millennials are grappling with on a daily basis. Some may argue that when you can’t pay back your student loans, afford health insurance, get to your second job on a public transportation system that doesn’t service your geographic area, cobble together adequate childcare, and on and on, deciding to place abortion rights at THE TOP of your priority list is an unrealistic luxury. In fact, it could be said that Millennials are more aware of and attuned to the plethora of social ills that need to be addressed, from environmental concerns to economic oppression to racism, than the generations before them. These are good traits, to be celebrated. Rather than lambasting them, it’s time to move forward, as our colleagues at Advocates for Youth say.
The biggest gripe with the Milliennial generation is that they “don’t vote pro-choice.” But to frame the issue that way is a mistake. In our experience, the Millennial generation (of which nearly all members of LSRJ are a part of) has a much broader and more nuanced view of the issues. To them, it doesn’t make sense to vote on reproductive rights without considering the economy, healthcare, immigration, LGBTQ issues, the environment, violence, the prison system, and a host of other equally critical social justice issues. We work every day with future attorneys, judges, and policymakers who understand that abortion rights cannot be divorced from the fight for greater social equality.
With all this talk about what Millennials feel and how they vote, we encourage you to see what they’re actually saying for themselves. Check back here in the coming weeks to hear from our members, and bookmark the insightful musings of allied organizations who work with the Millennial generation.