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Conscience Magazine

An Historic Election, a Continuing Battle

By Christel Allen May 4, 2021

IN LIGHT OF THE HISTORIC 2020 elections, the most recent issues of Conscience have generated a great deal of reflection for me. Taken together, they have helped fortify my thinking and expose precisely just what it means to be alive in these tumultuous times and working in the reproductive space.

The Jesuit education I received centered on social justice values of compassion and equity—lessons I lean on every day in my new role, as the first woman of color to serve as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon. It does not escape me that I have stepped into leadership during a global pandemic, and while the reproductive freedom movement faces great internal and external challenges.

I assumed this new role just as politicians were using COVID-19 as an excuse to impose new restrictions on abortion access—actions that disproportionately impact the health of Black, brown and other people of color across the country. And then with the passing of Justice Bader Ginsburg, we are now one Supreme Court decision away from seeing Roe v. Wade be overturned or gutted, which would make the legality of abortion dependent on each state’s standing laws. For states with trigger bans, abortion may effectively become illegal the same day the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe.

That is why we must now shift the full strength of our national movement to a renewed focus on state and local advocacy.

In 2018, I was part of a transformative coalition to defeat Measure 106, a ban of public funding for abortion care in Oregon. Our partners took intentional steps to engage communities that would have been most impacted. As a direct result, we defeated the abortion ban by the highest margin in our state’s ballot measure history.

In November, Proposition 115, a similar ban in Colorado, was decisively defeated by another community-led coalition. But we also need to recognize the devastation caused when anti-abortion ballots pass into law (most recently in Louisiana).

People of faith can tip the balance in winning these fights ahead by proudly and loudly electing new local champions; by winning back pro-choice majorities in state legislatures; by voting on ballot measures to expand access to abortion in their communities; and by sending resources to partners working in states where the stakes are much, much higher.

Looking back at our decades-long struggle, this has always been a war with 50 fronts, but when it comes to advancing access locally, this is where I have tremendous faith. Together we can work towards a future where everyone, in every community, can fully own their reproductive decisions and can live a life free from stigma, shame and oppression.


Christel Allen

Executive director, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon