by Vicki Barnett-Woods
As the Women’s Caucus begins a new administrative year, and the composition of the executive committee is shifting, it is a good time for us to reflect on the Caucus as an organization, as a community, and as a voice within ASECS. Recent events relating to the overturning of Roe have made this reflection all the more challenging.
On June 24, 2022, the landmark decision to protect the federal rights of people who can become pregnant were overturned, making a person’s right or a medical need to have an abortion predicated upon their state. The Women’s Caucus firmly believes that an individual’s bodily autonomy should not be determined by their location. It should be made available to every single person in this country. The right to an abortion is a medical right, a right to safe healthcare; it is not a privilege that is only afforded to a few. As I write this, states with built-in trigger laws are already impacting the lives of the marginalized, people of color, working-class folks, minors, parents, and medical partners.
One of these states is Missouri. Under the 2019 House Bill 126 Missouri is one of 13 states that has a trigger ban of all abortions, and this bill makes no exceptions for rape and incest. Missouri is also the state that will be hosting the 2023 ASECS conference. Planning for conferences is a process that takes years, and few members of the ASECS planning committee could have foreseen the difficult place many of the organization’s members find themselves in. The Women’s Caucus, in anticipation that Roe would be overturned, put together a roundtable proposal, which was designed with the support and collaboration of the Eliza Haywood Society and the editors of Aphra Behn Online. Our roundtable titled “Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy: The Eighteenth Century and Today,” considers the histories of women’s bodily autonomy and the institutional legacies that inform the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Assuming the panel is accepted, please join us, please speak, please let us support each other as a community who have felt the impact of this right being taken from us.
At the time of this publication, a week has passed since the decision. Many of us needed this week to process, to feel and to acknowledge this collective wound. For many of us, there can be no healing. If you are so lucky to live in a state where your right to a safe abortion is protected, consider uplifting those who are not. There are organizations across the country which are working hard to find ways to ensure that people who need an abortion are able to get one. Support these groups and organizations. Mona Narain, one of the consulting chairs for the Women’s Caucus (one of many hats that she wears) has suggested that members of the Caucus review The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) statement* regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Additionally, below is a list of resources that they have made available if you are seeking medical care relating to an abortion, or should you wish to give your time, money, or voice to this cause. The Women’s Caucus thanks the NWSA for making this list available for dissemination.
*Please note that the resources shared below are neither connected to nor endorsed by NWSA or ASECS but are shared just in case someone needs a starting place to access healthcare or make a reproductive decision.
If you are seeking access to healthcare:
• Amnesty.org - provides basic facts about abortion.
• Gynopedia - a nonprofit organization that runs an open resource wiki for sexual, reproductive, and
women's health care worldwide.
• Guttmacher Institute - a primary source for research and policy analysis on abortion in the United States.
• National Abortion Federation - unites, represents, serves, and supports abortion providers in delivering patient-centered, evidence-based care.
• National Network of Abortion Funds - connects you with organizations that can support your financial
and logistical needs as you arrange for your abortion
• Planned Parenthood - A Comprehensive Guide for Unplanned Pregnancy
• RAINN - National Sexual Assault Hotline
• Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - a network of ministers and rabbis that refer women to
abortion providers they had researched and found to be safe
• Texas Equal Access Fund - provides emotional and financial support to people seeking abortion care.
• Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project - helps bridge the financial gap for women who seek an abortion or emergency contraceptives.
If you need help terminating your pregnancy:
• AbortionFinder - With more than 750 health centers, AbortionFinder.org features the most
comprehensive directory of trusted (and verified) abortion service providers in the United States.
• Afiya Center - Their mission is to transform the lives, health, and overall wellbeing of Black women and
girls by providing refuge, education, and resources. They act to ignite the communal voices of Black
women resulting in our full achievement of reproductive freedom.
• AidAccess - consists of a team of doctors, activists, and advocates for abortion rights that help people
access abortion or miscarriage treatment. They send the pill worldwide for $110/90€.
• Bridge Collective - provides practical and responsive abortion services to Central Texas.
• Buckle Bunnies Fund - provides practical support for people seeking abortions. They help with
transportation, funds to help with hotels, lodging costs, and emergency contraceptive funds to go towards abortion.
• Carafem - helps with abortion, birth control, and questions about reproductive healthcare. They do
consultations online and send abortion pills in the mail.
• Cobalt Abortion Fund - provides direct financial assistance to individuals seeking abortion care. Their
mission is to work toward reproductive freedom for all people and provide financial assistance without
judgment or question to people who seek an abortion but cannot pay the total cost.
• Faith Aloud - compassionate religious and spiritual support for abortion and pregnancy options.
• Frontera Fund - makes abortion accessible in the Rio Grande Valley (Texas) by providing financial and
practical support regardless of immigration status, gender identity, ability, sexual orientation, race, class, age, or religious affiliation.
• HeyJane - Modern abortion care, without the clinic, Get fast, safe, and affordable abortion care from
home. Chat with a medical provider within 36 hours. Medications are shipped daily.
• International Consortium on Emergency Contraception - Emergency Oral Contraceptive Doses for Birth
• Jane's Due Process - helps minors in Texas with judicial bypass for abortion, navigate parental consent
laws and confidentially access abortion and birth control. They provide free legal support, 1-on-1 case
management, and stigma-free information on sexual and reproductive health.
• Justice Empowerment Network - focuses on abortion access in South Dakota.
• Kentucky Health Justice Network - helps with both abortion care and gender-affirming care in Kentucky.
• Lillith Fund - the oldest abortion fund in Texas, serving the central and southern regions of the state with direct financial assistance for abortions.
