* Works to train and cultivate a new generation of “leaders who promote and protect reproductive choice”
Founded in 1992 by Gloria Steinem, Choice USA describes itself as “a national pro-choice organization” that “mobilizes and provides ongoing support to the diverse, upcoming generation of leaders who promote and protect reproductive choice.” The group is “dedicated to the right of each person worldwide to decide when and if they will have sex, when and if they will be pregnant, and when and if they will have a child.”
In the mid-1990s, Choice USA lamented that because of the religious right’s anti-abortion rhetoric, not only had “young people’s support for reproductive choice … declined compared to previous generations,” but “young supporters of choice were disconnected from the pro-choice movement.” To counter “the anti-choice movement’s premises and values,” Choice USA in 1996 created the Next Generation Campaign which focused exclusively on teenagers and young adults, targeting them with “pro-choice messages, programs, and strategies.” Further, the organization began “promot[ing] electoral participation by women, young people, and people of color”—demographics highly likely to embrace the agendas of the Democratic Party, which strongly favors universal access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.
By 2001, Choice USA had decided to “exclusively become a youth-led and [youth-]focused reproductive rights organization.” Today the group identifies young, nonwhite minority women as those who are “most marginalized by current sexual and reproductive policy,” and who thus “should be the ones to articulate a new vision” of “reproductive justice.”
Choice USA’s executive director is Kierra Johnson, who began her activism as a participant in the National Gloria Steinem Leadership Institute in 1999. In 2000 Johnson was awarded the Maxine Waters Reproductive Freedom Fellowship, and today she sits on the advisory council of the Women’s Information Network. Johnson also serves as a board member for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Center for Community Change. She firmly rejects legislative proposals that would require pregnant teenagers to seek their parents’ permission to undergo abortions, and supports the right of gay couples to “marry and enjoy the same legal rights as straight couples.”
Choice USA’s board of directors includes National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta, as well as several individuals with ties to such groups as the Abortion Access Project, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Planned Parenthood, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Coalition for LGBT Health.
To promote its social and political agendas, Choice USA administers four major campaigns:
1) The Bro-Choice initiative strives to “significantly expand the number of young men actively and vocally engaged” in Choice USA’s campus chapters. Denouncing “the indisputable connection between traditional representations of masculinity and reproductive oppression,” Bro-Choice seeks to define “the relationship between men, masculinity, queerness and reproductive justice.”
2) The #bc4us campaign began as a social media initiative designed to “remind Congress of the millions of young people who were depending on the Affordable Care Act to make affordable [i.e., taxpayer-funded] birth control a reality.” Partnering with such groups as Advocates for Youth, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Catholics for Choice, Choice USA vows not to “tolerate any more attacks on birth control coverage.”
3) The Sex[+] campaign lobbies local school boards and Members of Congress to mandate “real sex education for all.” “We’ve had enough of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs masquerading as ‘education’ and telling us that condoms don’t work, sex will ruin our lives, and that Jesus cares who (sic) we sleep with,” says Sex[+]. Further, this campaign laments that “the basic right to reproductive and sexual health care is in jeopardy at the state and national level,” and complains that “too many [school] campuses still don’t offer gender neutral bathrooms.”
4) The Voting Is Sexy initiative targets college students nationwide in an effort to “register new voters, educate them and make sure they get to the polls.” The objective is to persuade such voters to support Democratic candidates who will promote “comprehensive sex education, affordable birth control, and access to abortion.”
Choice USA also conducts online “e-trainings” and “e-briefings” to bring information about voter registration, voter mobilization, sex education, birth control policy, and abortion policy directly to its student activists across the United States. Moreover, Choice USA’s Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute offers intensive workshops introducing young activists (aged 17-25) to “the reproductive justice movement and essential grassroots organizing skills.”
A member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, Choice USA currently has 24 active chapters in 15 states.