• Northwest Abortion Access Fund - provides funds to help folks in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and
• Plan C Pills - provides up-to-date information on how people in the U.S. access abortion pills online.
• Westfund - focuses on Latino and low-income communities.
• Women on Web - an online abortion service that can help you do a safe abortion with pills.
Connect and Breathe is intentionally not a "pro-choice" or political org. Its purpose and mission are to
provide a talkline service (with trained volunteers across the nation) for people who have had abortions.
As we move through this together, I also have had the chance to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished as an organization this past year. We welcomed 58 new members, and we were able to see one another for the first time in Baltimore last March. We have helped launch of the Women’s Caucus Histories, spearheaded by Alison Conway, and developed a tight network of digital outreach to the larger ASECS community. As we say goodbye to Susan Carlisle, who supported the Caucus as the chair for one extra year, we also now welcome Nicole Aljoe as co-chair. We also welcome DEIA representative Stephanie Hershinow and new trustees Misty Anderson and Miriam Wallace. Our gratitude to Jennifer Golightly, who has served as the website’s webmaster for many years. And our humble thanks to Misty Krueger, who has so valiantly taken up the mantle. Check out the newly redesigned website here. While there is so much darkness in the United States right now, I see these individuals as powerful sources of light. I hope, as this year’s chair, that we can light each other’s paths and strive for a brighter future.
By Kerry Sinanan
Last year, in July 2021, I wrote this letter as a response to ongoing events in ASECS and to raise awareness of structural issues that needed, and continue to need, our collective vigilance and action. Many ASECS members signed at the time and the letter was fully supported by the Women’s Caucus which has long been working for a more equitable environment at ASECS. The recent Gladiator Report on ASECS’ membership and engagement notes that the membership of ASECS remains 83% white with 50% of members tenured and it recorded members’ experiences of structural racism, gender discrimination and ableism at work in ASECS. While there has been much discussion of the need for change in the organization, the report led with the finding that ASECS must “Operationalize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility”. It seems timely to reissue this letter as a blog post for the new Women’s Caucus website.
N.B. I have added one note (see starred item at the end) after discussion with Black colleagues who asked that it be made explicit how the words “zero tolerance” have been weaponized against their communities.
July 14, 2021
Dear ASECS Executive Board,
This letter is to register a series of objections to William Warner’s Presidential Column for the ASECS Summer Circular. The column uses the language of putative “toleration” to mount a deeply intolerant response to necessary calls inside and outside of ASECS for the organization to become more anti-racist, more inclusive, and to take further tangible actions on tackling white supremacy within its membership and within the fields of eighteenth-century studies that it represents.
The circular centers a white, privileged, male perspective on eighteenth-century studies, using the pronoun “I” frequently and offering personal reminiscence, in order to prioritize what is in fact a limited opinion, unaware of its own positionality and bias. This is the opposite of what a Presidential Column should offer to a wide and diverse community and is harmful in its assumptions of a universal perspective from what is a highly elitist one. Some of us have rarely found ASECS meetings to be “supportive, friendly, and fun” and, even when we have, have not been able to ignore more troubling misogynistic, racist and ableist currents at work. It should be the priority of any ASECS President to acknowledge and address these aspects of the organization that need to be reformed urgently.
Aside from these solipsistic dynamics in the structure of the piece, there are deeply troubling assertions that participate in racist and genocidal discourses of the eighteenth century while asserting these as part of a “civil” Enlightenment culture. Many eighteenth-century scholars are familiar with the words and lives of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Jefferson, but the explicit racism of both men, and Jefferson’s role as the architect of Indian Removal following the Louisiana purchase, an enslaver of over 600 human beings, and a repeated rapist of enslaved women, would make most of us baulk at choosing to deploy these figures as representatives of “freedom” and “tolerance”. To cite a letter from Jefferson urging the “freedom of the human mind”, as Warner does, is to participate in Jefferson’s white supremacy and settler colonial violence that only acknowledged the freedom and humanity of white, male settlers and enslavers. If this is not Warner’s agenda, then it betrays his woeful ignorance and desire to preserve a selective, historically inaccurate version of what the Enlightenment actually involved. The request for “tolerance” in this context, and in the context of Warner’s Presidential paper at ASECS 2021 that attacked what he called “woke diversity radicals” and scholars working in Critical Race Studies, can therefore only be read as a request for toleration of white supremacy. This we object to in the strongest terms.
Those of us signing this letter are proud to have “zero-tolerance”* for racism and white supremacy in our disciplines and organizations. It is a disgrace to ASECS, as a leading, international, scholarly organization, that this retrograde opinion is being presented by its head at this moment. Warner’s circular draws on the language and tactics of far-right and neo-liberal imperialists in the US, UK, and France which falsely claim that refusing to tolerate racism is in itself racist and intolerant. This tactic is anything but truthful or objective as Warner’s column claims to be. It is lamentable that the head of ASECS should align himself with these forces at this time when many eighteenth-century scholars who teach histories of racism and enslavement are under serious attack. We register our deep opprobrium of the content and message circulated by ASECS under Warner’s aegis and our hope that this violence against true inclusivity and true tolerance is not repeated by the organization in the future.
* This phrase is quoted from Warner’s Summer Circular in which he writes, “we seem more interested in zero-tolerance for one bad thing or another”. It is cited in this letter to note the bad faith of the usage which erases how in fact, zero-tolerance policies in the US have been integral to the over-policing and mass incarceration of Black people since the Reagan era. The citation of “zero tolerance” is intended to reclaim the word for anti-racism.